GIBSON AND BRINK CELEBRATE
ONE LOOK AT GREG TRENT and Tony Thompson spoke volumes. When Cougar players gathered Saturday evening in the west endzone of Husky Stadium to salute their wildly appreciative fans, Trent broke into prolonged dance while Thompson pumped his fists and skipped around congratulating teammates on their nailbiting Apple Cup win. The two players were nothing less than a picture of unbridled enthusiasm.
But it was more than that.
This wasn't just a celebration following a splendidly memorable victory over the arch-rival. This was a catharsis. It was redemption for a season in which their coach came under heated fire. A season in which narrow losses to Arizona State and Cal effectively kept them out of the post-season. A season in which the defense, of which Trent is a the captain, and the special teams, of which Thompson is the No. 1 long snapper when healthy, were derided often.
This was redemption for last year's Apple Cup. WSU has now won three of the last four Cups, but last season's inexplicable loss in Pullman put a fork in what seemed a certain Cougar bowl invitation.
And then of course this one began where last season's left off. Louis Rankin goes 89 yards with the opening kickoff and it's 7-0 before the FSN broadcast team has even had a chance to anoint Jake Locker the winner of the 2010 Heisman Trophy.
Four hours later, Trent, who had five tackles and one fumble recovery against the Huskies, and Thompson, who leveled a key block in Chris Ivory's 25-yard TD run in the second quarter, were in the front row of the player-fan hootenanny in the west endzone.
SPEAKING OF REDEMPTION, quarterback Alex Brink's work against the Huskies was a fitting capstone to his record-breaking career after last week's nightmare against Oregon State. He completed 27 of 40 passes for 399 yards and five TDs, including the game winner to Brandon Gibson with 31 seconds left in the game.
Gibson, who finished the day with six catches for 137 yards and two TDs, said the game-winning pass play was a bit unsettling. "It was scary. I thought it was a dream ... Why is the ball in the air so long? Why am I so open?"
He was so open because the Cougs did a rare play-action pass out of shotgun formation. Brink faked a handoff to Kevin McCall. "We got them to bite pretty hard and they all came down on (Michael) Bumpus running a bubble screen," Brink explained. "I just pulled up in time and was able to see him (Gibson) and throw it."
In four career starts against the Huskies, Brink has three victories, the most ever by a WSU quarterback, and a staggering 12 touchdown passes vs. no interceptions. Asked by a reporter after the game how long he'd be smiling, Brink was broke into a broad grin and said, "I'll be smiling for the rest of my life after this."
Said head coach Bill Doba of Brink: "If that's not a signature win, to heck with everybody. He's a good guy and he deserves a lot of credit."
DOBA, WHO SAID HE HOPES the victory will be a springboard for next season, dealt quickly with questions about his future. "I'm not going to resign. I sure hope I'm back next year."
As for the Husky-Cougar rivalry, Doba offered interesting insight: "The best friends I have in coaching are on the UW staff, other than the ones on our staff. Randy Hart and all those guys - they're good people. Randy and I have been going at each other for thirty years or so. Ten years in the Big-10 and 19 years here. I was so happy that there wasn't any trash talking afterwards. There was mutual respect, the kids came together and prayed, there weren't fans trashing anybody. I'm proud of our fans, I thought they won with grace and dignity and that's what this program has always been about."
FIRST-YEAR WSU TIGHT END Devin Frischknecht, a JC transfer subbing for hobbled Jed Collins, showed why he was the nation's top-catching junior college tight end last season. He torched the Huskies with five receptions for 88 yards and two TDs. Coming into the game he had 13 catches for 103 yards this season. His 41-yard scoring grab in the waning moments of the second quarter gave the Cougs a 21-20 halftime lead after they had trailed twice by 10.
NOTABLE APPLE CUP NOTES:
* While Brandon Gibson is likely to win the Pac-10 title for receiving yardage, he was bested this season for most receptions on the Cougars by Michael Bumpus. Bumpus finished with 70 and Gibson 67. Both had six grabs against the Huskies.
* Senior safety Husain Abdullah was the Cougars' leading Apple Cup tackler, with nine stops. Linebackers Cory Evans and Andy Mattingly had eight tackles each. Mattingly also knocked down three Jake Locker passes and intercepted another. Abdullah, by the way, finished the year as the Cougars' top tackler, with 93 total stops. Andy Mattingly finished second with 91 and Greg Trent third with 90.
* Cougar freshman receiver Jeshua Anderson caught one pass on the day -- a leaping, 28-yard grab in the end zone that gave WSU a 28-20 lead early in the third quarter. Anderson caught 12 passes this season with an eye-popping 31-yard average per reception.