Apple Cup | Big plays, grand finale for Dawgs
Seattle Times staff reporter
DEAN RUTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES
MARK HARRISON / THE SEATTLE TIMES
MARK HARRISON / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Washington scored three decisive touchdowns Saturday on plays of more than 60 yards.
Carl Bonnell passes to Cody Ellis down the middle for a 64-yard TD in the second quarter as UW ties the score 7-7.
Bonnell passes to Marcel Reece to the right for 69-yard TD in the third quarter as UW takes a 21-14 lead.
Louis Rankin rushes to the right for 77-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter for a 35-25 lead, UW's longest run since the 2003 season.
PULLMAN — One night earlier, they felt their cup runneth over with emotion. So on Saturday, the Washington Huskies went out and got another one to fit it all in.
Spurred on by what they said were some particularly meaningful talks from the team's senior class Friday night, the Huskies used a bevy of big plays to beat the Washington State Cougars 35-32 before 35,117 at Martin Stadium in one of the wildest editions in the Apple Cup's 99-game history.
"This is our storybook ending," said Washington linebacker Scott White, one of the members of Washington's hard-luck senior class of 2002 that finally had something to show for all its toil.
The night before, at the team hotel, White and the other seniors talked about how their careers had been anything but a fairytale, with a record of 13-32 coming into the game.
"We poured our hearts out to the team," said guard Stanley Daniels. "I think we got a big, big upswing in how the team played today because of how emotional we were last night, and that showed in our play today."
That's as good an explanation as anything else for what turned the Huskies from a team that a week ago lost a 20-3 game at home to Stanford — regarded as one of the worst defeats in school history — to beat their archrivals for the first time in three years.
In the process, the Huskies snapped a six-game losing streak to head into the offseason with a healthy dose of solace, and put Washington State's postseason hopes in a precarious state.
"A win makes everything a lot better," said Washington coach Tyrone Willingham. "We've still got a lot of work to do, a lot of growth that has to take place. But this gives you a little more pep in your step."
The Cougars lost their third straight game to fall to 6-6 for the regular season and will now need some help to get into a postseason bowl game.
"I didn't see this coming at all," said WSU defensive end Mkristo Bruce.
Who could have?
A Huskies team that hadn't blocked a punt for a touchdown in 15 years, hadn't had a kickoff return longer than 34 yards all season, and hadn't had a run longer than 16 yards in the last three games, got all of those as well as two long touchdown passes for its biggest scoring outburst since week one.
"We gave up some big plays and you just can't do that," said WSU coach Bill Doba. "All of them hurt."
The most amazing was a 64-yard catch by Cody Ellis that tied the score at 7-7 in the second quarter. The Huskies caught WSU in a blitz and Carl Bonnell threw a pass slightly behind Ellis. The ball bounced off Ellis' left hand, dropped down his left side, with Ellis appearing to trap it against his left knee, then catch it just above his shoestrings. With the ball finally in control, Ellis turned and ran untouched.
"The ball was thrown a little behind me and I tried to get my hands on it, and unfortunately I didn't catch it at first," Ellis said. "It got knocked up and I got it with one hand and then turned around and all I saw was green. It was just instinct."
The play seemed to give UW new life.
After Eric Frampton returned an interception for a touchdown to put WSU ahead, Marlon Wood returned a kickoff 87 yards to set up a touchdown that tied the score at halftime, 14-14.
Then on UW's first possession of the third quarter, receiver Marcel Reece turned a short crossing route into a 69-yard TD that put UW ahead for good at 21-14. Washington hadn't had a pass play longer than 56 yards all season.
After WSU closed to 21-17, the Huskies regained control when sophomore linebacker Chris Stevens blocked a punt and then recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown to put UW ahead 28-17 with 10 seconds to go in the third quarter.
It was UW's first blocked punt for a touchdown since Dana Hall in the 1991 Rose Bowl.
When WSU again closed the gap, this time to 28-25, the Huskies came right back with a 77-yard TD run by Louis Rankin on their first play. It was UW's longest play from scrimmage this season and longest run since 2003.
"It was want-to," said UW senior receiver Sonny Shackelford said. "I feel like we wanted it more than they did. They were scoring and we'd come back and then we'd score again. It was back and forth."
WSU closed to 35-32 with six minutes left, then got the ball back with 2:18 left. But the drive ended when Caesar Rayford sacked Alex Brink on fourth down with 59 seconds left.
And as time ran out and the Huskies joined their fans for a wild on-field celebration, all the talk of the last week of the "suddenly senior" controversy and a program that seemed to be regressing was washed away.
"It's my last memory of college football," said Shackelford. "And it's a great one."
|Apple Cup streaks|
|The Cougars failed to win their third straight Apple Cup for the first time Saturday. The Huskies have won three or more successive games in this series eight times:|
*Jim Lambright 1998, Neuheisel 1999-2002, Keith Gilbertson 2003
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