UW 101: Apple Harvest

THE 2009 HUSKY SEASON, coming off a historic 0-12 record in '08, started with so much potential. But the UW has now dropped six of their last seven contests and it's become same-old, same-old, with the Huskies now going bowl-less for the seventh consecutive year. But Washington is still a whopping 26-point favorite to win the Apple Cup, something they haven't done four of their last five tries.

First year UW coach Steve Sarkisian was thought to be a miracle worker after the USC game. That now seems a distant memory. With UW so heavily favored, a loss to the Cougars tomorrow could demoralize the fan base to new depths, and that's saying something given how things have gone in Montlake 'lo these past several years.

Cougars (1-10) vs. Huskies (3-7)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
3:30 pm Pacific Time

WHERE:
Husky Stadium (73,000)

TELEVISION:
FSN-Northwest

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

THE LINE:
UW by 24.5

LAST MEETING:
WSU won last year 16-13 in a double overtime thriller.

THE SERIES:
UW leads 64-31-6

CF.C PREDICTION:
Cougars 13, Huskies 10, 3 OT's

THE HUSKIES ON OFFENSE

Players to Know
Jake Locker, QB: The junior is still looking for his first Apple Cup win, missing the 2008 contest with a broken thumb and being defeated by the Alex Brink-led Cougs in 2007. He has thrown for 2,356 yards and 17 TDs against 10 picks this season. He hasn't tucked-and-run as much as years past, garnering just 217 rushing yards and 4 scores.
Chris Polk, RB: Locker is still the household name, but Polk has been the real stud in this '09 offense. He has averaged 5 yards per carry and is on pace to surpass 1000 rushing yards on the season. A fan outcry in recent weeks has been about why the UW hasn't more of an effort to get him the ball.
Jermaine Kearse, WR: Kearse is a legit deep threat receiver and leads the team in most associated offensive categories.

Overview
The Husky offense isn't bad, it just isn't all that good. Locker still brings his multi-dimensional game to the table, but Sarkisian has really tried to develop him as a passer and that means Locker is using one of his greatest gifts, his running ability, less. The Huskies, frankly, would have been better served to let he and Chris Polk carry the offense on the ground, but to be fair, defensive lapses have also often forced their hand.

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. WSU has 13 scholarship players on defense last week, and it would appear it won't be much better tomorrow. Expect the UW to try and wear them down as the game progresses.

THE HUSKIES ON DEFENSE

Players to Know
Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DE: Te‘o-Nesheim again leads the huskies in sacks and is one of their only consistent playmakers on defense. He could wreak havoc on the WSU line that ranks 119th in sacks surrendered, though WSU has protected better up front since many of their starters returned from injury in recent weeks.

Donald Butler, LB: The leading tackler for the Huskies this season, with 84 tackles, he's been their most consistent player in the back seven. Overview
Nick Holt has brought his trademark intensity to this defense, but it has led to a lot of mistakes too. The huskies rank No. 104 in total defense and No. 107 against the pass. In many of the games UW let slip away, the blame seemed to fall squarely on Holt's defense.

Strategy
The Cougs also may need to grind the clock with passer Jeff Tuel expected to miss his third straight game with a subluxed kneecap. Washington gives up an average of 31 points per game. In their last seven contests, no team has scored fewer than 24 points. The Cougs need to be smart, but they also might want to gamble. A trick play or two could garner important momentum.

THE HUSKIES ON SPECIAL TEAMS
UW's kickers are sound, but the Huskies have given up kick and punt returns for touchdowns in recent weeks.

FINAL THOUGHTS
The huskies have been bad. The Cougars have been worse. You can never underestimate the effect of emotion and pride, but that goes both ways. The Huskies aren't playing for a bowl game, but they want this one bad after losing the last two straight and four of the past five. WSU was a big underdog last year, seemed all but out of it a few times and somehow still found a way to win. Will lightning strike twice in as many years?


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