Sorensen: Cougs can win Apple Cup w/ one move

AFTER SEVEN WEEKS OF bad karma, my affinity for superstition has reached its apex. As such, I make an urgent appeal to the Cougar coaching staff and players: Absolutely, positively wear your gray pants for Saturday's Apple Cup. There's an old maxim that those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat its mistakes. So make a note of this: In the last 45 years, the Cougars have never --- repeat, never --- won a game in Husky Stadium unless attired in gray pants.

It's true. The last time the Cougars won on the banks of Montlake, in 1997, the team didn't sport the crimson road pants they'd worn all season. They wore gray --- and wound up in the Rose Bowl!

In 1985, when Mark Rypien and the underdog Cougs slipped and slid to a dramatic 21-20 victory on the frozen Husky Stadium turf, they were wearing gray. Same in 1983 when Ricky Turner engineered a dominating win that knocked the Dawgs out of the Rose Bowl for the second straight year.

In 1973, with Charlie Peck at the helm, the Cougars came to Seattle and scored the most points (52) they have in any Apple Cup, home or away, in series history. They were wearing gray pants --- the same hue of the pants they wore in 1967 when they prevailed 9-7.

Those are the only five wins the Cougars have managed in Husky Stadium over the last 45 years. Pardon the pun, but the common thread is gray pants.

Now consider the calamity that has come from wearing either crimson or white pants in Husky Stadium. In 2001 and 2003 the Cougars were favored by just about everyone this side of Bob Rondeau. In both games they wore white pants --- and lost. Come to think of it, they also wore crimson helmets --- a definite no-no for this weekend.

In 1977, a season in which the Cougars beat Nebraska and Michigan State on the road back-to-back, WSU came to Husky Stadium with a bowl invitation on the line. The hype leading up to the contest --- pitting legendary Jack Thompson against legendary Warren Moon --- produced the then-largest crowd ever to watch a game in Husky Stadium. The Cougars wore their crimson pants --- the same ones that had worked so well in Lincoln and East Lansing --- and wound up laying an egg.

In my senior season, 1981, we came to Montlake just one victory away from securing WSU's first Rose Bowl appearance in 50 years. Sports Illustrated was even there to chronicle it all. Unfortunately, we wore our crimson pants that day and lost.

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Cougs by 2 1/2

The Cougars won a year ago in Pullman, 28-25. Alex Brink passed for two TDs and ran for one while Jerome Harrison rushed for 150 yards. Scott Davis had 10 tackles and forced a fumble that Will Derting recovered for a TD.

Cougars 44, Huskies 35

Yes, the Cougars also have lost in Seattle wearing gray. But in a season wear bad bounces and bad luck have run amok, why not play the odds and go with the garb that at least has been in the winner's circle before?

If the Cougs go gray, I say the point spread should be upped by a field goal. And if they decide to put the old scripted Cougars logo on their silver helmets --- like they did in last year's Apple Cup --- then I'd say we're at least a one-TD favorite.

SHIFTING GEARS FROM THE sartorial to the bitter-sweet, I can't tell you what a bummer it was to see senior tight end, long snapper and team captain Troy Bienemann go down with that fourth quarter knee injury against Oregon. Talk about sad --- he's out for the Apple Cup. To make matters worse, he concludes his Cougar career one catch short of tying the school record for tight ends. Troy has 94 career receptions. The record-holder is Butch Williams with 95.

On the bright side, the fact Troy's last play ever as a Cougar was a touchdown catch --- a 3 yarder from Alex Brink that narrowed the score to 31-28 --- is truly memorable and a fitting end to an outstanding college career.

By the way, kudos to Troy for also being a star in the classroom. Last week he was one of three Cougars named to ESPN's West Coast All-Academic first-team. Brink and offensive lineman Riley Fitt-Chappell also were honored. Troy is a communications and finance major, with a 3.73 GPA. This was the third straight season he's been picked first-team all-academic.

Brink has a 3.56 GPA as a sport management major and Fitt-Chappell carries a 3.56 in management information systems. WSU is the only Pac-10 school with more than two selections on the team.

BACK TO THE APPLE CUP for a moment. For a team that lost 14 straight conference games going into last Saturday, I can understand the Huskies' excitement with that win over Arizona and their freshman quarterback. But man oh man, I didn't think it was as big a deal as, say, Japan's World War II surrender. Low and behold, I guess that's why I'm not an editor of the Seattle Times sports page. Sunday morning's coverage made it look like the Dawgs had just won the national championship.

The hype extended beyond the headlines and into the stories too --- one writer opined that the win turned the whole program around. If I'm not mistaken this was the Arizona Wildcats the Huskies had defeated, right? If memory serves, the Cats have won five games combined over the last two seasons --- and two of them were at the expense of mighty Northern Arizona U.

The Cougars and the Huskies come into Saturday's "Crapple Cup" match-up with only five wins between them --- 3 for the Cougs, 2 for the Dawgs. While bad, it's not the worst match-up to grace this annual battle. In 1969 WSU came in with one victory and UW zero. You have to go back to 1938 to get closer than that ineptitude, when the teams entered with just two wins apiece. Last season, of course, was no bed of glory either --- WSU entered with four wins and the Huskies one.

About the author: Paul Sorensen was a first-team All-America safety for Jim Walden's Cougars in the early 1980s. He played professionally in the USFL and NFL before becoming a long-time color commentator on Cougar radio broadcasts.

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