ALEX BRINK: Dawg Slayer
WHO WOULD HAVE thought a pair of 4-7 teams would author a thrill ride such as this? Washington State and Washington traded momentum back and forth all game and in the end, it was senior quarterback Alex Brink, a cut over his right eye bandaged up, leading the Cougars on a game winning drive and Wazzu victory in the final seconds of the 100th Apple Cup.
There will be no bowl game for either team, but this one will go down as one of the more exciting games in the rivalry's history.
With 2:18 on the clock and the game knotted at 35-35, Alex Brink drove the Cougars 85 yards on the final drive. As they had done all game, WSU trended toward the pass with the game on the line but what made the aerial game successful was in how they mixed in the run.
A critical third-down-and-three came early in the drive, with Brink rolling away from pressure and throwing an 18-yard strike to Michael Bumpus to move the chains. The next pass attempt was dead on target, again to Bumpus, and with four Huskies in the immediate vicinity placed the Cougs at the UW 35 yard line. Indeed, Brink was perfect in crunch time, going 4-for-4 on the drive.
After a run by Chris Ivory, the Cougs called a timeout, setting up the game winner. A fake to Kevin McCall saw the Husky defense bite while others in the Husky defense leaned towards Bumpus out in the flat -- Brink held the ball until the last possible moment, allowing Brandon Gibson to clear. The Cougar fans went crazy as the wide open Gibson gathered in the lob before holding the ball aloft in the end zone, turning it so the WSU logo was facing the crowd.
"He's been with me every step of the way," said
Gibson of Brink after the game.
On the day, Gibson caught six passes for 137 yards and 2 touchdowns. The junior from Puyallup also surpassed the season receiving yardage record set by Nakoa McElrath in 2001.
Brink became the first Cougar QB to beat the Huskies three times in four years. He connected on 27 of 40 passes for 399 yards on Saturday, an Apple Cup record, and tossed 5 touchdowns.
In stark contrast, it didn't start out well for the Cougars, who found themselves in a 10-0 hole before some of the Husky fans had found their seats.
Washington State didn't get a hand on Louis Ranking on the opening kickoff, the Husky running back putting UW up by a touchdown 15 seconds into the game. Then the Huskies marched down the field on their first offensive possession, netting a field goal and an early 10-0 hole for Wazzu. Meanwhile, the Cougar offense was stuck in neutral on their first three drives, failing to move the chains.
The fourth Cougar possession saw the beginnings of the first crimson shift in momentum. Washington State moved 80 yards on the drive, primarily on the strength of a great grab by Gibson followed by a perfect pitch and catch from Brink to tight end Devin Frischknecht, who shrugged off a would be tackler at around the 15-yard line.
FRISCHKNECHT: First of two TDs
The Cougar defense then began to shut down the Huskies' running game, which came into the game firing on all cylinders after piling up 334 running yards on Cal.
Still, it was the Cougars' version of the immaculate reception that was the tide-turner in the 100th Apple Cup. With WSU trailing by 10 and treading water, a broken up pass intended for Ben Woodard popped skywards -- it was gathered in by McCall, the senior running back then doing his best Franco Harris impression to the tune of 47 yards.
And suddenly, after the nightmare start, the Cougs had life. And confidence.
Three plays later on third and two, Ivory took the pigskin off right tackle 25 yards to the house.
Starting tight end Jed Collins was hobbled by a bum ankle, and Frischknecht used the occasion to go off in the first 30 minutes. The junior had two TD grabs in the first half among his 5 receptions for 88 yards.
But it was the play by McCall that lit the spark. The Wazzu offensive line, until then driven asunder, began to get some traction after McCall's grab and run and the Cougar running game started, if not to click, to at least to do enough to effectively set up the pass.
JESHUA ANDERSON FOR SIX
The pass protection improved, and Brink kept the momentum going into the second half, hitting freshman speedster Jeshua Anderson on a 28-yard touchdown to open the second half scoring.
But with the score 28-20 in the Cougs' favor in the third, an unnecessary late hit by Alfonso Jackson preceded a blown-coverage, lollipop touchdown pass from Jake Locker to Marcel Reese that could have been timed with a sundial. The two point conversion knotted the score.
With the momentum back on their side, UW took a 35-28 lead and forced a WSU punt on the next possession and things may have started to look bleak to many -- save for everyone but the Cougars on the field.
The Cougar D shut down the Huskies and Washington State came back alive on an 81-yard drive -- it featured a 31 yard draw play rumble by Ivory, who rushed for 114 hashes on the day, and ended with a Brink bullet to Gibson. Brink's pass hit the receiver on the play side and in full stride, and it covered 40 yards.
Washington wasn't done, and Locker began driving the Huskies into field goal territory. Xavier Hicks, fast becoming an enforcer in the secondary, made a textbook stick on Corey Williams, forcing the ball loose and the Cougs dodged a bullet. Another change in possession for both teams and the Cougar D forced a Husky punt, setting up the crimson heroics on the final drive.
ROWLANDS AND GIBSON CELEBRATE CUP WIN