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Different Paths, Same Goal For UW, WSU In Apple Cup

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
Washington players heft the Apple Cup trophy after the team beat Washington Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, in Seattle. Washington won the annual Apple Cup, 27-17.

The end of Thanksgiving signals another holiday tradition in the Northwest: the annual football matchup between the University of Washington and Washington State University. The Apple Cup will take place Saturday night in Pullman.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says a win means more than just bragging rights. What A Win Would Mean for UW

“The Huskies have had a relatively successful season (7-5), but a lot of people expected more out of the first year of new coach Chris Petersen," Art said. "There was a real expectation that he was going to take his success from Boise State, where he was 92 and 12 over eight seasons, and that would just happen at Washington. But, no, it was a little rocky.

“He had to get rid of almost 10 percent of the players for disciplinary or behavioral issues. And then he had a hard time, I think, imposing his standards and his practices on (previous coach) Steve Sarkisian’s leftovers.

“Petersen’s difficulties have been both in game management and player management," Art continued. "A win over the rival on the road would give him an 8-5 record and certainly a better bowl position. So there is some value in the game for the Huskies.”

What A Win Would Mean for WSU

“Washington State has really had a struggle under Mike Leach this year. They were 6-6 last year, went to a bowl game and lost it, but there was some momentum in the program. That sort of faded this year into a 3-8 season.

"There was a lot of grumbling and moaning over Mike Leach’s passing attack being too one-dimensional and, therefore, easy to stop. He also had problems on defense. But a win against Washington would heal a lot of wounds in the Palouse," Art said.

Can Huskies Stop Cougars' No. 1 Passing Game?

“The Huskies have three freshmen in the secondary. They’ve been improving as the season has gone on but nobody throws the ball like Washington State. And they throw it quickly, so that the Huskies’ pass rush, which has been their biggest asset this season, isn’t likely to have as big an influence. They just can’t get to the quarterback fast enough. That secondary is really going to be tested. That will be the drama of the game itself," Art said.

WSU is playing with backup quarterback Luke Falk, after starting QB Connor Halliday broke his leg several weeks ago. Art says Falk had a great first game and mediocre second game. He expects him to be tested by the Huskies' pass rush.

Mayhem On The Palouse

Another factor in play when the Apple Cup is played in Pullman is the activity off the field.

“There’s always some sort of mayhem going on," Art said. "Some of it’s funny and some of it’s traditional, but some of it’s bad.”

He recalls the "ice ball" incident in the 2010 Apple Cup. After a week-long snow dump, some slush refroze in the stadium. Students made ice balls and threw them - hitting other students and members of the marching bands.

Art says 34 fans were treated by medics at the stadium. Eight went to the hospital. And there were 30 ejections and 18 arrests.

“That’s the sort of what you’d call junior varsity hooliganism that goes on at some of these traditional games. It’s really an excuse for people to get away with stuff they wouldn’t ever do if they were spotted and could be isolated. So that’s a part of the tradition," Art said. 

“I imagine that the 7:30 p.m. start means there’s going to be a lot of drinking and carrying on in the stadium. Hopefully there will be enough police action there to keep the mayhem to a minimum.”


You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.