TY'S FACE TELLS IT ALL
HIGH ENTERTAINMENT. Soaring emotion. Saturday's
wild finish to the 100th Apple Cup was so moving that the Voice of the Cougars, Bob Robertson, struggled to hold back tears that can only come out of a happy ending to a storied rivalry. The Cougs played so many games this season without much of a sparkle but suddenly they were in Husky Stadium, going off like an artillery barrage firing for effect.
It's why you don't miss this game. It's why more than
72,000 showed up in Seattle to care about two teams
who spent much of the past three months trying to
avoid last place.
Washington State 42, Washington 35.
Stirring Coug comeback cemented by a Grand Exit. The
departure of Alex Brink. Brink leaves the field as the
only Coug quarterback to engineer three career wins
over the Washington Huskies.
Brink didn't always
represent the Cougs with winning distinction but he
never failed to front them with seamless class. This
time the senior quarterback you love to hate blended class
with distinction and threw in perfect pitch on his way
Brink is gone, but only after coming to grips
with consistency. He had a grip on the pace
of the game, and a touch on the ball that Washington
Wunderkind Jake Locker would do well to study in what
will be a very long off-season.
Locker almost won it
for Washington with his hybrid strength and speed. He
shook off a bull-rushing defensive lineman like a
shepherd dusting off a flea. His passes do come out a
little hot, though, don't you think? A cannonball
might be easier to hold on to. You'd have better luck
running down a laser beam.
Still, the future of this
series belongs to the naturally empowered Jake Locker.
The present is all Alex Brink's.
Brink's blizzard of TD passes and another acre of
yardage ended with his clutch play-action lob to
Brandon Gibson in the end zone. With 31 seconds left
that was the game-breaker but hardly the last word in
a drama that now moves to the back rooms of high
Moments after the Coug defense turned
back Locker with Alfonso Jackson's final-play pick in the Husky end
zone, fighting words -- pleasant but clearly defiant
-- came from Doba. Quizzed about his future at
Washington State, Doba refused to duck the controversy
tossed his way by an inquisitor from TVland. "Talk to
my Athletic Director,'' Doba said. "I'm gonna come
back unless they run me out.''
So much for Grand
Exits. I thought Doba might use the victory to sort of
grease the skids heading into Monday's
state-of-the-program meeting with A.D. Jim Sterk. Take
the politically expedient road, maybe get some bearing on how his case
is playing in the president's office.
Doba might well
be in on Sterk's whole agenda. He may, in fact, have
nothing to worry about. But I never enjoyed Monday
morning meetings with suits and ties. The only thing
worse than a Monday morning meeting with the brass is
a Friday afternoon meeting with them. Trust me. I
I'd love to tap into Sterk's weekend
conversations with Wazzu's higher-ups. Was this Bill Doba's last game? If so, word might have leaked to the
faithful. If so, l can grasp the emotion Bob Robertson
seemed so ably to convey after the win. If so, Doba
ended a career and an era on a definitive high. As of
this game he can say he had the Huskies' number.
Doba's boss, Sterk will consider the timing, knowing
that now may not be the right moment to hang out the
Help Wanted sign. Washington State could do worse than
retain Bill Doba. He beats the Huskies. He has a
winning record, however modest, at 30-29.
big-time programs including Nebraska, Ole Miss and
Texas A&M shopping for new head coaches this week. one
might side with the prudent who want to hold on to the
guy. After all, it would take a fairly healthy
investment to buy him out.
And this was nice. An Apple
Cup win never comes easy. The glow never wears off.
Yet in the cooler reflection of so much feel-good I
don't see Sterk letting one brilliant snapshot blur
the whole, sometimes dull, presentation. The Cougars
haven't been very good for a couple of years. The
Huskies are even worse. When the Cougs tried to give
this one away, when their run defense was all but
helpless, the Huskies inexplicably took to the air.
Why? When Washington State committed the costly
penalty that seems inevitable to the Cougs deep in a
close game, the Huskies weren't sharp enough to
capitalize. Which raises a separate and perhaps even
more relevant question. How much longer does Ty
Willingham have to shape up a Washington program
that's blessed and cursed with infinite resources?
CougInternational should hope the Huskies hold on to
their coach. Washington State can beat him. The Husky
football program is flatter than the housing market.
But back to Doba. Jim Sterk might have
a tough 36 hours ahead of him.
For now, think of this
Apple Cup as payback. Older fans will recall Husky
sentiment through a number of failed WSU coaching
regimes, when the cross-state opposition said the
Cougs would be better off playing on a level below the
Pac-10, perhaps in the Big Sky Conference. Now fast
forward. I realize I'm kicking a Dawg when he's down
but I don't think this Husky team is really up to next
The Huskies have to go to Hawaii.
Not get to go, have to go. To Hawaii. Hawaii might
hang 60 or 70 on the Huskies. A word, then, to
Washington's athletic department. Unless it's a bowl
game (remember them?) never schedule a game after the
Apple Cup. Let the kids, this tradition's history
makers, leave everything they have to offer right
there, on the field.
As Alex Brink did Saturday. As
--perhaps -- Bill Doba did Saturday.