SEATTLE – An inspired sea of crimson stormed the field at Husky Stadium and covered up the big purple “W.”
Someone brought along a massive Washington State Cougars flag, and put the pole in the hands of quarterback Jayden de Laura.
De Laura carved out some room to move among the frenzied WSU faithful, who probably numbered in the thousands.
He raised it, waved it above his head.
Then, emphatically, de Laura planted Ol’ Crimson at midfield.
No, you’re not imagining things.
The Cougars marched into Seattle, took it to UW, and threw a party at the Huskies’ house.
“It was a proud moment,” said WSU interim coach Jake Dickert, who just might have that “interim” removed from his title after this. “It’s a big moment for our program and it’s a big moment for our university. And our guys did it.”
WSU capped an unforgettable regular season with a dreamlike finish, trouncing UW 40-13 on Friday night.
The Cougars (7-5, 6-3) are still alive in the Pac-12 race. They’ll be rooting for Oregon State to upset Oregon on Saturday.
But for now, they’re celebrating their most lopsided Apple Cup win in program history. WSU’s 1973 team handled UW by 26.
The 2021 Cougars did their predecessors one better while snapping a seven-game losing streak in the series and pocketing their first win in Seattle since 2007.
“It meant so much to us,” sixth-year WSU linebacker Justus Rogers said, “knowing this win wasn’t just for us. It was for the people that came before us, the teams that came before us, as well as the fans.
“We had a great time out there.”
WSU had absorbed sizable losses against UW over the past seven meetings, but this squad has been resilient all year, and entered this one with an edge.
“We all had the mindset that we’re the better team and we’re going to go in and win this game,” running back Max Borghi said.
The Cougars fashioned a double-digit lead in the first quarter and, behind a lockdown defensive performance, didn’t let up.
The Huskies (4-8, 3-6), who started true freshman quarterback Sam Huard, never found their offensive footing. They were held under 10 yards until the late stages of the second quarter. Huard appeared to be rattled by the moment.
He tossed four interceptions and WSU scored 20 points off those takeaways. Six points came after Cougars nickel Armani Marsh, a Spokane native, collected a ball that ricocheted off a Husky receiver and returned the pick 28 yards for a score, effectively sealing the win.
“Extra special,” Marsh said. “Definitely a little frustrated with the past seven years. It hasn’t gone our way. We’ve been looking forward to this. It’s been a long time coming.”
Marsh snagged a second-quarter interception, corner Derrick Langford Jr. picked off a Huard misfire in the third period and Rogers returned another 60 yards on the ensuing drive, killing a trace of UW momentum.
“Their mentality was ‘confidence,’ ” Dickert said. “We knew, if we came in and played our game, played the way we’re capable of playing, we’d be hard to beat tonight. That showed up.
“We played with a lot of confidence, we played free.”
The Cougars’ run-and-shoot outgained UW 454-200 on the backs of de Laura (27 of 32, 245 yards) and Borghi (129 yards, two TDs on 22 attempts), who moved into a tie with Steve Broussard atop the program’s career scoring leaderboard (41 TDs).
“I can’t put words to it,” Borghi said of the win. “I was just so happy. I know the rivalry in the state is huge, and I absolutely hate the Huskies. Every Cougar absolutely hates the Huskies. Purple is the ugliest color in the world and I just know this cup’s never going back over here.
“I told all the young guys, ‘Make sure this cup never comes this way again. It’s ours now.’ ”
Washington abandoned its run game (10 yards on 14 attempts total) early after it became clear the Cougs’ box was winning up front.
The Huskies put an emphasis on WSU’s slots, so the Cougars looked outside. De’Zhaun Stribling and Donovan Ollie combined for 125 yards.
WSU began to separate early in the third after a 10-play, 78-yard drive. De Laura gained a clutch 12 yards on a red-zone third down to set up Borghi’s final score.
De Laura, provided ample time in his pocket, was in a groove throughout the contest. He threw just one incompletion in the first half and lifted the play of those surrounding him.
“When he gets rolling, everyone looks to him,” Dickert said. “When Jayden’s having fun, playing fast, he keeps the guys loose. There’s not a moment that’s too big for that kid.”
WSU settled for its third field goal of the evening after Langford’s pick.
The Huskies’ 55-yard gain through the air from Huard to Rome Odunze was wasted on the following play, when Rogers received a gift.
The Cougars milked some clock and swelled their edge to 30-7 early in the fourth quarter when Deon McIntosh darted in, then embraced Butch T. Cougar.
“They deserve it,” Dickert said. “There’s been a lot to get to this point.
“They earned this. They put in the work, they stayed together and put together a great team win. I’m just so proud of these guys, and the celebration in the locker room right now is unbelievable.”
WSU dominated the first-half stat sheet, yet only had a 13-7 advantage at halftime to show for it.
The Cougars outgained UW 255-63 and controlled the time-of-possession column, picking up 13 first downs on 35 plays against four on 18 snaps for the Huskies.
WSU opened up a double-digit lead in the first quarter of an Apple Cup game for the first time in 18 years.
De Laura completed all but one of his 17 first-half passing attempts, guiding a game-opening scoring possession capped by Borghi’s tackle-shedding 32-yard touchdown.
“If (the Huskies) are gonna drop eight (men into coverage), we’re going to run it down their throats,” Borghi said.
The Cougars’ defense made back-to-back stops and their offense worked downfield with ease – only to stall out twice in the red zone.
The Huskies came up with a pair of crucial stands inside their 6-yard line and WSU settled for chip-shot field goals.
But the advantage returned firmly to the Cougars out of the locker room. With each drive, a fantasy finish seemed more realistic.
“It was a dream come true,” Rogers said.
“It’s kinda unheard of since I’ve been here – our fans rushing the field for an away game. It was awesome to see that and to see how deep the Cougar roots run.”