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Top 5 Apple Cup memories: Robin Pflugrad

IN THE FIVE SEASONS that I had the opportunity to coach in the Apple Cup, we had our fair share of incredible highs, and disappointing lows. For my money, Washington State-Washington is one the most heated rivalries in all of college football.

2005
The bubble screen victory!  That was a GREAT experience to be involved in. As time goes by, you realize that as a coach you start to cheer for great individuals more than favorite teams and Trandon Harvey (pictured above) Alex Brink and Greg Prator all combined for one of the greatest plays in Cougar History. These three players were also great individuals off the field. On the field on that play, they did their assignments to perfection.

Alex threw a perfect pass, Trandon ran a perfect route and used the sideline to his advantage, running first horizontally and then vertically all the way through the end zone and into the marching band. Greg actually had a read block depending  on the defensive coverage and the force defender.  He executed a textbook block on the corner while also causing a log jam that the free safety had to avoid -- and that forced the free safety to take an angle towards Harvey that gave him no chance.

The play is personally sentimental to me for a couple reasons; The victory happened to take place on my birthday, and it was also the last game that I coached at WSU. I headed to Oregon after the season to join the Ducks, and also to be near my parents. As much as it was the right decision, you can't coach at Washington State and leave with a piece of it, forever, in your heart.
 
2004
Also a tremendous memory -- it end a six year drought for the Cougs. Not only was that important as a coach,  it was also important to me as a recruiter. I remember going into high schools across the state of Washington with a beaming smile on my face. It was exciting to win it in Pullman and bring "The Cup" back to the Palouse. And it was neat to win it with a young QB in Brink.

The performance of wide receiver Jason Hill was spectacular, and he helped set the standard for fellow Cougar pass-catchers Michael Bumpass, Brandon Gibson and Cody Boyd.
 
2001 and 2003
Both of these games were both played in Seattle and unfortunately we lost them both. We ended both seasons with 10 wins (in an 11- game schedule) but the Apple Cup eluded us.

To this day, I believe that we had better teams than the Huskies but we certainly didn't prove it on the field, not on these days.

These Cougar teams really didn't like the Huskies and we might have been concentrating a little too much on that and not on our assignments.  These losses in Seattle, though, did make the 2005 victory in Husky Stadium taste a little sweeter.
 
2002
As disappointing as the '01 and '03 losses were, the 2002 Apple Cup in Pullman stands all alone for me. It was a tremendously hard fought battle from start to finish.  Losing our heart and soul, QB Jason Gesser, to a serious leg injury was a tough blow for us.  Matt Kegel came in and battled as hard as he could.  The problem was the game just didn't END right (or correctly).

We again had run the bubble screen to our slot receiver -  to Matt's left side (towards our bench).  The ball was batted down by a Husky defender right after leaving Kegel's hand.  It was ultimately ruled not a backwards pass. The line judge on our sideline was waving the incomplete pass sign directly in front of our staff.  The umpire was also signaling incomplete pass as he worked his way across the line of scrimmage toward the football - this can be confirmed by watching the video.

It was too bad that there wasn't video replay at the time, it could have helped to confirm or not confirm the play on the field. I believe we all know what the correct call should have been.
 
2007
I was not on the sidelines coaching the Cougs for this one but it is still a favorite memory and I'll tell you why.

Brink's final throw in the closing seconds to Gibson was almost the exact same play as in the 2005 win.  Brandon was playing the same position as Prator, but instead of blocking the corner he stuttered his feet as if to block and then ran towards the end zone -- so version B of the play, rather than version A.

Brink's job was to pump fake the ball to the slot receiver on the bubble and then throw to Brandon. But the Dawgs blitzed hard off the edge and Brink had to throw quickly as he was getting hit. Alex made a great play, the Dawgs bit on the fake bubble and the rest is history.  GREAT HISTORY, I might add! 

The fact that It was really the same play and it beat the Huskies twice, well, that's a satisfying moment for a coach. So when you think of those two wins, you can consider them A & B of the same play (or maybe it should be A & C, for Apple and Cup).

And there was one other thing about the '07 game that has made it special for me. I wasn't coaching the Cougs then but when you see the players that you had recruited a few years earlier go to Seattle and beat the Huskies in the final seconds of a game, well, it becomes a great memory. One that endures.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Robin Pflugrad has spent 32 years as a college football coach, and as head man at Montana was a finalist for the 2011 Eddie Robinson Award as the nation's top FCS coach. From 2001-05 he was an assistant at Washington State, where he served as tight ends coach, recruiting coordinator and assistant head coach. He was an assistant at Arizona State prior to coming to WSU and at Oregon after leaving WSU. He is a graduate of, and former assistant coach at, Portland State. Former WSU head coach and longtime d-coordinator Bill Doba referred to Pflugrad as “The Bulldog” while at WSU, owing to Pflugrad’s attention to detail and passion for recruiting. He and his wife Marlene reside in Phoenix, where he spent this past season as the lead assistant and offensive coordinator for head coach Dan Cozzetto. He is also a football consultant for a number of college programs and an analyst for Channel 3 KTVX (CBS).


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