Could this be Walden's last Apple Cup?

THE OUTCOME OF SATURDAY'S Apple Cup showdown may determine whether a certain sixtysomething coach will be back in the stadium for next year's Cougar-Husky game. Former WSU head man Jim Walden, a guy who truly puts the color in commentator, the guy Don James was referring to when he said he was a 2,000-word Apple Cup underdog, may boycott next year's big game if the Cougs don't win this weekend.

True fact. In one of the most entertaining stories to come across the Scout.com network last summer -- an interview with Walden by Derek Johnson of Dawgman.com -- the ol' ball coach said he may have to start boycotting Apple Cups.

Actually, the interview was less a chat than a course in taking notes as fast as humanly possible. That's because Derek started out by asking Walden to analyze the Huskies' inexplicable 35-32 Apple Cup win last season in Pullman.

Sixteen minutes later, nearing the conclusion of his musings on the subject, Walden capped the matter this way:

"And let me publicly make a vow. If Washington has another lousy football team this year and the Cougars lose to them again, I won't be going to anymore Apple Cups. I have told my people that. I will do the other eleven games, but they will have to go get a substitute for me (up in the radio booth) for the Apple Cup. I can't take it anymore!"

Well, the Huskies do have another lousy football team. And the Cougars might even be a tad worse. Oddsmakers have installed the Dawgs as 5 1/2-point favorites.

"For the last six years, the Cougars have only twice beaten all these bad Washington teams," Walden told Dawgman.com. "In the years I was at WSU (1978-86), Don James was the coach at Washington. I never saw any Husky teams in those days that were anywhere near as poor as these current Husky teams. I am amazed that in the past six years, despite the Cougars having some of the best teams they have ever had, their record against Washington is only 2-4."

The Cougars were favored in each of the last six games.

"So last year's Apple Cup was about par for the course," Walden said. "Let's face it, the Huskies lost at home the week before to a terrible Stanford team and only scored three points! Then they come to Pullman and score 35. You've got to give Washington credit, but you can't improve that much in three days — which was the amount of time the Huskies had to practice before the Apple Cup.

"It wasn't so much what the Huskies did, but rather it was what the Cougars didn't do. They played terrible against Washington. And that guy (UW wide receiver Cody Ellis) has the quick pitch bounce off the back of his heel and he catches it and runs 80 yards or whatever for a touchdown-- I mean c'mon! Stuff like that happens against you when you're not in tune. Washington State played one of the worst games I have ever seen them play—and in a game that is supposedly of huge magnitude, given the rivalry. I mean, if the Cougars had played against the Huskies with the same intensity as they did against Oregon and UCLA, they would have beat the Huskies by 45 points."

He continued: "In the time I have been here (at WSU), of the five worst Cougar performances I have seen, three have been against the Huskies. I'm talking about really uninspired performances. That's awful! When I was coaching, that would have been a sacrilege. The Husky game meant everything! It's more than I can deal with. It's not coaching, but the Cougars need an attitude adjustment (regarding the Huskies)."

When it comes to Apple Cups, Walden is a Hall of Famer. He was the architect of the greatest upset in series history, in 1982, and followed it up with a dominating victory the following year in Seattle to keep the Dawgs out of the Rose Bowl again. An ill-timed personal foul cost him a third consecutive victory in 1984 but he came back the next season to pull out a nailbiter, 21-20, in ice-covered Husky Stadium.

Three wins in four seasons, with two of them coming in Seattle. And not favored in a single one of them.

Now that's what you call attitude -- with a smile.


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