WSU loses sixth-straight Apple Cup

Cougars fall short as snowy conditions, UW defense contain Leach’s Air Raid offense



Junior cornerback Marcus Strong attempts to rally WSU fans during the first half of the Apple Cup on Friday night at Martin Stadium. The Cougars lost 28-15.

JOHN SPELLMAN, Evergreen reporter

There are few experiences in the world like the Apple Cup, and there is nothing like playing it in blizzard conditions to decide who will win the Pac-12 North.

No. 8 WSU had that opportunity Friday, but at the end of 60 minutes the Cougars fell short, losing 28-15 to No. 16 University of Washington.

The Cougars were hoping to change their recent luck in the Apple Cup after losing the last five. With a new roster and quarterback Gardner Minshew II putting up phenomenal numbers, WSU looked primed to end its losing streak to the Huskies.

But it wasn’t the Cougars night as Minshew struggled, completing 26 of 35 passes for 152 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. His longest pass was 11 yards.

Even though Minshew didn’t perform his best in WSU’s biggest game, he said he’ll never forget this season.

“This year has been fun, and tonight it’s hard to see it, but we did a lot of good things,” he said, “a lot of good things in this stadium, memories that I’ll have forever and cherish with the guys on this team.”

The Cougars elected to open the game with the ball. WSU looked to get some early momentum, but a three-and-out forced a punt.

The ensuing Husky drive look destined to reach the end zone as they easily marched down the field before their plans were thwarted by WSU redshirt sophomore safety Skyler Thomas who made an interception in the end zone.

The Cougars were still looking for a sustainable offensive drive the second time around before they fumbled on a bad snap on fourth-and-1 from the Washington 12-yard line and turned the ball over.

This time the Huskies were able to take advantage and jump out to an early 7-0 lead with a 5-yard touchdown run from senior running back Myles Gaskin.

This was only the beginning for Gaskin, who proved to be a major thorn in the side for the Cougars again this season as he extended the team’s lead to 14-0 on another 5-yard touchdown run.

WSU was able to put some points on the scoreboard when redshirt junior running back James Williams cut the lead to 14-7 on an 11-yard touchdown run with 33 seconds remaining in the second half.

The Cougars finally had some momentum which led to a fumble recovery and put WSU in prime position to score again right before halftime. They ran three plays with the final one occurring with eight seconds remaining. On that play, Minshew threw an interception to sophomore defensive back Byron Murphy for a touchback. The Huskies remained ahead 14-7 at the half.

The second half was action-packed, with Gaskin forcing the WSU defense to feel his wrath. After some costly penalties, UW senior quarterback Jake Browning made some crucial throws. One of these was a trick play from junior wide receiver Aaron Fuller, who threw the ball 24 yards to sophomore tight end Hunter Bryant for a Huskies touchdown.

But the Cougars were able to get two points as they blocked the extra point and senior nickel back Hunter Dale ran all the way down the field to make it 20-9.

WSU then got a critical stop on defense when Browning fumbled and WSU redshirt sophomore linebacker Dillon Sherman jumped on the loose ball.

Minshew and the Cougar offense badly needed to put some points on the board and they were able to get the lead down to five at 20-15.

From that point on, the Huskies took control. Gaskin gashed the Cougars on an 80-yard touchdown run to make a 28-15 lead, which would be the eventual final score of the game.

Just like that, a magical Cougar regular season was ended at the hands of the Huskies. For the second time in three years WSU’s loss in the Apple Cup sent Washington to the Pac-12 Football Championship Game.

Despite leading WSU to an impressive 10-2 regular season, Minshew had his most disappointing performance Friday. However, WSU Head Coach Mike Leach had positive words for his quarterback.

“He’s had a tremendous impact,” Leach said. “I think he’s had a huge impact on our team, tremendously competitive player … He’s had a bigger impact than any other player and he did it in such a short amount of time which made it all the more impressive.”

The Cougars will have to wait until Dec. 2 to find out which bowl they will play in to conclude their season.