SEATTLE – Alex Brink’s trio of wins. Drew Bledsoe’s success in the snow. The sticky hands of Chris Jackson and the monster leg of Andrew Furney.
Jayden de Laura’s pose. Max Borghi’s record-setting day.
Washington State’s Apple Cup wins are remembered by the individual performances of the players who turn from stars into legends through victories over cross-state rival Washington. Those are the plays debated for decades, called up on YouTube by WSU fans every Thanksgiving as they prepare for the latest in the annual series.
The Cougars provided plenty of fodder for future debate on Friday night. It turns out 40 points and a 27-point margin of victory necessitate a number of epic individual performances. The streak-ender in Seattle of 2021 will be remembered best for the surety of WSU’s offensive backfield with the burning image of de Laura lying in repose, admiring his own handiwork of a late-game first-down run.
The fact he received a penalty flag for his postrun celebration did little to diminish its significance for a quarterback who did not score in Friday’s game, but was nearly flawless in his stewardship of the productive WSU offense, completing 27 of his 32 pass attempts for his 245 yards, adding another 31 on the ground, and not taking a single sack.
“Everybody looks to him. He has that leadership ability and leadership perspective,” interim head coach Jake Dickert said of de Laura. “He keeps the guys loose. There’s not a moment that’s too big for this kid.”
Prior to the 2019 edition, Borghi foresaw a big Apple Cup performance. When asked for a prediction the running back replied, “I will score … a lot.”
Call it a guarantee deferred.
Borghi scored two touchdowns and rushed for 129 yards against a program whose defense had held WSU without a 100-yard rusher since 2006. He also had a 54-yard scoring burst taken away by a penalty flag for the kind of offensive holding that could be accurately called on just about every play.
Finally cracking the UW defense is a fitting capstone to a career in which the running back had accomplished a lot, but whose trophy room was still lacking an Apple Cup. Borghi has understandably decided to end his career early, kind of, electing not to make use of the comp-time extra year granted to all players because of the COVID-shortened 2020 season.
It’s a career that started with some tumultuousness, as the assistant coach who recruited the Colorado native to Pullman left for rival Oregon shortly after Borghi signed with WSU. By sticking around, Borghi will leave as one of – if not the most – productive offensive players in school history.
His second touchdown gave him 41 trips to the end zone in his career, tying him for the school record with Steve Broussard (1986-89).
Because WSU qualified for a bowl game, Borghi will have at least one more chance to get the record all for himself, possibly more if Oregon State beats Oregon on Saturday and sends the Cougars to the Pac-12 Championship.
Apple turnovers and home cooking
While neither team’s roster is majority homegrown, the 2021 Apple Cup had a distinct in-state flavor. WSU’s defensive identity all season has revolved around its ability to take the ball away from the opposing offense, ranking No. 1 in the Pac-12 and seventh nationally in turnovers.
This time, it was Evergreen State kids doing the pilfering. Spokane’s Armani Marsh plucked a pair of interceptions , returning one for the game’s final touchdown. Justus Rogers of Bellevue also had an interception following a big UW play, running it back 60 yards to flip the field back in WSU’s favor.
“Being a Washington native – it was a dream come true to me,” Rogers said. “I was so happy for (Marsh) today. It was great to see two Washington guys making big plays today.”
“That’s what you dream of,” Marsh said. “Making a play like that in games like this. All of the sacrifices you make to be in this position, feels like it paid off and feels good. It’s literally what you dream of.”
Making it a truly interstate affair, all four WSU interceptions came at the expense of UW freshman quarterback Sam Huard of Burien, whose father and uncle, Damon and Brock, starred for Puyallup High before playing at UW and in the NFL.