TRAVIS LONG: aka Iron Man
WASHINGTON IS a 6 to 10-point favorite in Saturday’s Apple Cup, depending on your bookie, and rightly so given their two straight wins coming in. But I’m confidently putting my chips on the Cougs, and the reason has nothing to do with the home crowd or any perceived weather advantage. Nope, I’m basing this forecast on what I believe were the most telling stretches of the season for each team.
Both teams had to face the Pac-10’s top three clubs -- Oregon, Stanford and Arizona -- in some combination of back-to-back-to-back stretches. For the Cougars, it was Oct. 9, 16 and 23. For the Dawgs, it was Oct. 23, 30 and Nov. 6.
That’s a gauntlet to run right there. It tests your grit, your determination and your breaking point. Both the Cougs and Dawgs went 0-3 vs. the Big Three. But it’s how they lost that struck me. The collective margin of defeat for WSU was 47 points (105 surrendered minus 58 scored). For the UW, the margin was a whopping 108 points (138 surrendered, 30 scored).
Oddsmakers can take their points this weekend. When the Apple Cup kicks off at 4 pm on Saturday I’ll be confident in a proper outcome based on what I see as an edge for the Cougs in fighting spirit.
THE STATE OF WASHINGTON'S Class 4A football championship this weekend features a repeat of last season: Skyline of Sammamish vs. Ferris of Spokane. There are Cougar connections on both sides of that fight. Cougar receivers Gino Simone and Jared Karstetter have little brothers who are standouts for their teams. Gino's brother Jordan is a Spartan receiver and defensive back and Jared's brother Kurt is a Saxon linebacker. Both are juniors. In addition to them, former WSU All-American safety Paul Sorensen's son Cody is a Ferris safety. Cody has been invited to walk on at WSU, as has his Ferris teammate Dillon Beschel.
ONE OF THE MOST HEAD-TURNING stats I’ve stumbled across in many a moon is this one: WSU’s four tight ends -- Skylar Stormo, Andrei Lintz, Aaron Gehring, and Zach Tatman -- have four times more tackles this season than pass receptions. True fact. Stormo and Gehring each have two tackles to their credit, while Lintz has the sole reception among Cougar tight ends. At least that one grab was for a touchdown.
WSU's production at the position appeared to be destined for a boost with the signing of Aaron Dunn, one of the most touted tight end prospects in the nation last recruiting cycle. Dunn of course broke a bone in his wrist in August camp and has been out all season. The break was severe and required surgery. Not only is the spring season highly unlikely for Dunn, but he won’t even be cleared to lift weights for a few more months.
Tatman and Gehring are seniors so that means the load in the spring will fall squarely on the two third-year sophomores, Stormo and Lintz. In the six games this season in which the Cougar offense opened with a tight end in formation, Lintz started three and Stormo three. Rounding out the depth at TE this spring will be Michael Fennerty, a former Olympia High standout who was on scholarship at Louisville from 2007-09. He saw limited action with the Cardinals and left the program. He walked on at WSU this fall.
MAYBE IT’S THE WATER IN SPOKANE. Or the fries at Zip’s. Regardless, there’s no denying that Travis Long and Jared Karstetter have iron in their bones. The two Lilac City natives have started every game for the Cougars over the last two seasons. They’re the only two players on offense or defense who can lay claim to the feat.
Punter Reid Forrest hasn’t missed a start in the last two years either, but face it: the guy’s only on the field maybe five-to-eight times a game. Long, a sophomore defensive end who hails from Gonzaga Prep, and Karstetter, a junior receiver from Ferris, are probably crackin’ heads upwards of 60 snaps each.
Looking at just this season, Long and Karstetter have been joined in the starting line up every single game by seven other Cougs: defensive backs Tyree Toomer and Nolan Washington, defensive end Kevin Kooyman, linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis, center Zack Williams, guard B.J. Guerra and quarterback Jeff Tuel.
The ultimate iron man on the Cougs, senior offensive tackle Micah Hannam of Gig Harbor, missed one start this season and thus ended his remarkable streak of consecutive starts at 46.
THERE HAVE BEEN SOME FABULOUS Apple Cups over the years but the one that warms my heart most was 1988 in Pullman. Paul Wulff was part of that amazing offensive line that made life sweet for Timm Rosenbach, Steve Broussard and Rich Swinton. The Cougs trailed 21-6 at the end of the first quarter at things looked very bad. But you could just tell our guys weren’t going to go quietly. They fought back and then the fourth quarter, Shawn Landrum blocked a Husky punt that Jay Languein recovered to set up a Rosenbach TD sneak on a fourth-and-goal play. Jason Hanson kicked the PAT and we win 32-31. Love that game.
DAWG JOKE OF THE DAY: How many Huskies does it take to change a tire?
Two. One to hold the wine spritzers and one to call dad.
Walk-on Cougar cornerback Anthony Martinez, who I wrote about a few of weeks ago after he earned his second scout team defensive player of the week honor in three weeks, has done it again. He was named scout team defensive player of the week for his work leading up to the Oregon State game ... Three cheers for one of my all-time favorite Cougs, Mkristo Bruce. He’s done with football and now working his tail off in sales for Stadium Nissan of Seattle. Give him a shout at 206-226-4648 and tell him CF.C sent ya ... The second annual Cougar Legends Fishing Adventure organized by Ryan Leaf is set for June 25-29. Among the legends already lined up to be there are Mark Rypien, Jason Gesser, Jack Thompson, Matt Kegel and Bill Moos. To secure your spot, contact Justin Felker at email@example.com ... For fans who are hot on the Mike Bellotti-bought-a-house-in-Pullman rumor, just for fun CF.C checked Monday with the Whitman County Assessors' office and a Pullman title company and found no paper trail with Bellotti's name on it.