BERKELEY, Calif. - All that stands between Washington and its first bowl game since 2002 is one nasty, feisty rival - Washington State.
With a 5-6 record after its second consecutive victory Saturday – a 16-13 thriller over California – UW must beat the Cougars in next week’s Apple Cup in Pullman to get the required six FBS victories to become eligible for the postseason.
“It’s going to be a great one. It’s a heated rivalry. It’s going to be really cold,” Huskies running back Chris Polk said. “They’re not going to want us to get to a bowl game with a win off them.”
Last season, UW shut out the Cougars, 30-0, to win the Apple Cup in Seattle.
Never miss a local story.
WSU is 2-9 this season but ended its 16-game Pacific-10 Conference losing streak with a 31-14 victory over Oregon State on Nov. 13 in Corvallis, Ore. The Cougars also defeated Montana State in September.
Since the win over the Beavers, WSU has had two weeks off. Cougs coach Paul Wulff said Apple Cup chatter had died down going into the Thanksgiving holiday but assured folks “things will heat up” when the team gets back to practice Monday.
And the Huskies know it, too.
“This means everything in the world, that if you want to go to a bowl game, you’ve got to beat your rival,” UW linebacker Cort Dennison said. “We all know WSU is a great team. They’ve definitely turned things around in Pullman.”
The last time either school was in this position was 2006. Only that time, it was the favored Cougars who needed an Apple Cup win to go to a bowl game.
Instead, the Huskies ruined those plans with a 35-32 victory in Pullman.
“I’m happy for the state of Washington that this Apple Cup is really going to mean something for both schools,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “It will be (at) an exciting venue and everybody is going to be fired up for the game. They’ll be ready. We’ll be ready. It will be a fun one.”
UW left tackle Senio Kelemete (right ankle) appeared to suffer a serious injury on the final play Saturday – Polk’s winning 1-yard touchdown run. The junior ended up being carted off the field while teammates celebrated the victory. Sarkisian said Kelemete got his foot stepped on. After being planted by a Bears’ blocker in the third quarter, punter Kiel Rasp (back) left the game for good with spasms. Receiver Cody Bruns took Rasp’s place, and booted a 30-yarder in the fourth quarter. Jesse Callier’s 57-yard kickoff return in the third quarter was UW’s longest this season. The Huskies’ defense has not given up a touchdown in the past seven quarters, dating back to the early stages of the UCLA game. The reason UW could not challenge the final sequence of the first half – referee Larry Farina put one second back on the clock after a short Brock Mansion completion for the Bears, resulting in Giorgio Tavecchio’s career-long 53-yard field goal – was because the team had no timeouts. After an investigation this week by the university, California assistant Tosh Lupoi served a one-game suspension Saturday for instructing a player to fake an injury in the team’s game against high-tempo Oregon. The Bears lost three games in a row for the first time since 2007.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org