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Sports >  WSU football

Washington State notebook: Cougars talk Apple Cup anticipation; 13 players to be honored for senior night

Nov. 22, 2022 Updated Tue., Nov. 22, 2022 at 8:56 p.m.

Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward reacts after his 17-yard rushing TD during the second quarter of last Saturday’s Pac-12 road game against Arizona.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward reacts after his 17-yard rushing TD during the second quarter of last Saturday’s Pac-12 road game against Arizona. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – When Cameron Ward visited Washington State’s campus for the first time, he was immediately taught about the importance of the Cougars’ rivalry series with Washington.

The transfer quarterback took a recruiting trip to WSU in January – a little over a month after the Cougars snapped a seven-game skid against the Huskies, reclaiming the Apple Cup with a 40-13 rout in Seattle.

“That was the first thing coach (Jake) Dickert showed me,” Ward said Tuesday. “He took me and my parents to the third floor, the trophy room, and he showed us the Apple Cup.

“He said, ‘We plan on having it stay here, if everything goes our way.’ That was the first thing that I (heard) about when I got here. I saw it in his office. I saw the history around it, the quarterbacks who have won the Apple Cup. I’m trying to put my name up there as one of the quarterbacks who, in their first year, won the Apple Cup.”

Ten months later and 11 games into his WSU career, Ward will make his Apple Cup debut when the Cougars (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12) host No. 12 Washington (9-2, 6-2) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

“Being able to play in a big rivalry game like this, for the state of Washington, and just trying to get a win – it’s something I know Coug fans want,” Ward said. “Hopefully, we get the job done.”

For the WSU faithful, no other game conjures up such strong emotions. They’d all agree that no bliss compares to beating the West Side city-dwellers. But there’s no bigger gut-punch than losing to the Seattle school.

“This game means a lot to the people of Washington,” said WSU edge rusher Ron Stone Jr., a fifth-year Cougar out of San Jose, California. “Personally, I didn’t really know much about it before I got here and now it’s kind of one of those things you always hear about. It’s like the first question you get asked when you commit, ‘Are you guys gonna win the Apple Cup?’

“You just feel the emotion around it from the alumni, from the people on campus. You feel it from the state. Obviously, there is a different tension, but we do our best to make sure we don’t get hijacked by anything, and we play our brand of football.”

Staying level-headed is crucial in rivalry games, so the Cougars are preaching composure this week and downplaying their 2021 win. But Dickert acknowledged the Cougars’ motivation “raised quite a bit” as a natural response to preparing for a matchup against their greatest enemies.

There’s no denying that the Apple Cup is tremendously valued within the program. WSU’s roster includes 39 Washington natives. The Cougars’ football complex features two “Apple Cup countdown” clocks that run year-round. Dickert used the traveling trophy as a recruiting tool throughout the offseason.

“It brings out a lot more grit,” linebacker Travion Brown said of squaring off against UW.

The Cougars finally captured Evergreen State bragging rights last year, and they’d hate to give them up so soon.

The rivalry produced too much misery throughout the past decade for supporters of the East Side program tucked in the wheat fields. The Cougars lost 10 of 11 games against UW between 2010-19 – nine of those coming by double digits.

In 2021, their Apple Cup craving was satisfied at last. A veteran-laden WSU team capped a regular season under its interim coach with a blowout of a UW squad that was also playing under an acting coach and limping to the finish of its worst season in over a decade.

A couple of thousand Cougars fans stormed the field at Husky Stadium and former quarterback Jayden de Laura gave them an unforgettable moment, waving Ol’ Crimson at the 50-yard line before planting the flag into the middle of the purple “W” logo.

“We learned how much it meant to everybody,” Dickert said Monday of the 2021 Apple Cup, “to snap the streak, to win through adversity and unique circumstances.

“I thought they played ‘free.’ That’s a big thing in a rivalry game. … Guys gotta go cut it loose and be themselves and have fun, and enjoy it, and understand it’s going to be a little chippy. There are going to be some of those things. Those aren’t things you encourage. Those are things you just understand. So, enjoying the moment, being present in it. I know, when you talk to former Cougs, you don’t remember a lot of scores, but you remember the Apple Cups. That’s what this group is excited about.”

With a win, Dickert would become the first Cougars coach to lead victories in his first two Apple Cup games. WSU hasn’t topped UW in back-to-back seasons since 2007-08. Ward is looking to become the eighth WSU QB in the past 50 years to win his first game against the Huskies.

“I can definitely feel it around the guys,” Ward said of the Cougars’ pre-Apple Cup anticipation. “It’s big around the facility. We’re just trying to keep that trophy here.”

13 Cougars to be honored

WSU will honor an impactful senior class before kickoff .

Players participating in senior night celebrations: slot receiver Renard Bell, a seventh-year Cougar who is questionable to play due to an injury; slotback Robert Ferrel, an Incarnate Word transfer who ranks third on the team with 446 receiving yards in his first and only WSU season; nickel Armani Marsh, a sixth-year Cougar out of Spokane who had a two-interception day in last year’s Apple Cup and pocketed All-Pac-12 honors; transfer linebacker Daiyan Henley, a Butkus Award finalist, Senior Bowl invitee and All-Pac-12 candidate in his debut WSU season; safety Jordan Lee, a Nevada transfer who has missed six games due to injury this year but has a chance to return to the field this weekend; guard Grant Stephens, a starter all year who transferred in this offseason from Northern Colorado; cornerback Derrick Langford Jr., a third-year starter who scored his first career TD last weekend on a pick-6; offensive tackle Jarrett Kingston, who was the Cougars’ most effective lineman until suffering a season-ending lower-body injury Nov. 5 at Stanford; offensive tackle Jack Wilson, a backup who switched to football in 2020 after a two-year career as a Division I college basketball player; linebacker Ben Wilson, a reserve who does most of his work on special teams; and defensive tackle s Christian Mejia, Amir Mujahid and Antonio Pule III.

“These guys have put so much into this program and you really just want to be able to honor them and play for them,” Stone said. “It’s the last time these guys are going to be stepping on Martin Stadium, or Gesa Field. … We’re just trying to make this a great last experience for them.”

Kingston and Wilson are walking with the seniors despite having collegiate eligibility remaining after this season. Both players are listed as redshirt juniors.

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