After the second half of the game stole the show (and rightfully so) late Friday afternoon, nobody really remembers what happened in the first half that made this all possible. Sometimes that’s what happens, the first half of the dream fades away when you kiss the cute girl you’ve been after, at the end of it. This was the case in the Apple Cup, where the second half seemed like its own full game and OT gave us the moment that made it all so memorable. But what about how this game kicked off?
Washington waltzed into Pullman knowing that if they simply showed up, they would win this game. Forget a challenge from the lowly Cougs, no Marquess, no problem. You could see it, you could feel it. They didn’t open the game with the energy or desperation that Washington State did. They weren’t running with the same pep, they weren’t hitting with the same ferocity and they certainly weren’t playing with the same intensity. They were #25 in the country and that was enough.
On the opening kickoff, Gregory Ducre only returned it to the 15 as Cougars flew down the field and took him to the turf. Then the defense set the tone for their effort on the very first play, breaking through and sacking qb Keith Price for an 11 yard loss. They never lost that effort throughout the entire game and in my opinion ultimately ended up being the difference. 3 and out. After the Cougs took over in great position but couldn’t complete a 4th down, it seemed the perfect setup for UW to take early control in great field position.
The problem with that was the Cougar defense still was playing faster. Another 3 and out was destroyed on a hands to the face penalty that I did not see on the replay and was initially upset about, but nonetheless was called as the Cougars rushed Price. Thankfully, they still only got 1 more yard as Deone Bucannon perfectly timed a hit and swat on Kasen Williams’ sideline catch attempt at the 25 and knocked the ball into the Cougar bench.
Then a methodical, well executed 16 play drive that lasted almost 7 minutes set up Andrew Furney for a 21 yard field goal, his first of three on the day. It sure seemed like a missed opportunity for WSU though, after having the ball first and goal on the Husky 6. It was the kind of inconsistency that has killed us all year long, a great drive and just fail to finish. Still, it was 3-0 at the end of the first quarter and I felt like that was a big victory in and of itself. The Huskies looked shell-shocked and a little bit baffled walking to the sidelines that WSU had just whooped them for an entire quarter. I specifically remember the facial expression from Bishop Sankey, one that said “I don’t remember these guys, where’d they come from?”
Then the second quarter began and a long awaited Cougar mistake dramatically changed the feeling in the stadium. Jeff Tuel had a wide open Brett Bartolone on an out pattern right on the sideline for an easy 3rd down conversion but threw the ball slightly low and behind. Bartolone slid and reach back, but the ball squirted out of his arms and Justin Glenn flipped and rolled over the receiver, somehow securing the ball and landing with a shoulder in bounds in the process. A quick touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and the Husky faithful were suddenly jumping around.
But a big 61 yard pass on 3rd down from Tuel to Dominique Williams changed the momentum again (and immediately) on the next Cougar drive, something else they haven’t really done this season: Respond on the next drive. 5 plays later the Cougs ran in their first of 3 rushing touchdowns with Carl Winston as he crossed practically untouched on a zone read. The feeling was different at this point, it was electric. It seemed the Cougs were going to respond on this day, they were going to fight back. The half ended pretty much like that after a few possessions, but as we ended up seeing, that feeling was absolutely correct.