SEATTLE – Twenty-four minutes before kickoff of the Apple Cup, freshman Sam Huard was announced as Washington’s starting quarterback, eliciting a roar at Husky Stadium that landed somewhere on the decibel meter between a golf clap and Beastquake.
Put it this way – the only thing that might have rivaled that reaction at UW this season is if they’d announced former coach Jimmy Lake’s firing during the fourth quarter of the Oregon game.
Then again, maybe those weren’t Husky cheers at all.
Maybe it was a trumpeting of premonition from pockets of crimson.
Because Huard’s four interceptions – and another on a 2-point conversion – and general Bambi-in-the-headlights mien contributed significantly to the biggest Washington State victory in Apple Cup history.
Even more significant: the Cougars. Confident. Ferocious. Relentless.
And now just an Oregon State victory on Saturday away from a spot in their first Pac-12 championship game.
So now there’s really only one question remaining:
When’s the news conference, Pat Chun?
Because there’s no overriding reason to wait any longer to scrape any caveat off the title on Jake Dickert’s office door – the “acting” or the “interim” or “in-waiting” or whatever it says up there. “Interviewing,” is the term Dickert likes.
It’s time the door read simply “Head Coach.”
He’s earned it. And the 2021 Cougars did everything to earn it for him.
The 40-13 pounding of their rivals in the 113th game of this series was both the most and the least of it, but certainly the exclamation point of a season of confusion, hurt, regrouping, resolve and redemption.
Or maybe the exclamation point was WSU quarterback Jayden de Laura swinging the Cougar flag in celebration in the eye of a mob at midfield and then planting it in the purple “W.”
Over the top? Gratuitous? Short on sportsmanship?
All of the above. And not a minute too soon.
The sound-to-scablands college football rivalry had become a dreary, lopsided joke – seven straight Husky victories by an average of three touchdowns each time out. That WSU’s head coach during that death spiral cared not a whit more about the game than he did about September scrimmages against the Big Sky Conference – and refused even the slightest alterations to his game plan – was all too evident.
So it’s nice to care again, even if it’s overcaring.
“I know the rivalry in this state is huge,” said running back Max Borghi, a winner in his last one. “I absolutely hate the Huskies. Every Cougar absolutely hates the Huskies. Purple is the ugliest color in the world. I just know this cup is never going back over here. I told every young guy on this team, ‘Make sure this cup never comes this way again. It’s ours now.’ ”
That’s right. Turn up the heat.
The elements of this beatdown were easily parsed. There were the four interceptions – two by Spokane’s Armani Marsh, including a pick-6 that accounted for the historic margin. The running of Borghi – 129 yards and the two touchdowns that tied him with Steve Broussard as the all-time Coug in that regard. And especially there was the de Laura’s craftsmanship and confidence. With 22 minutes to play, he’d had just one pass go incomplete.
All this against a Husky defense that did exactly what it did all those other times – rush three men, drop eight and dare. So what was different this time?
“Look at the stat sheet,” Borghi said. “We ran the ball. That’s the answer.”
Thirty-eight called runs, in fact. Imagine that.
Believe it or not, there was a time when the game was in doubt – the Cougs leading 13-7 at halftime after zoning out in the red zone a couple of times. But they settled any nerves by forcing a three-and-out and marching for a touchdown.
“There have been so many pivotal third quarters this season,” Dickert said, “(when) we’ve been able to battle through and take momentum.”
Which is something of a metaphor for what Dickert and his aides did at the start of the third quarter of this season, taking over in the wake of the great vaccination mandate meltdown of Nick Rolovich.
So how are you not going to cast him after this audition?
Yes, two of the Cougars’ three victories since Rolo refused to roll up his sleeve came over the universities of Hapless and Inept. So what? The Cougs have checked every needed box, and so has Dickert.
You’ve seen him in action as a head coach at WSU – something none of those Mountain West comers can put on their resumes. That’s the pond in which the Cougs are fishing. And if you’re concerned about Dickert’s bona fides as a recruiter, well, those other guys have no track record of luring skilled talent to Pullman, either.
“That’s out of my hands,” Dickert said when asked if the interview was indeed over. “The biggest thing about that is that I’m proud and humbled to have this opportunity. These kids have given me everything they had and going forward, they deserve the best. That’s what’s going to come out of all this. Whether that’s right for me, we’ll find out soon enough.”
How about now? That sounds soon enough.
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