Eyewitness at 30-straight Cups reflects

THE COUGARS AND HUSKIES will square off Saturday for the 100th time and Rich Howard, a 1979 Washington State graduate, will be where he always is during the annual showdown: In the stands. This will be the 31st straight Apple Cup he's attended. The highs, he says, have been ethereal. And the lows make him feel like he has to "look up just to see whale crap on the ocean floor."

Howard grew up a stone's throw from Pullman, in Pomeroy, and has lived in the Seattle area most of his adult life. He has been an eyewitness to nearly one-third of all the games played between the Cougs and Dawgs.

We asked him to take us down memory lane for some insights into the one contest that can make or break your world view for an entire year.

CF.C: The Apple Cup that started your 30-year string was in 1977. What do you remember?

RICH: Warren Moon vs. Jack Thompson. The Huskies needed a win to get to the Rose Bowl and the Cougs needed one to be invited to the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl. Believe it or not, I actually remember some WSU students pulling for the Huskies because no school outside of California had been to the Rose Bowl since 1965. We were late getting to the game and heard three big cheers as we walked toward Husky Stadium -- the score was 21-0 before we sat down. I wanted to head back to the car, but my buddy brought a Bota bag. So it made the pain bearable.

CF.C: So what kind of diehard Coug wants to leave just because we're down a few points? Was this just another game to you in those days?

RICH: Sorta. I didn't really have a bone-rattling disdain for the Huskies back then because my Grandma was a big Dawg fan. I was from east of the mountains and didn't realize until I moved west after college how insufferable so many Husky fans are.

CF.C: There's always been a rivalry between the schools, but people say it didn't hit overdrive until 1982. Do you agree?

RICH: Everyone says it was the 1982 game that put this thing on the map. Wrong. It was the 1980 game in Spokane. That's when the Cougs served notice we were entering a new era. Samoa Samoa had two first-half TD passes giving the Cougs a 14-zip lead. We were receiving a punt right before halftime. I can't remember our return man's name, but he muffed it and the Huskies took over inside the 30. A few plays later it was 14-7 and the mo was gone. The second half was hard fought but the Huskies prevailed 30-23.

CF.C: The next few years got very interesting.
RICH: They sure did. In 1981, '82, '83 and '84 one or both teams was playing for something big when they got to the Apple Cup. In 1981, a Cougar win sends us to the Rose Bowl and we were looking pretty good in the first half. We were up 7-3 and controlling the line of scrimmage. Right before the half, though, the Huskies got a cheap touchdown on a play that is textbook offensive pass interference. Paul Skansi pushed off our DB, Nate Bradley, who then slipped, in order to get open in the corner of the end zone. The Huskies then got a big boost when it was announced at the start of the fourth quarter that USC had upset UCLA, which meant a Husky win over the Cougs would put them in the Rose Bowl. We lost.

CF.C: Anyone who was there will never forget 1982. What do you remember most?

The Cougs were riddled with injuries and had only two wins coming into the game. The Dawgs were a 24-point favorite, and led 17-7 at halftime. Standing in line at the men's room, these two cheeky Husky fans were making it a point to talk about where they were going to stay in Pasadena. One guy said he already had his tickets and a room in Burbank. After the Cougs' incredible victory, I'm running down the stairs to storm the field and I see the guy who was booked for Burbank. I asked him if his travel agent set him up with a cancellation policy. Didn't hear his answer, but I did see a single finger go up. Back then, one meant yes and two meant no.

CF.C: The crowd at Martin Stadium was pretty fired up that day. Was that the most rockin' you remember the place?

RICH: It certainly had to be the loudest crowd in Pullman up to that point in history. The kickoff was a bit later in the day than usual, so everyone had time to "fortify" against the cold weather. When Chuck Nelson missed his field goal, I bet you could have heard the cheering all the way to Moscow. I have a buddy who knew Don Dow, who was a lineman for the Dawgs that year. He told him that the Husky players were actually afraid, standing on the sidelines, because our student section was like a pack of crazed animals. All they wanted to do was get out of town. Note: Stayed tuned this week for a special look at the long-term implications this game had on the Apple Cup.

CF.C: The next season, 1983, the Huskies were in line for a Rose Bowl berth again. The game was in Seattle and they were bent on revenge.

RICH: The Huskies were gunning for us. Don Dow himself was interviewed on Channel 4 in Seattle the night before and insisted the previous year was a fluke, that the Cougars "would be taught a lesson." Our defensive line -– which included FIVE future NFL players -– wasn't ready to concede. Neither was our lockdown corner, Joe Taylor. It was pouring rain, so the ground game was critical. Ricky Turner, Richard Calvin and Kerry Porter, plus that big O-line, came through for the Cougs. But the signature play of the game was when Danny Greene, the Huskies' star punt returner, broke open and was headed for six when our punter, Glenn Harper, stands his ground and doesn't bite on a Greene juke. Greene loses his footing and Harper plants his helmet square into Greene's crotch. It was a devastating tackle. Greene spent five minutes on the ground. The Cougs won 17-6 and Don James proclaimed that we were the best team in the Pac-10. Our record was 7-4 but we didn't get a bowl invitation.

CF.C: Of the 30 Apple Cups you've attended, what's the single most memorable game and what's the most memorable moment from that game?

RICH: Easily it had to be the 1988 game in Pullman. We opened up to a quick 6-0 lead, but trailed 21-6 at the end of the first quarter. I was royally ticked off. I turn to my buddy, Cougfan.com Associate Editor Pat Mitchell, and blurt, "we're gonna lose!" Pat says no way and offers to bet me $20. I told him I'd take the bet and even kiss his rear end if we won. Slowly but surely, the Cougs claw their way back. Then in the fourth quarter, Shawn Landrum blocks a Husky punt that Jay Languein recovers. A few plays later, Timm Rosenbach sneaks into the endzone on a fourth-and-goal play for a 32-31 lead that stands. As the clock ticks down, I am reminded by Pat that I owe him 20 bucks which I gladly hold above my head and pass over. But another commitment had escaped my memory. Pat climbs up on the bleacher, turns his big fanny my direction, and says, "Howie, you're forgetting something." Ouch! I am a man of honor. I did ask that pants stay up, however, and that request -- thankfully -- was granted.

CF.C: Give us one quick anecdote from your Apple cup experiences in the 1990s.

RICH: I have two that stand out. One is standing in the parking lot in a downpour at Husky Stadium receiving congratulations from the the same group of purple clowns who were bustin' my back only four hours earlier. It was 1997 with Ryan Leaf and the Fab Five. Early in the day, I was advised countless times how the Dogs were going to knock us out of the Rose Bowl. Chris Jackson, Leon Bender, Lamont Thompson, et. al. had different ideas.

I also fondly remember having breakfast at the Nobby Inn over in Moscow before the 1992 Apple Cup, when the Dogs were ranked fifth in the nation. The Husky fans sitting next to us were being pretty mouthy. But then around 9:30, it started snowing. I pointed out the window and bellowed, "keep comin' down baby!" That booth next to us suddenly got real quiet. Seven hours later, their team was equally mum!

To check out video highlights from some of the game's talked about in this article, click here and vote in the poll WSU is conducting on the greatest Cougar plays in Apple Cup history.

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