Washington and Washington State first squared off in 1917 in what was to be known as the Apple Cup. Washington State won the first game. The series did not stay close for long as Washington won four games in a row in the 1920’s and have not looked back, holding a 26 game advantage on the series.
The last decade, however, has provided a closer head to head record for the schools, with Washington holding a six to four advantage over Washington State. If anything, this last 10 years has shown that the old adage is true, anything can happen in a rivalry game.
Let’s take a look at the last 10 games played between the two.
1999 was the first year under Coach Rick Neuheisel for the Huskies, while the Cougars still had long time coach Mike Price. Neuheisel took over a 6-6 squad that had some potential, as we would see in the following year, but in this year of transition managed a 7-5 record.
WSU on the other hand had followed up their 1997 Rose Bowl appearance with a three win season, and duplicated the results in 1999. It was a fairly close game as the Huskies won 24-14.
The following year was an entirely different story. While Washington State was still struggling, only managing to improve one game from last year’s three win total, Washington broke through with a 10-1 regular season record, eventually winning the 2001 Rose Bowl game against Purdue. The score of the game was indicative of where the programs were at that year as Washington rolled 51-3.
2001 brought a change of fortune for the two programs. While the Huskies lost a lot of leadership and players from their Rose Bowl winning team and slipped to an 8-4 season, Washington State jumped from four wins to 10 wins total, foreshadowing their three year run of 10 wins. This made them the first PAC-10 team to do so. (USC has since followed and beaten that streak.)
While WSU had the better overall record, the Huskies came away with the win.
That theme would follow through for 2002 as Washington State would gain their second Rose Bowl bid in six years and share the conference title with USC. The Washington program was starting to show signs of regression falling to a 7-6 record.
Like most rivalry games, records can be thrown out the window. Washington again pulls off the win in dramatic fashion. With starting quarterback Jason Gesser out, Matt Kegel was filling in. With the game on the line, Kegel threw a backwards pass, thus a fumble, setting up a game winning field goal for Washington in triple overtime over the No. 3 ranked Cougars.
Coming off of last year’s upset win over the higher ranking Cougars, Washington looked to again pull off the upset in 2003.
This game was also the first Apple Cup as head coaches for veteran assistants Keith Gilbertson and Bill Doba. For Washington, the untimely firing of Rick Neuheisal led the administration to hand the job on an interim basis to Offensive Coordinator Gilbertson. With a team that some had picked to challenge for the Pac-10 title, Gilbertson struggled and came into the game with five wins.
The situation with Doba was different. Mike Price had accepted the Alabama job prior to the 2002 Rose Bowl, so WSU knew what was coming and was more prepared for the transition.
Handed a 10 win team, Doba was able to maintain the winning streak and achieve 10 wins for the third straight time. However, he also watched his Cougars get upset by a lower ranked Washington squad for the third straight year, giving UW four wins in a row.
In an ugly game that had the Cougars turning the ball over seven times, the Washington Huskies came from behind and yet again won the Apple Cup, this time by the score of 27-10. This gave Washington six wins on the season avoiding a losing season, and ended all possibilities of the WSU going to a second straight Rose Bowl. Although, in retrospect, they would not have made it had they won that game anyway.
The 6-6 record Washington posted the year before turned out to be a sign of things to come as Washington headed into the 2004 Apple Cup with one win. They would leave Pullman still with only one win as Washington State broke the streak of six wins for UW hanging on with a 28-25 lead. The season would end the brief tenure of Gilbertson has a head coach at UW, and lead to the hiring of Ty Willingham.
The Ty Willingham era—the coach who is also referred to "he who shall not be named" by long time Husky fans—showed UW fans a sign of things to come going into the Apple Cup with two wins. For the second straight year both teams entered the game with losing records as WSU entered the game with all of four wins.
