Apple Cup: For WSU, Winning a Second Time Is a Kick
It's almost impossible to describe the 101st edition of the Apple Cup fought between Washington State and Washington without rolling out every football cliche in the book.
This game called for the faithful fans and supporters of both schools to forget the season leading up to Saturday afternoon, a cold and gloomy day in Pullman, Wash.
Getting right to the point... 16-13
The Cougs Win! The Cougs Win! The Cougs Win!
Had to get that out of the system.
For much of the first 59 minutes of the game, defenses were the dominant force on the football turf of Martin Stadium.
At the end of the first half, the game was going the way of Coach Ty Willingham and his Huskies. They earned a 10-0 lead by running the ball effectively.
Coach Paul Wulff and his staff couldn't come up with any combination of offensive players to put a drive together in the first half. The Cougs weren't able to do anything moving the yard markers once they reached midfield.
Much of the second half was more of the same.
As the third quarter was winding down, WSU was in the midst of another of their rather stagnant drives when starting quarterback Kevin Lopina handed the ball off to freshman Logwone Mitz.
Mitz started to sprint outside, then cut back like a cat inside a good block by sophomore running back Marcus Richmond. Richmond's block was effective, opening up a lane down the sideline for Mitz. He was gone. Showing some excellent speed, Mitz cruised down the sideline for the touchdown.
He gave the Dawgs a chance to add insult to injury by slowing up as he crossed the end line allowing a late-arriving defender to reach and grab him around the collar. There was the obligatory flag for the horse-collar tackle.
Suddenly their was additional life on the Washington State sideline that was intense up to that point. After the touchdown by Mitz, every Coug was hyped up with an adrenaline overload.
As quickly as the Cougs were pumped up by closing the gap to 10-7, the gloomy skies seemed to influence play on the field.
Washington began moving the ball once again, but stalled a couple of times when it appeared a fatigued WSU defense was completely out of gas. When the Dawgs drives stalled, their kicking game stumbled. Two missed field goals allowed the Cougars to stay in the game.
With roughly a minute left in the game and no time outs left, the Cougar defense forced a Husky punt, which sailed into the end zone and gave the home team one more chance to either tie or win the game.
Just as fans elected to forget how miserable this season has been for Cougar football before the kickoff, they erased their memories of the way the offense had played most of the game.
The setup for the final minute wasn't as dramatic as the US hockey team against the Russians at Lake Placid, but there was an air of optimism throughout the stands. Yes, it was going to take a miracle for the WSU offense to move the football 80 yards for a touchdown to win yet another Apple Cup in this millennium.
If you were a Cougar fan praying for a miracle, Kevin Lopina heaved an answer down field to freshman Jared Karstetter. The former Ferris HS star from Spokane hauled in the pass for a huge gain to the UW 18-yard line.
With precious seconds left on the game clock, Lopina connected with Karstetter again but the freshman didn't get out of bounds to stop the clock.
Lopina willed he teammates up to the line of scrimmage and was able to legally spike the ball with just two ticks left in the game.
Once the officials set the ball for a field goal try, sophomore Nico Grasu gave fans a chance to experience just about every emotion in the space of a few seconds. Grasu started toward the football before sophomore Reid Forrest could spot the ball. He made a false start, evoking a collective gasp by everyone in the stands and along the sidelines, then strode through the football sending it sailing through the uprights for the game tying field goal with no time left on the clock.
In the first overtime, both offenses offered more of the same. They moved the football easily until getting close to the end zone, then having to settle for field goals.
With the score tied at 13-13, it was the Husky offense who had the first crack at scoring. And again, they sputtered around the end zone but couldn't get a touchdown.
Then the gloom of the day in Pullman lifted.
The Washington kicker wasn't able to make a 37 yard field goal, gifting the opportunity to win the game over to the crimson and gray.
Instead of cracking the end line for a score, the Huskies simply cracked.
Coach Wulff kept the playing call conservative. Then again, it might have been aggressive, it's just that the results were very conservative.
Everything came down to Nico Grasu's foot once again. He had already tied the game twice. This attempt would give him a chance to earn a place in WSU history. Three field goals at the end of the game to win an Apple Cup.
Grasu seized the gold ring and split the uprights from 37 yards out to earn the victory.
Of course there was a flood of jubilant fans rushing the field to revel in the moment.
For Coach Wulff and the Washington State football program, this victory was a long time coming.
Will this game be the beginning of a new era of Cougar football?
You better believe it!
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