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Apple Cup is rotten to core

Washington and Washington State are terrible, but at least they're evenly matched.

November 19, 2008|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Dufresne is a Times staff writer.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the worst game played in Pacific 10 history -- maybe in the history of college football -- a rainy, pointless, scoreless tie waged Nov. 19, 1983, between Oregon State and Oregon in Eugene.

It was the last 0-0 game in college football, embalmed forever since the NCAA instituted an overtime rule in 1996.

The lowlights included 11 fumbles, five interceptions and four missed field-goal attempts.

That Civil War game has been dubbed by many the "Toilet Bowl."

It's difficult to imagine a worse matchup of Pac-10 rivals from the Pacific Northwest, but we offer Saturday's Apple Cup between Washington and Washington State in Pullman.

Although nothing may equal that 1983 game for sheer ineptness, there is no doubting that Washington and Washington State are in far worse shape entering this year's game.

Oregon (coached by Rich Brooks) and Oregon State (misled by Joe Avezzano) were a combined 6-14 entering the 1983 Civil War.

The Ducks had defeated Houston, California, Arizona and Stanford.

Oregon State had a win over Stanford and Portland State.

Washington and Washington State are a combined 0-20 against major colleges. The only win gnashed out was Washington State over I-AA Portland State.

Consider that there are 119 major college football schools and then consider these national rankings:

* Total offense: Washington (117), Washington State (118).

* Scoring offense: Washington (117), Washington State (118).

* Total defense: Washington (110), Washington State (112).

* Scoring defense: Washington (116), Washington State (118).

The schools are so evenly matched they have each scored 139 points this year.

Washington has been outdistanced 399-139 to Washington State's 533-139.

The collapse of programs that have appeared in Rose Bowl games this century is astonishing to some observers.

"It's absolutely amazing that that's all happening at once," Oregon State Coach Mike Riley said on Tuesday's weekly Pac-10 coaches' conference call.

The Apple Cup is still a rivalry game, and the Pac-10 notes that the game dates to 1900 and "is uninterrupted since 1945."

Too bad someone couldn't interrupt this one.

Can the winner actually, as Washington Coach Tyrone Willingham suggested, have "bragging rights" for the year?

"You can wear that purple-and-gold shirt to work and that other guy just kind of will find his way out of the room," Willingham said.

First-year Washington State Coach Paul Wulff, who played in the Apple Cup with the Cougars, thinks the game is important but does not wipe out weeks of state-of-Washington misery.

"I know that whoever wins is going to feel a little better about themselves," Wulff said.

Washington, for what it's worth, is favored by 7 1/2 points.

Oddsmakers have set the "over-under" at "call me when it's over."

Two wins from going . . . where?

Oregon State's Riley insisted he is not superstitious and not purposely avoiding the words "Rose Bowl" when discussing his team's being two wins from going to "that" or playing in "it."

Victories over Arizona this week in Tucson and next week at home against Oregon would cinch Oregon State's first trip to "that game" since Jan. 1, 1965.

"Nobody's ever said, 'Don't say the word,' " Riley joked. "You know the point. The point is it all goes away if you don't win, so you better focus on winning."

Bowl us over

The Pac-10 has seven bowl slots this year and five schools already eligible with at least six wins.

Stanford (5-6) needs a win over rival Cal in the 111th edition of the Big Game to become bowl worthy. Cal's bowl fate is secured at 6-4, but the Golden Bears are playing this week for an important garden tool. "We want to get the Axe," Cal Coach Jeff Tedford said. Stanford has "the Axe" after winning last year in Palo Alto.

UCLA and Arizona State are 4-6 and need to win out to earn a bowl berth. The teams play Nov. 28 in what, effectively, becomes a bowl-elimination game.


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