PULLMAN - All the big-play stars came out shining on Washington's final drive, helping the Huskies escape with a 35-28 victory over Washington State in the 103rd Apple Cup.
Coming up big – again – was receiver Jermaine Kearse, the Lakes High School receiver who snagged the game-winning 27-yard touchdown catch from Jake Locker with 44 seconds remaining.
In fact, Kearse caught two scoring passes – and tied fellow Lakes alum Reggie Williams for second place all-time with 22 touchdown catches for the Huskies.
No three plays Saturday were bigger than the ones Kearse produced:
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• On the final drive, after a personal-foul penalty pushed the UW back to the Cougars’ 27 with just under a minute to go, Kearse figured coach Steve Sarkisian would run the ball and line up for a game-winning field goal.
Instead the play, “Sluggo Win” came in from the sideline – a designed call that got Kearse in one-on-one coverage. If the cornerback pressed him – and WSU’s Nolan Washington did – it was a fade pattern in the end zone.
Kearse went up high over Washington in the right corner and came down with the ball and score.
• After the Cougars scored a late touchdown to end the first half, the UW wasted no time in getting its two-touchdown margin back.
On third-and-5, WSU linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis blitzed, leaving the middle open. Kearse broke inside on a slant route, snatched Locker’s pass in stride and took off past cornerback Anthony Carpenter for a 61-yard TD catch-and-run to give the Huskies a 21-7 lead 88 seconds into the second half.
“When I caught the ball, I knew I was going to go for a long run,” Kearse said.
• Then there was the gadget play put in especially for the Apple Cup – a fake punt and pass to Kearse.
It came in the second quarter. On fourth down at the Cougars’ 37, punter Kiel Rasp took the snap, ran forward two steps and launched a high pass to Kearse, who again was matched up against Washington.
The 6-foot-2 Kearse came down with a 30-yard catch to set a 7-yard TD scamper by Locker.
As soon as the Huskies took off for halftime, or were walking off the field at the end of the game, fans on the northwest side of Martin Stadium began bombarding the team with snowballs.
“They were iceballs,” UW safety Nate Williams said.
“We expect that, especially in a rivalry game like this. That is how they want to act. We can’t let that kind of stuff affect us in any way.”
Kearse pranced on the field in the third quarter, only to find the action had stalled because of a television timeout.
So he ran back to the UW sideline to put his hands near one of the sideline heaters as temperatures dipped below 25 degrees Saturday.
“I was out there in no sleeves so I tried to get a little warm-up,” Kearse said.
The Huskies suffered a pair of season-ending injuries to receiver Cody Bruns (broken clavicle) and defensive tackle Semisi Tokolahi (broken left ankle). With all his success as a player at BYU and as an assistant at USC, Sarkisian has never participated in the Holiday Bowl – the likely destination for UW.