Seen & Heard 11/27

THE REACTION of the crimson faithful to the Apple Cup nightmare has been a fascinating glimpse into the depth of passion they hold for their Cougars. Especially the women folk.

One WSU graduate, a woman pushing 50, was so upset that she decided to spend an extra night in Pullman before driving back to Seattle. Another 40-something female fan, living in Boston and getting cell phone reports from Martin Stadium, cancelled a packed Sunday social calendar to mourn the loss. And an 8-year-old little gal from Mercer Island broke into spontaneous tears when her mom explained how the officiating crew decided to play God rather than let the game continue.

Then there's my 11-year-old son. After throwing two of his little plastic footballs in the general direction of Braxton Cleman --- yes, I told my spirited southpaw that throwing stuff on the field isn't OK (even though Cleman does make me want to puke) --- he proclaimed, "The game is over, there's nothing we can do about it. So get over it."

Sage advice.

Hard to believe, but the sun still came up on Sunday. The Rose Bowl is still one win away. Planet Coug moves on.

Think about it: If you'd told me back in August that the Cougs would be rated No. 3 in the land going into the Apple Cup I'd have wet myself. If you'd told me we could lose to the Dawgs WITHOUT killing our season-long goal of getting to Pasadena I'd have said you were spending too much time with ol' Mary Jane.

So hear it now, Coug fans. Gesser or no Gesser, this team will be in Pasadena on New Year's Day and Mike Price will become our first coach since the immortal Lone Star Dietz to bring home the Rose Bowl trophy.

THE GESSER WATCH: Price says his star quarterback's outlook for the Dec. 7 game at UCLA is 50-50. Given the track record of other high ankle sprains that Cougar players have suffered this year, that forecast seems a bit rosy. If he is back, Price said the Cougs likely would run mostly from shotgun formation to reduce Gesser's footwork demands. On Tuesday, Gesser said the swelling had yet to subside.

SWEET MUSIC: Hat's off to Cougar senior scout team receiver Junior Tupai. His stylish saxophone rendition of the National Anthem before the Apple Cup kickoff was a crowd pleaser. There's nothing quite like a guy in uniform getting 37,000 people on their feet without setting foot in the end zone. For us middle-aged types, Tupai's efforts brought back fond memories from 1983 when Aaron Haskins, a post-man on George Raveling's last Cougar hoops team, wielded the sax to amp up a packed house before a titanic showdown with UCLA that WSU won at the buzzer on a Bryan Pollard tip in.

DOUBLE TAKE: When I spotted the "Rick is a Dick" t-shirt on sale in the Field House before the game I have to admit that my first thought was that it was in reference to former WSU Athletic Director Rick Dickson. While incredibly apropos for the pulse-less Dickson, I must say that the shirt is a much better fit on Mr. Neuheisel.

HIT OF THE GAME: Talk about setting somebody up for a fall. In the third quarter with the Huskies on the Cougar 36, the Dawgs lined up running back Rich Alexis at receiver on the short, right side of the field. It appeared the WSU secondary didn't realize he was there. As fans on the press box side of the field yelled down to watch out, the ball was snapped. And sure enough, Cody Pickett fired a quick one to Alexis. Cougar junior safety Erik Coleman, clearly playing possum, was more than ready. He was closing on Alexis as the ball left Pickett's hand. He delivered a truly bone-jarring hit that limited the gain to two yards and sent Alexis to the sidelines to clear the cobwebs.

QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: "Three hours into the longest, sloppiest, wildest and surely most memorable Apple Cup of all time, one got the suspicion that such a strange game would have to be decided by a surreal ending." -- John McGrath, Tacoma News Tribune.

PSYCH 101: After watching a second-straight Apple Cup in which the better team, in his eyes, didn't win, a suffering Cougar fan in section 8 was heard leaving Martin Stadium on Saturday with the following summation: "It must be some sort of mental block. I'm thinking you could put the Little Sisters of the Poor in purple uniforms and the Cougars would figure out a way to turn it into a nail biter."

POLL WATCHING: The Cougars are now No. 9 in both the AP and ESPN/Coaches polls, and No. 8 on the BCS list.

SEATTLE ON MY MIND: Word around town is that the WSU administration was so enthused by the outpouring of support the Cougars received in their August 31 season-opener against Nevada in Seahawks Stadium that they're thinking about putting the 2003 opener, versus Idaho on August 30, in Seattle as well. Given the fan base in Western Washington --- and the fact one sold-out game at Seahawks Stadium nearly generates the revenue of two sellouts in Pullman -- it makes great sense.

BRAINS AND BRAWN: The Cougars --- WR Collin Henderson, DT Jeremey Williams, and LB Pat Bennett --- have been named to the Pac-10's All-Academic first team, headlining a list of eight Cougars honored for their work in the classroom and on the field. OL Riley Fitt-Chappell and CB Cole Sheridan earned second team recognition, while WR Devard Darling, kicker Drew Dunning, and CB Karl Paymah received honorable mention. This is the third time Henderson and Williams have been so honored. No Huskies were named that we're aware of.

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