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Washington Upsets Apple Cart for Washington State

Pacific 10: Inspired Huskies win in Seattle, 26-14, to knock Cougars out of contention for a BCS bowl.

November 18, 2001|CHRIS DUFRESNE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SEATTLE — The news here Saturday was that, in a major upset, No. 16 Washington defeated No. 9 Washington State, 26-14.

Major? The schools were separated by seven spots in the polls.

We're not talking that kind of upset. We're talking upset as in "how-dare-you."

This was the Apple Cup, remember, a fight to the core, so it didn't take much to stoke emotions.

So, Washington players were watching television Friday night when a news report showed practice footage of Washington State players prancing around at Husky Stadium, calling the place "The Cougs' House" and jabbering about knocking Washington all the way to the Seattle Bowl.

When will these kids from Pullman ever learn?

"That's our house," Washington linebacker Ben Mahdavi said of the territorial issue. "We live on that field. It's like someone coming into your home and vandalizing it. You take that to heart."

It was enough, apparently, to make Washington (8-2) play like a different team than the one that got smoked by 25 points last week at Oregon State.

Saturday, before a crowd of 74,442 at Husky Stadium, Washington took advantage of three Washington State fumbles, a questionable defensive strategy and three failed scoring attempts inside the Husky 10 to knock the Cougars (9-2) out of bowl championship series contention.

"I don't how smart that was the way they were jumping around on our field, acting like you've already won," Washington quarterback Cody Pickett said.

Probably about as smart as Washington State's decision to play single coverage on freshman receiver Reggie Williams, who scorched the Cougar secondary for 11 catches and 203 yards.

"You put one guy on me, I'm going to take advantage of that," Williams said.

Washington's win did help solidify the Pacific 10 race and bowl picture.

While whistling down on the Willamette River in Eugene, the idle-until-Dec. 1 Oregon Ducks clinched the conference title and earned the Pac-10's automatic bid into the Fiesta Bowl, although there's an outside chance Oregon could play for the national title in the Jan. 3 Rose Bowl.

The Washington victory also sent bowl representatives scrambling for their cell phones to firm up deals.

BCS bigwigs will meet Monday and release all Pac-10 schools except Oregon from consideration for one of the four major bowl games.

That means, Monday afternoon, the Holiday Bowl can officially extend Washington an invitation to its Dec. 28 game in San Diego.

"Obviously, Washington did the right thing by winning today," Holiday Bowl spokesman Pete Litrenta said after the game. "After we hear from the BCS, we can make a decision then."

The Holiday Bowl gets the No. 2 pick in the Pac-10 rotation, and even though Washington, Stanford and Washington State are tied for second with two losses, Washington gets the nod because it defeated both schools.

The Holiday Bowl is already touting a Southern California getaway package for Washingtonians that will couple the game with the San Diego Chargers hosting the Seahawks on Dec. 30.

The rest of the Pac-10 bowl deals may also be done before Thanksgiving. While the conference would like to see Washington State stay near home and play in the Seattle Bowl, the Sun Bowl has the No. 3 pick and will likely take the Cougars, leaving Stanford for the Seattle game, which is interesting, given that the Cardinal's two losses this year were to the Washington schools.

Or perhaps, desperate for ticket sales, the Seattle Bowl waits in the hope Oregon State upsets Oregon to become bowl eligible.

USC's victory likely sends the Trojans to the Las Vegas Bowl, while UCLA looks for an at-large game.

Washington State wasn't ready to have its BCS dreams busted, but Washington didn't care in winning its fourth straight Apple Cup.

The mood of the game changed in the first quarter, when Washington stuffed Washington State on fourth and goal from the one, Mahdavi stopping Cougar back David Minnich in a midair collision.

"You have to time that perfectly," Mahdavi said.

Washington took over and drove 99 yards for the first score, a one-yard Rich Alexis run.

Washington State tied the score, 7-7, before a confounding series of miscues and blunders took the Cougars out.

Washington was ready to head into halftime with a 10-7 lead on John Anderson's 29-yard field goal with nine seconds left, but Washington State's Jason David fumbled the kickoff, allowing Anderson to knock through a 35-yard kick with one second left.

To open the second half, Washington State's Curtis Nettles stepped out of bounds on his own five with the kickoff, then Minnich fumbled on a second-down run.

Washington recovered at the one and scored on Willie Hurst's run to make it 19-7 (Anderson's extra point attempt hit an upright).

Washington State, meanwhile, failed twice more in first-and-goal situations, on quarterback Jason Gesser's fumble and an ill-fated halfback pass by Minnich that was intercepted by Roc Alexander at the Washington 12.

That turnover led to Washington's final score, a seven-yard scoring pass from Cody Pickett to tight end Jerramy Stevens at the end of an 88-yard drive.

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