Counting the ways: Apple Cup is oh-so-sour

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING, it's fair to say there's never been another Crapple, er, Apple Cup match up quite like the one on tap this Saturday. Not even in 1969, when the Cougs entered with one win and the Huskies none, has there been such categorical badinage. Of the 119 teams in Division I-A, the 1-10 Cougs and 0-10 Dawgs rank among the ten worst in oh-so-many of the major statistical measures.

Take total offense, for instance. Looking at the NCAA's copious stats, one might get the sense this game is going to wind up 0-0, because the Cougars rank No. 118 in total O, the Huskies No. 117.

But then look at total defense and you could wonder how the scoreboard operator is going to keep up. That's because the Cougars are No. 112 in total D, the Huskies No. 110.

In all, WSU is among the ten worst teams in the land in nine of the 15 major statistical categories, and the UW in 11 of them.

For both, that roll call of woe consists of rushing offense, passing efficiency, total offense, scoring offense, rushing defense, total defense, scoring defense, punt returns and turnover margin. The Huskies' two extra categories of despair are kickoff returns and passing efficiency defense

In the categories Cougs and Huskies aren't in the bottom ten, they're mostly in the bottom 25.

Even their best statistical rankings are tarnished. For both, pass defense is where they rate highest -- the Cougs at No. 46 and the Dawgs at No. 83. Unfortunately, those numbers are skewed by this simple fact: the two teams are so bad at run defense (WSU 118th, UW 116th) -- that opponents don't need to bother lighting ‘em up through the air.

Oddsmakers have installed the Huskies as 8 1/2-point favorites, presumably on the strength of the fact the Cougars have surrendered 58 or more points in six of eight Pac-10 contests and scored 3 or fewer in five of those games. By contrast, the Huskies have given up more than 50 points just once against a Pac-10 foe -- to USC in a game that also marked the Dawgs' only shut out.

THE LONG ARM OF LAPPANO: Husky offensive coordinator Tim Lappano, a proud graduate of Spokane's Gonzaga Prep, has deep crimson connections. He was a WSU assistant coach under Dennis Erickson and Mike Price from 1987-91. During that time, the WSU roster included four players who are now Cougar cosches: Paul Wulff, Steve Broussard, Jody Sears and Malik Roberson. In addition, Cougar assistant head coach Chris Ball was a graduate assistant at WSU during Lappano's time in Pullman. In the late 90s, Lappano and Broussard were reunited under Erickson when Dennis was head man of the Seahawks.

INJURIES TAKE A TOLL: Of the 45 players who have started games for the Cougars this season, 25 of them have missed time due to injuries. In all, the collective games missed totals 60. The latest member of the MASH unit is running back Chantz Staden, who suffered a significant knee injury last week at Arizona State. The offensive line alone has used seven different starting lineups this season.



• This photo on the right may risk the ire of the message board's Crimson Gavel, but it's Apple Cup Week so we'll throw a little caution to the wind and try to sneak some creative spelling past the censors. You have to admit it's pretty funny. The pic was snapped in Tailgate Heaven outside Qwest Field prior to the WSU-Oklahoma State season opener.

• A Cougar win Saturday would put WSU senior Matt Mullennix,of Spangle in a league of his own. Mullennix, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA prior to this season, would be the first Cougar ever to be a part of four Apple Cup-winning teams. He was a redshirt freshman on the 2004 squad that posted a 28-25 victory, though he missed the game after suffering a season-ending injury in the season's fourth game. Mullennix was also a part of the 2005 and 2007 winning teams.

Brandon Gibson will be making is 37th consecutive start for the Cougs on Saturday. Last week at ASU he became WSU's career leader in pass reception yardage (2,711), supplanting Jason Hill.

• FSN will broadcast the Apple Cup, with Barry Tompkins, Petro Papadakis and Jim Watson calling the action. Kickoff is at noon at Martin Stadium.

• The scheduling gods were thinking crimson when they devined this weekend. For the first time in memory, the Cougar basketball team will be playing at Friel on the eve of the Apple Cup. Bennett's Brigade tips it off Friday against Sacramento State.

Cougar Pride, a 15-foot tall bronze monument commissioned by WSU alum Gary Schneidmiller of Coeur d'Alene, and created by reknown artists Mike and Chester Fields, will be dedicated during a ceremony at the Martin Stadium plaza Saturday at 10 a.m. The $400,000 work of art will arrive in Pullman tomorrow and placed on Thursday.

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