The special teams managed to set up nine Husky points in the span of 90 seconds on either side of halftime.
The defense just plain wore out.
Washington State's Cinderella season crashed down in spectacular fashion in Seattle on Saturday, as Washington (8-2) pounded the favored Cougars (now 9-2), 26-14 in front of a vocal Husky Stadium crowd.
WSU saved up a season's worth of errors for a game whose outcome meant either a Pac-10 co-championship or, yawn, possibly an invitation to the Seattle Bowl.
This was not so much a Husky victory as it was a Cougar meltdown.
Silly penalties. Silly decisions. Dropped balls Turnovers galore. Predictable play calling. You name it and Wazzu did it.
This wasn't a game — it was an implosion. "It's real tough to take. We did things that we normally hadn't done in the other nine games this year," said Cougar head man Mike Price.
The Huskies played as steady as the rain that usually accompanies them at home in November. They deserve credit, especially the defensive front for the debilitating pressure put on Jason Gesser, and Dawg QB Cody Pickett whose poise in the pocket allowed him to riddle the Cougars for 371 passing yards.
But on this sunny day, the Cougars' biggest opponent was wearing Crimson and Gray.
Two costly pass interference penalties among the nine flags they drew. Two botched kickoff returns. A gadget play that looked like something straight off a grammar school sandlot. A veritable no-show for three quarters by former Biletnikopf Award candidate Nakoa McElrath. The list goes on. And on. And on.
This was not the 2001 Cougars that the Crimson Faithful have to come to know and love. Sure, they were full of fight and fury, as any glance at D.D. Acholunu or Jerome Riley would attest. But they didn't seem to have a clue when it mattered most. A team that has always found a way to win suddenly looked like last year's snake-bit edition.
These were disheveled, disjointed imposters who chose the most inappropriate of weekends to crash what had been such a joyous ride.
In retrospect, it seems the gods of destiny had chosen the victors early on, as a fourth-and-goal dive from the one by David Minnich was snuffed by the UW defense on the Cougars' second possession of the game. It was the first of three -- count 'em, 3 -- failed attempts for paydirt by WSU from inside the Husky five yard line. WSU's red zone offense was instead a disaster zone.
But that first failure -- on a play call Husky defenders said they knew was coming after studying Cougar game film -- was a killer. The Cougs got nothing and the Huskies turned around and marched 99 yards to a 7-0 lead. For all intents and purposes, the game was over before it had begun. The momentum was irrevocably colored purple/
The sold-out crowd was also witness to a one-man highlight film in the form of Husky receiver Reggie Williams. The true freshman finished the contest with 11 catches for 203 yards. More amazing still, nine of those grabs and 186 of those yards came in the first half. It seems as if the best way to defend Williams in the future would be to send a tape of this game to NFL scouts and agents and hope for the best.
This fourth straight Apple Cup loss cost the Cougs, at very least, a Pac-10 co-championship and Holiday Bowl berth. An Oregon State win over Oregon on December 1, coupled with a WSU win, would've meant the Fiesta Bowl.
Add this 94th Apple Cup — a sad chapter in a remarkable regular season — to the long Cougar roll of "what might've beens."
UW: Alexis 1-yard run (Anderson kick)
WSU: Bush 15-yard pass from Gesser (Dunning kick)
UW: Anderson 29-yard FG
UW: Anderson 35-yard FG
UW: Hurst 1-yard run (kick failed)
UW: Stevens 7-yard pass from Pickett (Anderson kick)
WSU: McElrath 4-yard pass from Gesser (Dunning kick)
Passing WSU: Gesser 22-35-227-0, Minnich 0-1-0-1 UW: Pickett 25-38-372-1 WSU: D. Minnich 15-33, Nettles 1-18, Tippins 3-17, Gesser 10-12, Kegel 1-4 UW: Hurst 27-63, Alexis 6-21, Walker 1-2, Pickett 7-minus 8 WSU: McElrath 5-98, Riley 5-46, Bush 5-42, Baldwin 2-36, Thielbahr 1-2, Henderson 1-2, Minnich 3-1 UW: Williams 11-203, Elstrom 1-48, Stevens 5-41, Hurst 2-25, Arnold 2-19, Reddick 2-16, Alexis 1-11, Ware 1-9
WSU: Gesser 22-35-227-0, Minnich 0-1-0-1
UW: Pickett 25-38-372-1
WSU: D. Minnich 15-33, Nettles 1-18, Tippins 3-17, Gesser 10-12, Kegel 1-4
UW: Hurst 27-63, Alexis 6-21, Walker 1-2, Pickett 7-minus 8
WSU: McElrath 5-98, Riley 5-46, Bush 5-42, Baldwin 2-36, Thielbahr 1-2, Henderson 1-2, Minnich 3-1
UW: Williams 11-203, Elstrom 1-48, Stevens 5-41, Hurst 2-25, Arnold 2-19, Reddick 2-16, Alexis 1-11, Ware 1-9