Is History Going to Repeat Itself?

SEATTLE - Corey Williams banged his helmet onto the turf at Husky Stadium. Twice. As I was walking up the tunnel, I could hear screams behind me - bone-chilling rails, like someone was committing Hara-kari. I didn't look back. After Washington State had stormed back to take the 100th Apple Cup 42-35 Saturday night, if felt like a century's worth of emotion was let out of the bag.

Williams had reason to be mad at himself. He went from 2003 Apple Cup hero to 2007 Apple Cup afterthought when he fumbled away a key possession in the fourth quarter.

But just like Williams didn't win the Apple Cup five years ago because of one play, he didn't lose this one with one play either. And the worst part about it is that Williams - as well as 21 other seniors - won't get a chance to make a play to get them an Apple Cup win. Williams has been there before and at least experienced the euphoria that comes with it. But the rest will have to deal with being 1-3 or 2-3 in their careers against Washington State.

And that's never a good place to be.

"I just feel bad for the seniors," Washington Defensive Coordinator Kent Baer after the loss. "Because of all that they've put into this program - going through a couple of head coaches. It's frustrating. You know it is. How can it not be?"

In a drive that spanned two quarters, the Huskies went ahead 35-28 on a Manwich-sized drive that took 16 plays and over seven minutes to complete. The last 15 plays on that drive were runs.

It was a blueprint that had taken the Huskies to a convincing win over California - despite a less-than-stellar passing performace by Carl Bonnell. Jake Locker was 9 of 27 passing up to the beginning of that drive. Even more, when Washington had the opportunity to kick a chip-shot field goal to take the lead, the Washington coaches decided to roll the dice and came up big when Locker called his own number from one-yard out to give the Huskies a 35-28 lead.

"His performance was unbelievable," Washington Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano said of Locker. "It was a gutty performance. He put the team on his back and gave us a chance to win the game. He played his tail off. He's the best young quarterback I've ever been around."

The redshirt freshman from Ferndale - who missed a week due to injuries suffered against Oregon State - accounted for 327 yards and three touchdowns. His 107 yards rushing gave him the Pac-10 all-time record for yards on the ground by a quarterback with 910. The previous record in the modern era was 815 yards by UCLA's Jeff Dankworth in 1976. It was also a Husky record for any freshman ball-carrier, surpassing Rich Alexis' 816 yards, set in 2000.

Yet with the game tied and time winding down, the Huskies pass on third-and-two. It gets batted down, UW punts the ball and Washington State scores the game-winning touchdown on an Alex Brink 40-yard pass to Brandon Gibson. Gibson was so wide open, I could have made the catch and scored. Brink finished with 399 yards passing, an Apple Cup record.

"We just blew a coverage," Willingham said of the Gibson romp. "Our communication was not good, not complete across the board. We had some guys playing one thing, and some guys playing something else."

"There was so much confusion there, I couldn't see what happened in the back row," Baer added. "I can't tell you what happened until I see it."

That one play didn't cause Washington to lose this Apple Cup. At a time when the Huskies looked to have things going their way, fate reversed the curse - despite over 35 minutes of UW offensive possession time.

Washington didn't 'Coug' this game. After Louis Rankin's 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the rest was a pure doggy downer.

Dog. You know...with an 'o', as in 'Oh no, there's another blown assignment'. 'O', as in 'Oh no, there's another questionable play-call'. Take your pick. Like Coach Wilingham says week-in and week-out, it's either the coaches trying to get players in position, or it's players making plays.

This one was a dog, no matter how you slice it. Willingham preached patience Saturday night. "This is a tough one. I respect our opponent. It was 100 years of emotion. And in games like this you can't make mistakes. And we made more than our share. But please stay with us. I still think this team is going to grow and become a great football team.

"We have a lot of good young kids," Baer added. "I think we'll get better."

But will they be around to see the fruits of their labor? The irony of the question seems compelling, as Washington State Head Coach Bill Doba has been on the coaching hot seat for some time, and rumors have been running rampant about what the future holds for him over on the Palouse.

"I'm not going to resign," he said, matter-of-factly after the win. "I sure hope I'm back next year."

With this setback, is Willingham's future in Seattle now the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about publically? Is Willingham going to have to wait for outward signs of support from UW Athletic Director Todd Turner and school President Mark Emmert before he can start looking for more checks in the mail?

Whether needed or not, the dreaded 'vote of confidence' may not be far behind this loss. And the last time a Washington Athletic Director came out with a vote of confidence for the sitting head coach was when Barbara Hedges did so for the embattled Jim Lambright after the Huskies lost the 1997 Apple Cup.

And if Willingham's fate is sealed on the island of Oahu next week, Husky history will have been repeated - much to the dismay of those looking for stability in a program that has had three head coaches in the past six years.

And for one night - at least - the program took a step back, bigger because it just wasn't any normal loss. An Apple Cup loss always makes it feel that way. Top Stories