Apple Cup Notebook | Field-goal ghosts save Cougs, haunt Huskies
Field goals by Washington State's Nico Grasu, including the winner in the second overtime, lifted the Cougars over the Huskies, but Washington misses were as important to the outcome of the game.
Seattle Times staff reporters
PULLMAN — They were the same goalposts in the same end zone where Chuck Nelson missed a field goal in the 1982 Apple Cup, helping Washington State pull off a stunning upset.
And where 20 years later, Washington's John Anderson kicked a game-winner in triple overtime in another Apple Cup.
Saturday, the field-goal ghosts in that end zone once again favored the Cougars as Ryan Perkins missed a 37-yarder to begin the second overtime, and WSU's Nico Grasu hit from the same distance a few plays later to give Washington State a 16-13 double overtime win.
Grasu earlier hit a 28-yarder on the last play of the game through the same goal posts to force overtime.
"Every kicker dreams about it," Grasu said. "It is the greatest feeling ever."
While Grasu was 3 for 3 on the day, the Huskies were just 2 for 5, which ultimately proved as pivotal as anything that happened.
Perkins made a 35-yarder in the second quarter. But punter Jared Ballman, who generally handles Washington's longer kicks, missed from 40 yards early in the fourth quarter into the wind. That could have put the Huskies ahead 13-7. Perkins then missed with 3:24 to go, which again could have put the Huskies ahead 13-7.
Willingham noted that Perkins, who wasn't available for interviews, had made five in a row before missing late in the game.
"We were starting to get our rhythm, but unfortunately we missed a couple that could have made a difference," Willingham said.
Washington State players said they felt the momentum turn with each miss — even if they weren't all aware two different UW kickers were involved.
"The first one, everybody was like 'something happened,' " said WSU running back Dwight Tardy. "The second one, we got real excited. The third one, we knew he was going to miss that one. We felt good about it because he had missed two in a row [actually, Ballman and Perkins each missed one]. That gave us an opportunity to stay in the game."
Grasu appeared to stutter-step before his tying kick.
"I thought the clock was winding down and they called it on a two count so I kind of flinched a little bit," he said. "As long as I get a foot on it, that is pretty much it."
WSU's Mitz blitz
Washington State got on the scoreboard late in the third quarter when Logwone Mitz, the redshirt freshman from Redmond, and son of ex-Seahawk Alonzo Mitz, bolted for a 57-yard touchdown. The "stretch" play along the Cougars' sideline was the longest run of the season for WSU. He got an excellent block from fullback Marcus Richmond on UW cornerback Quinton Richardson.
"I saw the safety coming downhill, so I just stretched outside a little more and messed up his angle," said Mitz.
Recalled Richmond, "I said, 'If I make this block, it's a touchdown,' and sure enough, it was."
Getting a rush
As might have been expected in a meeting between two of the worst run defenses in the country, each team rushed for a season-high in a game against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent.
The Huskies rushed for 224 yards, with their previous high 171 against Brigham Young. WSU had 171.
Redshirt freshman Willie Griffin rushed for a career-high 112 yards for UW, most of it in the first half. Terrance Dailey had 89, most in the second half.
Willingham said he switched running backs to provide a change of pace.
"The game plan was nice," said Dailey. "We finally got to run the ball a lot."
• A tense moment in Willingham's postgame interview came when he was asked if he would still be the coach for the California game. Willingham, who agreed to coach the rest of the season after it was announced last month he won't be back in 2009, stared at the questioner without giving a response. After a follow-up question, he said, "I think it's a bad question," then added, "You should stop asking the question."
• WSU plays at Hawaii next Saturday, and Washington is at Cal on Dec. 6. The task of playing another game figures to be a particular challenge for the Huskies.
"To be 0-10 and then to lose the Apple Cup, it just feels like a nightmare," said cornerback Mesphin Forrester.
• Wulff became the first WSU coach to win an Apple Cup in his first year since Jim Sweeney in 1968.
• The attendance of 32,211 was the lowest for an Apple Cup since the 1974 game when 27,800 attended UW's 24-17 win in Spokane.
• The weather often has been a factor in Apple Cups in Pullman. But it played no role Saturday. It was sunny with temperatures in the mid-40s.
• Asked what he told his team after the game, Willingham said simply: "Let's go home." It seemed like a response just to avoid the question, but players said it's what he really told them. "There's nothing really anyone can say," said defensive tackle Johnie Kirton. "Just let's go home. Nobody wants to sit around here after a loss like that."
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 10:18 PM
Washington State's Klay Thompson will play Thursday against Huskies