PULLMAN – Senior tight end Cody Boyd, one of the fourth quarter heroes of WSU’s dramatic 2005 Apple Cup victory, wants to make his final showdown with Washington this Saturday even more memorable. Meanwhile, the Cougs’ young Californians say the importance of the rivalry isn’t lost on them. And defensive coordinator Robb Akey is smiling with a full complement of defensive tackles.
“I’ve been here for five long years, practiced every summer since I got here, and it all comes down to this really,” said Boyd, who comes into the game with 25 catches for 394 yards and a team-leading 15.8 yards per reception.
Finishing strong, he says, is top of mind – for two reasons. Foremost, of course, if the fact the Cougars need a win to secure a bowl invitation. And then there’s the personal side of it. Boyd came to WSU as a blue-chip prospect but has been dogged by repeated injuries -- including a high ankle sprain this season -- that have sidetracked his date with stardom.
“I’m going to see if I can make (this Apple Cup) a little better (than the last one), said the 6-8, 239-pounder from Ferndale. “We have to win this game to keep on playing, And I know that’s what our team really wants to do.
Meanwhile, several players from out of state said that although they might not have realized the significance of the Cougar-Dawg rivalry when they first arrived in Pullman, it didn’t take long to realize the far-reaching importance for students and alums.
“I remember last year,” said sophomore defensive tackle Fevaea’i Ahmu of San Diego related, “’Pati (DT Ropati Pitoitua of Tacoma) told me he didn’t want to go back to the Westside and have to hear about losing, so yeah, I know it’s big.”
Echoing that sentiment was another out-of-town tackle, JC transfer Bryan Tarkington of Woodland Hills, Calif. “It’s tradition, it’s respect, it’s my first Apple Cup, but you have to come in thinking you have to beat the Huskies.”
“At first I was like, ‘what’s the Apple Cup?'," said junior safety Husain Abdullah of Pomona, Calif. “But this year the Apple Cup is big, because they can still try to ruin our season, and we don’t want that, we want to guarantee ourselves (a spot in the postseason).”
Like Tarkington, another JC transfer playing in his first Cup is running back Derrell Hutsona, of Spring Valley, Calif.
Asked his feelings about the Cougars and Huskies, Hutsona said the fact that the game means as much as it does to people involved with Cougar football is all the motivation he requires. "I take it serious because of the fact it's important to not only the coaches, but the program as a whole, so I feel like it's a big opportunity for us to get this third (straight Apple Cup) win, being as we'd be the first team in 99 years to do it."
Defensive coordinator Robb Akey said there typically is a difference in how out-of-state players prepare for their first Apple Cup, but it usually doesn't take long for them to get into the spirit of it all.
There was good news and bad news on the injury front for the Cougs Tuesday, as DTs Aaron Johnson (elbow), Ahmu (foot), and Pitoitua (knee) all participated fully in practice. Ahmu said his foot "feels great," and Akey said he expects all three to play Saturday.
Offensively, however, the picture is decidedly starker, as the 1-2 receiving punch of Jason Hill (high ankle sprain) and Michael Bumpus (high ankle sprain) did not practice. Head coach Bill Doba had said earlier that both players would possibly try to practice, although a more plan might be a jogging Tuesday, running Wednesday, making cuts on Thursday routine.
Running backs Hutsona (ankle) and DeMaundray Woolridge (shoulder) both participated without any apparent restriction, as did linebacker Scott Davis, who was, however, sporting a sizable cast on a broken right wrist.