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Originally published November 24, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 25, 2007 at 12:17 AM

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Apple Cup | Cougars score in final minute, win 42-35

A game that featured rapid swings in momentum all game wasn't decided until WSU quarterback Alex Brink hit Brandon Gibson with a 35-yard TD pass with 31 seconds left to give the Cougars a 42-35 win in front of 72,888 at Husky Stadium.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Greatness eluded Washington and Washington State's football teams for this season.

But for one afternoon, the two state squads came together to give fans one of the most exciting Apple Cups ever seen, a fitting way to celebrate the 100th playing of the rivalry.

A game that featured rapid swings in momentum all game wasn't decided until WSU quarterback Alex Brink hit Brandon Gibson with a 35-yard TD pass with 31 seconds left to give the Cougars a 42-35 win in front of 72,888 at Husky Stadium.

It was a redemptive end to his career for Brink, who threw five touchdown passes in his final college game a week after throwing six interceptions in his final home game.

The Brink-to-Gibson TD capped an 84-yard drive that included a 21-yard pass to Michael Bumpus on third down.

The win came in what might be the final game as coach for WSU's Bill Doba, who improves to 3-2 as a coach in the Apple Cup. WSU finishes the season 5-7 overall and 3-6 in Pac-10 play. The Cougars have said they will discuss Doba's job status on Monday. He is 30-29 in five years in Pullman amid rumors that this could be his final season.

UW is now 4-8 heading to a season finale next Saturday against undefeated Hawaii, and 2-7 in Pac-10 play and assured of at least sharing last place in the Pac-10 at 2-7. Stanford is 2-6 with one game left.

It was a frantic game from the start.

UW jumped ahead 10-0 early. The Cougars then dominated the middle portion of the game to grab a 28-20 lead midway through the third quarter.

UW quarterback Jake Locker then keyed a Husky comeback with his arm --- hitting Marcel Reece with a 63-yard TD and a two-point conversion that tied the game --- and his legs --- a one-yard TD run on a fourth-down to put UW ahead 35-28 early in the fourth quarter.

But the Cougars came right back with the fourth TD pass by senior Brink to tie the game at 35 midway through the fourth quarter and set up the thrilling finale.

Brink threw for 399 yards, the most for any QB in the history of the Apple Cup and becomes the first WSU QB to ever win three Apple Cups.

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The Cougars took a 28-20 lead with 9:11 to go in the third quarter on a 28-yard pass from Brink to true freshman Jeshua Anderson. The play was set up by a 16-yard pass from Brink to Brandon Gibson on third-and-15 on the sideline. The play was one of several reviewed on the night, but was upheld.

After losing the ball on an interception, the Huskies got it back and drove 90 yards in four plays, the final 63 coming on a Locker pass to Marcel Reece, who broke wide open behind the Cougar secondary on a play-action and strolled into the end zone. Locker then hit Reece for the two-point play to tie it at 28 with 5:14 left in the third quarter.

A key to the drive was a personal foul penalty on WSU safety Alfonso Jackson when UW appeared to be facing a third-and-10 from its own 10, a sequence Cougar fans may long remember as a turning point. Jackson lowered his shoulder with a late hit on Reece on an incomplete pass.

After stopping the Cougars, UW then embarked on a bone-crushing drive, going 73 yards in 16 plays, converting two fourth downs. UW ran the ball on the last 15 plays of the drive with the TD coming on a fourth-and-one run by Locker, who took a shotgun snap and followed a crushing block by Paul Homer into the end zone.

The Cougars used a penalty against UW to then drive 81 yards for a tying touchdown. A holding penalty on UW true freshman Nate Williams negated a sack on second down and gave WSU a first down at UW's 40. On the next play, Brink hit Brandon Gibson with a slant that turned into a 40-yard TD that tied the game at 7:29.

The Cougars got the ball back at their own 28 when Greg Trent recovered a fumble by UW receiver Corey Williams. But the Cougars couldn't move and had to punt.

The Cougars led 21-20 at the end of a frenetic first half that featured 497 yards of offense, fitting for two teams ranked eighth and ninth in the Pac-10 in total offense coming in.

The game started about as well as UW could have hoped with Rankin returning the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown, giving the Huskies a 7-0 lead 15 seconds into the game. It was only the second kickoff returned for a touchdown in Apple Cup history (UW's Ernie Steele returned one in 1940).

That seemed to knock the Cougars back for a while, and WSU's offense went three-and-out on its first three possessions, while UW drove 45 yards for a Ryan Perkins field goal on its first possession following the Rankin run to take a 10-0 lead.

But then the WSU passing attack got going as Brink hit Brandon Gibson with a 33-yard pass to set up a 41-yard scoring toss to tight end Devin Frischknecht to make it 10-7 with 1:04 left.

The Huskies came right back to take a 17-7 lead when Locker --- making the start after missing last week with a strained neck --- ran 23 yards for a TD, taking a shotgun snap and breaking over the left side and into the end zone. Once again, however, the Cougars responded quickly, getting a big boost from what will likely go down as one of the freakish plays in Apple Cup history.

On a second-and-four play from the 20, Brink threw to tight end Ben Woodard, who was hit hard by UW's Mesphin Forrester, with the ball popping high into the air. WSU running back Kevin McCall caught it on a dead run and sprinted down the sideline for 47 yards. The Cougars scored three plays later on a 25-yard run by Christopher Ivory on a sweep around the edge on third-and-two to cut the lead to 17-14 with 5:58 left.

The Huskies responded with another Perkins field goal from 43 yards, but the drive was killed by a dropped pass on third down by UW freshman Curtis Shaw that might have gone for a first down.

That put UW ahead 20-14 with 3:22 left.

The Cougars then drove 79 yards to take their first lead of the game on a 19-yard pass from Brink to Frischknecht with 34 seconds left in the half.

Brink was 14-19 for 222 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.

"We kind of lost the momentum,'' UW coach Tyrone Willingham said during his halftime radio comments.

"Defensively we started to let them make a couple of plays down the field and we couldn't come back and make any plays. We had a couple of drops, a couple of penalties, and suddenly you have to deal with potentially being way ahead to being behind.''

Willingham said the Huskies couldn't get enough pressure on Brink.

"If we can get some pass rush and get in his face we'll be in great shape,'' he said. "We haven't got enough pressure lately nor made the right play.''

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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