SEATTLE — Keith Price threw three touchdown passes to become Washington’s all-time single-season leader in that category, the final one a 22-yard toss to Chris Polk, and Washington held off rival Washington State 38-21 on Saturday night to win the 104th Apple Cup.
Price threw his 29th touchdown pass of the season midway through the third quarter, finding Polk on a wheel-route out of the backfield to give the Huskies a 28-14 lead.
Washington State pulled within 28-21, but Erik Folk’s 46-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter pushed the lead to 10 and Polk sealed the Huskies third straight Apple Cup title on his 1-yard TD run with 5:23 left.
Price, who sat out last week’s loss at Oregon State due to a multitude of injuries, finished 21 of 29 for 291 yards. Washington also got a blocked punt that Jesse Callier returned 2 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.
The Huskies (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) snapped a three-game losing streak and sent the Cougars (4-8, 2-7) into an offseason filled with questions.
While the Huskies can now make plans for where they are going this postseason, questions about the future of Washington State coach Paul Wulff are expected to percolate. He has one year remaining on his contract, but fell to 9-40 in four seasons as head coach of the Cougars. Athletic director Bill Moos has said he expects to make a decision on Wulff’s future early next week.
His team came out flat and uninspired, rife with mistakes from the start. Washington State committed five penalties, gave up a pair of sacks, fumbled and had Dan Wagner’s punt blocked by Thomas Tutogi for a touchdown in the first 15 minutes.
It was 14-0 after Price threw a beautiful 16-yard TD pass to Kasen Williams, part of Williams’ monster first half, and it appeared a Huskies rout was on.
The Cougars rallied twice, pulling even at 14-all and later getting within 28-21 in the third quarter, but Washington State could not overcome its mistakes. The final one came early in the fourth quarter on a failed double pass. Running back Gary Winston threw back to quarterback Marshall Lobbestael, who then threw for Marquess Wilson, but the pass was batted by Desmond Trufant into the arms of safety Sean Parker. Washington took the turnover and capped the clinching drive on Polk’s TD run.
Polk, who ran for 284 yards in last year’s Apple Cup, finished with 100 yards on 22 carries. Williams turned the first half into a showcase of why he was the Parade Magazine national player of the year as a high school senior. He already had two catches when he pulled in a 16-yard TD pass from Price in the corner of the end zone to give the Huskies a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
Later in the half, with Washington driving after the Cougars pulled even at 14-all, Williams caught a crossing route wide open and leaped over Washington State cornerback Nolan Washington on his way to an 18-yard gain. On the next play, Williams got free on a broken play and Price found him for a 21-yard touchdown that gave the Huskies a 21-14 lead at halftime.
Lobbestael was starting in place of redshirt freshman Connor Halliday after Halliday suffered a lacerated liver during last week’s 30-27 overtime loss to Utah that ended the Cougars hopes of becoming bowl eligible. Halliday’s injury only added to the peculiar list of injuries sustained by Washington State players during Wulff’s tenure. Lobbestael completed 29 of 42 for 344 yards and three touchdowns, but was battered and sacked seven times by Washington’s defense that ranked ninth in the Pac-12 in that department.
Wilson finished with seven catches for 108 yards and two TDs, including a 38-yarder in the third quarter that pulled the Cougars within 28-21.
Washington had chances early to put the game out of reach after taking a 14-0 lead but similar to last year’s Apple Cup, the Cougars rallied.
Erik Folk, who had not missed a field goal inside 40 yards until last week at Oregon State, snap hooked a 37-yard field goal attempt early in the second quarter.
Washington State, who fumbled on its previous drive at the Washington 23, immediately went 80 yards on 12 plays, converting on third-and-long three times. The final time came on third-and-goal from the Washington 16 after Lobbestael’s 6-yard TD run was erased by a holding penalty. Lobbestael slipped a 16-yard strike to Jared Karstetter to pull the Cougars within 14-7. Washington went three-and-out and the Cougars needed just eight plays for Lobbestael to find Wilson also from 16 yards and pull the Cougars even at 14-all.