The Early Glimpse: Cougs vs. Huskies

IN SIX DAYS, we put RIP next to the Cougars' 2014 season. It hasn't been a good one by anyone's measure, but there's an opportunity to finish on a high note with a win over Washington in Saturday night's Apple Cup in Martin Stadium.

What will it mean, other than the age-old bragging rights? A win doesn't put the Cougars in a bowl. A 4-8 record really isn't much better than 3-9. Some will say it provides Washington State momentum heading into the offseason, and perhaps that leads to better things in 2015.

What is Washington State's Apple Cup history when victory meant nothing more than pride? During the past 30 Apple Cups, the Cougars finished their season (meaning no bowl game) with a win over Washington six times. Here's what transpired the following season:

1985: Won 21-20. Following season: It became the end of the Jim Walden era. The Cougars were 3-2-1 to start the 1986 season, but couldn't maintain their momentum. WSU finished with five consecutive losses, capped by a 44-23 defeat to UW.

2004: Won 28-25. Following season: The Cougs were strong out of the gate, starting 3-0. Then the Pac-10 season started, and WSU imploded, losing seven consecutive games, though the Cougars finished with a 26-22 win over Washington.

2005: Won 26-22. Following season: A significant improvement, and most years, the Cougars' 6-6 record would have resulted in a bowl game. But this was one of those years when the Pac-10 had more bowl eligible teams than berths, and WSU got left at home. A three-game losing streak to end the season didn't help.

2007: Won 42-35. Following season: A lost year, as the Cougars were transitioning coaches from Bill Doba to Paul Wulff. Not much was expected, and WSU didn't deliver a whole lot, except for a season-ending 16-13 win over the Huskies to finish 2-11.

2008: Won 16-13. Following season. The Apple Cup win provided no momentum, as WSU started the 2009 season with lopsided losses to Stanford and Hawaii on the way to a 1-11 record.

2012: Won 31-28. Following season: Washington State had a breakthrough campaign under second-year coach Mike Leach, as the Cougars won six games and landed their first bowl berth since 2003.

Washington (7-5, 3-5) at Washington State (3-8, 2-6)


The kickoff: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Martin Stadium

TV: Fox Sports 1

The line: Huskies by 4

The series: Huskies lead 68-32-6


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About Washington: Less than 12 months ago, Husky fans were giddy that Washington won the Chris Petersen Sweepstakes after many other programs has tried and failed to land the Boise State coach over the years. It came at a hefty price tag, at about $18 million over five years. In Petersen, many Dawg fans proclaimed they were finally getting a coach worthy of becoming the next Don James.

Fast forward to the 2014 season. More than a few Husky fans are already calling for Petersen's head, ridiculous as that may sound. For nearly $4 million a year, they apparently thought Petersen would lead the Huskies to the College Football Playoff -- in his first year.

Petersen has been less than Jamesian in his first season. Washington is easily the Pac-12's most perplexing team. Petersen took over a roster that included several projected NFL draft picks for 2015. With the talent on hand, the Huskies should have given Oregon a run for the Pac-12 North title. Instead, Washington just became bowl eligible with last Saturday's win over Oregon State. There have been legitimate complaints this season on playcalling to clock management and most everything in between.

The Huskies also have yet to beat an FBS team with a winning record.

Now, in fairness to Petersen, if you’ve watched this season, the Huskies' talent was probably overrated. And regardless of talent, transitioning from one coach to another is always tricky. Petersen is no Steve Sarkisian and it may take a few years for Petersen to get his type of players in the program and show if he's an elite coach at this level, or if he was the right guy at the right time period at Boise State.

One thing Petersen never had to deal with while at Boise State was a true rivalry game. The Broncos-Idaho rivalry really never amounted to much and in fact, snobbish Boise State dropped the Vandals a few years ago. Petersen gets his first head coaching taste of a bitter rivalry during Saturday's Apple Cup.

Clearly, this is not a great Washington team. Even the defense, which heading into the season was touted as one of the country's best by many, has been suspect. Sure, the Husky D has had its moments. Last Saturday's performance against Oregon State was nice. But UW has also given up 52 points -- 52!! -- to Eastern Washington, and 45 to Oregon and 44 to UCLA.

The stats back up Washington's defensive mediocrity. The Huskies rank 75th nationally in total defense (408.3 yards per game), and a horrific 115th against the pass (278 yards ppg).

UW's offense isn't any better. The Huskies rank 76th in total offense (386.3 yards ppg), and 100th in passing yardage (190.3 yards). If UW has a positive stat-wise, it's turnovers, at nearly plus-1 per game.

The Husky defender who gets the most press is linebacker Shaq Thompson -- he has four defensive touchdowns, four fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and an interception. But the best player on UW's defense from this chair is tackle Danny Shelton. He has 16 tackles for loss, 8 1/2 sacks and four fumble recoveries, and ranks second on the team in tackles (84). Linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha leads the nation with 23 1/2 tackles for loss and is tied for the lead with 17 1/2 sacks. Defensive end Andrew Hudson has become another premier pass rusher this season, with 10 sacks. Cornerback Marcus Peters, who leads UW with three interceptions, was booted from the squad several weeks ago.

Quarterback Cyler Miles is efficient, but not particularly effective. Miles has 18 touchdown passes and two interceptions and is coming off two decent games - but he’s thrown for only 1,880 yards in 10 games. The top receiver is Jaydon Mickens with 48 catches for 484 yards and three touchdowns. UW's running game mostly relies on the 1-2 punch of Lavon Coleman and Dwayne Washington; combined, they have run for 1,058 yards this season, with Thompson at times this season put in the backfield.

Last year: Washington rode a big third quarter to a 27-17 win over the Cougars. Washington State led 10-3 at halftime, the difference coming on Rickey Galvin's 14-yard touchdown catch late in the first half. But the Huskies, riding the legs of Bishop Sankey, scored 17 points during the third quarter to take over. Sankey ran 34 times for 200 yards and a touchdown. WSU pulled to within 20-17 during the fourth quarter, and the Cougars were on the move with five minutes remaining when Greg Ducre intercepted a Connor Halliday pass.

Familiar faces: Three Husky coaches have WSU ties. Assistant head coach/linebackers coach Bob Gregory played linebacker and defensive back for the Cougars during the 1980s. Defensive line/special teams coach Jeff Choate was Leach's linebackers coach in 2012. UW director of recruiting Rich Rasmussen was tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator at WSU for four seasons under Paul Wulff.

Notable note: Playing in less than three full games this season, WSU freshman quarterback Luke Falk has passed for almost as many yards as UW's Miles. Falk has thrown for 1,504 yards, while Miles has 1,880 yards in his 10 games played. With another big outing Saturday, Falk could end up throwing for more yards than Miles this season.

Read Nick Daschel’s occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel


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