CFB: After long layoff, Washington St. to host Huskies
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) – Woeful Washington State reached a season peak by beating Oregon State, and then took the next two weekends off with byes.
The Cougars (2-9, 1-7 Pac-10) face Washington on Saturday in Pullman in the Apple Cup, and they hope to have held onto some of the momentum generated by their first Pac-10 victory in two seasons.
“We’re recharged. We’re healthy,” WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel said of the 21-day break after 11 straight games. “People are running around feeling great.”
Still, coach Paul Wulff is worried the layoff might hurt his team.
“I’ve seen it go two ways,” Wulff said. “I’ve seen teams come out flat, or come out real well.”
This is the 103rd edition of the rivalry game, and as usual there are plenty of subplots. Washington (5-6, 4-4) needs a win to reach a bowl for the first time since 2002. The talk around Cougar Nation focuses on whether this is Wulff’s final game after posting a 5-31 record in three seasons.
Throwing a frozen wrinkle into the game is all the snow that has fallen in the region the past week. Up to 7 inches was expected to fall in Pullman by Wednesday morning. Most is likely to still be there when the football is teed up Saturday afternoon.
That has conjured up memories of the Snow Bowl, the 1992 Apple Cup game in which quarterback Drew Bledsoe led the Cougars to a 42-23 win over No. 5 Washington in a blinding snowstorm that virtually turned the field into a skating rink.
The game is so famous in the region that even people who were in diapers then know about it.
“The Snow Bowl here is a huge deal,” said Tuel, who grew up in Arizona and California and has never played a football game in snow. “All you hear about is Bledsoe and the throw into the back of the end zone and the guy (Phillip Bobo) skidding into the back of the end zone” into a snow bank.
Washington quarterback Jake Locker is also well aware of the Snow Bowl, and thinks the weather will be fun.
“It’s just another element to the game that I think would bring a little more excitement to it,” Locker said. “It would be something that would create a little more buzz about the game, I guess.”
Unlike Tuel, Locker played in inclement weather often while growing up in Ferndale.
“I’m not really worried about it,” Locker said.
With temperatures expected to range from the low 30s to the low 20s, and a 30 percent chance of snow, the game is likely to be a defensive slog in the darkness.
The Dec. 4 date is the latest the Apple Cup has ever been played. It will be only the second time since World War II that the Cougars have played a regular season game in December. The other game was in Pasadena.
With both teams made up mostly of players who grew up a long way from Pullman, snow doesn’t necessarily provide a clear-cut advantage for WSU. But defensive end Travis Long said practicing in it for a few days should benefit the Cougars.
“It is what it is,” Long said. “We can’t let it affect us too much.”
Wulff will take any psychological advantage he can get from the snow, but said the reality is that snow is a rarity during games in Pullman. The Snow Bowl is the major exception, he said.
“It’s not like we are really used to playing in snow and we play a lot of games in it,” Wulff said.
The university is using plows to scrape snow off the field, and front-end loaders and dump trucks to take much of the snow away. Some snow will remain on the sidelines.