UW 101: Apple Cup

THE 101st APPLE CUP will feature a Washington team mired in the thick of an extended period of futility -- they have lost 45 of their past 57 games, including the last 12 straight. They haven't had a winning season since 2002. Since 2000, the Huskies have averaged 4 wins and 8 losses per year. But none of that compares to this year's Huskies.

It's been a catastrophe for the UW on the field in 2008 -- Washington is the last winless program remaining in major college football.

The Huskies rank 117th in total offense, 116th in scoring defense, 115th in passing efficiency, 114th in rushing offense, and 116th in turnover margin. They've been outscored by an average of 40-14. And yet, that Washington has actually been installed as the favorite in this game tells you what kind of season it's been for the Cougs.

But if Washington State beats Washington in Pullman on Saturday, the Cougs will have beaten the Huskies in four of the last five meetings.

THE HUSKIES ON OFFENSE

Players to Know
Ronnie Fouch, QB: The freshman has struggled mightily since taking over for Jake Locker in Week 4. He has a strong arm but has completed just 43 percent of his passes and has had accuracy issues. On the year, he has four touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.

Brandon Johnson and Willie Griffin, RBs: UW is banged up at running back and even Griffin is nicked up. Johnson should get the most touches but he's averaged only 2.7 yards per carry this year.

Overview
The UW offense wasn't great before Locker went down but they've been spiraling downward since the Husky quarterback went down to injury. The UW hasn't scored more than 19 points in any game Ronnie Fouch has started. The wheels completely fell off last week against UCLA when the offense generated just 135 yards, the bulk of it in the latter half of the game, and Fouch completed 7-of-22 pass attempts for 39 yards. Injuries at running back have compounded the problems; they have precious few healthy bodies left.

Strategy
Expect the Huskies to exercise patience and try to be the team making the fewest mistakes. They will try to grind the game out on the ground and control the clock. If the Cougs can stuff the run, they'll have turnover opportunities on third and long.

THE HUSKIES ON DEFENSE

Players to Know
Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DE: Te'o-Nesheim accounts for six of UW's 10 sacks this season. Last season's team defensive MVP has been one of the only consistent playmakers this year on that side of the ball for the Huskies and is looking to wreak havoc on a WSU o-line that ranks near the D-IA bottom in sacks surrendered.

Cougars (1-10) vs Huskies (0-10)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
12 p.m. PT

WHERE:
Martin Stadium (35,117)

TELEVISION:
FSN National Coverage

RADIO:
The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings.

THE LINE:
UW by 7.5

LAST MEETING:
WSU won last year 42-35 on a late Alex Brink touchdown pass to Brandon Gibson.

THE SERIES:
UW leads 64-30-6

CF.C PREDICTION:
Cougars 24, Huskies 20

Overview
The Huskies brought in a new defensive coordinator this season after giving up the most points in school history last year. To Huskies' fans consternation, the defense has gotten worse under Ed Donatell. The Huskies have been getting beat over the ground and through the air, giving up 5.4 yards per rush and 8.6 yards per pass attempt.

Strategy
The way to beat the UW defense is to attack it. Establishing the run is essential, but the more aggressive offense should be rewarded. Play action on first down could be a winning game plan for Wazzu. Above all, Washington State must protect the football, something they have fought all year long. Washington will be trying to take the Cougs' Brandon Gibson out of the game but the Cougs need to get him the ball and when it arrives, Gibson needs to make a play with it.

THE HUSKIES ON SPECIAL TEAM
UW kickers have converted 7 of 12 attempts, including the last four in a row. UW is well below average in most other special teams categories.

FINAL THOUGHTS
For those pointing to two mightily struggling teams and lamenting how the season has gone, I can only offer this: Boo-freaking-hoo. This is the Apple Cup. The only reason college football ever grew out of intramural sports was because people wanted to knock heads with their most hated rivals. Well here they are. The Huskies will be coming into Martin Stadium on Saturday looking to claim that the Cougars are among the worst teams in Pac-10 history and if that doesn't get the Cougs in the proper mental place, there's not much Paul Wulff can say or do to help them. While X's and O's will be huge in this game, the outcome could hinge on pride -- Who wants it more? UW players do not want to go winless on the season and have to endure all the commentary that comes with an 0-fer season. But the Cougars are defending their home stadium, don't have a lame duck coach giving them instructions, and have just enough seniors and rising youth to make a stand. However ugly it could look, WSU should find a way to gut it out. Throw in a healthier Devin Frischknecht at tight end this week, who tore up the Huskies last year, and Wazzu could claim the Cup for the 4th time in 5 years.


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