There have been 112 Apple Cups and, no, Tim Brando hasn’t called them all. It just seems that way.
Just like it seems the Huskies have won them all. In the same fashion they did before 70,931 fans at Husky Stadium. The final score was 31-13, but it didn’t seem that close. Or all that much different than the previous six Apple Cups.
Brando and analyst Spencer Tillman described the Friday Afternoon Smackdown on Fox in almost WWE fashion, right down to the nicknames.
What they saw
• Did you know Mike Leach is known as “The Mad Scientist?” Maybe, but it’s not a nickname we’ve heard much outside of Brando or Tillman over the past eight years. And boy, did they refer to him that often, at least a half-dozen times in the first half.
Mad, sure, what with his Cougars (6-6, 3-6 in Pac-12 play) trailing 21-10, spending the final three possessions before intermission either moving backward or turning the ball over.
The scientist part? He has yet to figure out how to handle a Husky defense that rushed three men for the most part and still got to quarterback Anthony Gordon four times in the first half and five overall.
“(UW defensive coordinator) Jimmy Lake is dialing up pressure,” Tillman said more than once, even though the Huskies kept attacking – and disrupting Gordon – with a three-man rush.
• Instead of focusing on the head coaches, Fox’s highlighted individual dual was between Leach and Lake.
“This is almost personal between these two,” Brando said in the third quarter, before backing off a bit.
But the graphic presentation never did, with the game action shrunk often so Leach and Lake could be highlighted on either side of the screen before the snap.
Riveting it wasn’t. But a fit with the narrative, sure.
What we saw
• The systematic beatdown made it seem moot, but the game started off well for the Cougars. They scored first – on a Max Borghi 1-yard run – and, after a UW touchdown, had a chance to score again with a first-and-goal at the Washington 8.
But after a 5-yard pass, the drive stalled – two more pass attempts – and Blake Mazza kicked a 28-yard field goal.
It was the Cougars’ last lead, though maybe it shouldn’t have been.
The Huskies (7-5, 4-5) faced a third-and-13 from their 45. Jacob Eason was pressured up the middle, the ball came out funny and sailed well over Cade Otton’s head. A flag flew. Instead of UW punting, a pass interference call kept the drive alive. Ultimately, it led to a 16-yard Eason touchdown pass to Terrell Bynum.
Brando and Tillman watched the replay and couldn’t understand the PI call, as the ball was obviously uncatchable. But it didn’t matter.
The momentum shifted, and never returned to Washington State.
• “Rivalry games can be rock fights. That’s what this one has turned into,” Brando said in the third quarter. “If this is a rock fight, Washington is the better team in a rock fight.”
And, for the past seven years, any other type of fight.
Passing? The Huskies were much more efficient, gaining only 31 yards fewer in about one-third the attempts. One of Gordon’s favorite targets, Brandon Arconado, left the game with what looked to be an injury. Gordon finished the game with fresh tape on his left ankle.
Running? Washington did it. At least Salvon Ahmed did, gaining 85 yards on 16 carries. Borghi led WSU with 50 yards on 10 carries.
Turnovers? Again, a record-setting WSU quarterback struggled against the Husky defense.
In Gordon’s case, he made two ill-advised throws and had both picked. The first came late in the first half, but didn’t lead to points. The second was fatal, coming in the fourth quarter and the Huskies leading 28-13.
Gordon underthrew Borghi – his first pick was an overthrow of Dezmon Patmon – and Trent McDuffie gathered it in. Washington ran clock and kicked a 22-yard field goal for a 31-10 lead with 6 minutes, 35 seconds left.
It was the second consecutive possession for the Cougars that ended in a turnover. The first, a fumble by Deon McIntosh, came at the UW 9.
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