For Cougs, apple bobbing comes before bowling

CRIMSON CELEBRATION

PRAGMATIC. IT'S THE BEST way to describe a Washington State football team that on Saturday became bowl eligible for the first time since 2006 – but is treating that piece of information as, well, just that. After all, before the Cougars can think about the postseason, there is still the Apple Cup to play. The journey to Montlake is one more chance to win – and for a 7-5 record.

After a decade filled with heartache, the Cougars know to not look too far ahead, to instead focus on each individual snap, throw and kick. That means that before they go bowling, they must bob for apples.

"We've got to get that seventh – got to get ourselves to guarantee it," said senior offensive tackle John Fullington in a postgame radio interview. "It's going to be awesome to end the regular season there."

While junior quarterback Connor Halliday said that the Cougars "have got to win the Apple Cup," he also acknowledged that it may be a different game than last year, when a late field goal after an interception helped the Cougars knock off No. 25 Washington 31-28 in overtime.

"Both us and UW are completely different teams than we were last year," he said. "You kind of throw momentum out the window in a rivalry game like this."

Still, senior kicker Andrew Furney said that becoming bowl eligible at home in a 49-37 win against Utah gives the team renewed confidence.

"Two straight (wins) going into the Apple Cup feels great," he said.

Senior safety Deone Bucannon made it clear in a post-game interview that he isn't ready for the season to end in Husky Stadium.

"I want to be with this team as much as possible," he said. "I love this team."

The Pac-12 now has nine teams eligible for the postseason – and seven bowl affiliates. That means that if only one conference team makes it to the BCS – a scenario more likely after Arizona's 42-16 drubbing of No. 5 Oregon on Saturday – two teams could be without a bowl. The Pac-12's bowl affiliates are Rose, Alamo, Holiday, Sun, Las Vegas, Fight Hunger and New Mexico.

But coach Mike Leach doesn't want to think about that right now.

"There's no bowls coming up anytime soon," he said. "We just need to focus on the next play. Anything that follows is just a byproduct of what happens on individual plays."

And Halliday, in postgame comments to The Seattle Times, summed up his feelings succinctly.

"I haven't played in an Apple Cup yet," he said. "I'm kind of excited to lose my virginity."

NOTABLE NOTES
  • Halliday now has had five 400-yard games, tying him with Alex Brink for the most in school history. His 597 pass attempts are the most in Pac-12 and single-season history.

  • Junior Marcus Mason's 88 rushing yards are the most since Rickey Galvin's 88 yards at UCLA in 2011. His 50-yard run was the longest by a Cougar since his 65-yard touchdown against Idaho State in 2011.

  • Furney's 52-yard field goal was his longest of the season.

  • Senior cornerback Damante Horton now owns WSU's single-season record with three interception returns for touchdowns.

  • Senior linebacker Justin Sagote matched a career high with 13 tackles, his second straight game with double digit tackles.

  • Sophomore Tana Pritchard made his first career start at linebacker and tallied three tackles and broke up a pass.
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