Despite the poor records for both teams, it turned out to be an exciting game for those that tuned in to the 2005 Apple Cup. With four lead changes in the final 31 minutes it was a thrilling end to a not so thrilling season for both teams, with WSU winning 26-22.
Washington had improved by one game, if you consider that a lot of improvement and WSU fell from five wins to four. It did give the Cougars two strait Apple Cup victories for the first time since the 1982-1983 seasons, however.
In 2006 the two teams again squared off, but this time WSU managed to enter the game with six wins, while Washington came into the game with four wins.
Washington had earned all four wins in the first five games as an injury to starting quarterback Isaiah Stanback proved to be too much for UW to overcome. Washington did come into the game motivated and looking to end the WSU two game winning streak and take back the state.
Washington came into the game disappointed after losing to a previously winless Stanford knocked out any hopes of a .500 season, but were able to stop the WSU's pursuit of a bowl bid with the 35-32 victory.
While WSU was 6-5 going into the game, it looked like 7-5 might be needed to attain a bowl game. For the third straight year the Apple Cup was played by two teams that didn’t make the postseason.
The 2007 Apple Cup was more of the same for the two struggling Washington programs. 2007 was a year with a lot of promise for Washington as freshman quarterback Jake Locker took the Pac-10 by storm nearly rushing for 1,000 yards in his first season. That production did not lead to more wins however, as the Huskies came into the game with only four wins, the same total as Washington State.
In yet another game played strictly for pride, Washington State managed to pull off the win. As it always seems to be it was a closely contested game that was not decided until the final minute of play. With 31 seconds left, Alex Brink hit wide receiver Brandon Gipson for Brinks' fifth TD pass of the day, giving WSU the 42-35 victory in Seattle.
While both teams had been trending downwards lately, neither team expected to be as epically bad as they were heading into the 2008 Apple Cup.
Dubbed by media outlets as, the "Rotten Apple Cup," the 2008 game featured a winless Washington squad taking on a one win Washing State team. Washington State's lone victory had come over D-2 Portland State and neither team had managed a single PAC-10 victory.
For Washington, the season can be explained by the season-ending injury to quarterback Jake Locker, in addition to losing running back Chris Polk. WSU was in its first year of a coaching change with former player Paul Wulff taking over a severely depleted program and trying to build back up the talent level.
Both teams weren't expected to be any good, and both lived up to that billing.
Washington’s season was over as soon as Locker went down, and the tenure of Willingham was soon to follow as Washington fired the coach after an ugly loss to the USC Trojans, and the team had appeared to all but given up at that point.
For WSU it was a transition year with Wulff redshirting young players who could have probably made a difference, but in interest of the future decided to tough it out that year.
In the end, someone had to win and get that PAC-10 victory, and it turned out to be WSU with a 16-13 last minute victory, sealing Washington’s fate, going 0-12 for the first time in school history. While Washington State only managed two victories, they could at least claim to be the best in the state.
This last decade has shown that having the better record entering the Apple Cup doesn’t mean much. Despite the downturn of both programs, the Apple Cup continues to be a hard fought contest that is entertaining to fans from the Evergreen State.
This year again features two teams that are under .500 and are strictly playing for pride.
Washington State has been able to avoid Washington’s historic zero win season from 2008, and Washington has moved on from the Willingham, bringing in former Offensive Coordinator for USC, Steve Sarkisian. The team has shown promise, especially early on, but struggled as the season continued with a lack of depth.
Year two of the Wulff era has brought similar disappointment as year one, but the team is more competitive than they were a year before. From an overall talent level it looks like WSU is still a few years from competing. Washington looked ready early in the season, but still showed a lot of promise for the future as a young team and young coach come together.
This game is almost always impossible to predict, and despite a poor record, Washington is coming in as large favorites and some confidence as well. Tight End Kavario Middleton was quoted as saying Washington expects to "hang 50" on the Cougars.
If the years past are any indication, this will be a close game full of surprises, but I do feel that Washington wins.