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News / Clark County News

Greg Jayne: Apple Cup leaves few questions answered

Greg Jayne: Commentary

By Greg Jayne, Columbian Opinion Page Editor
Published: November 26, 2011, 4:00pm

SEATTLE — What, pray tell, did we learn?

What wisdom could we cull from the latest edition of the Apple Cup?

What insight could we derive from an outing at CenturyLink Field, which proved to be a 38-21 victory for Washington over Washington State?

That the Huskies are a just-barely-slightly-above-average football team? True, that is. But we already knew that.

Considering that Washington finished the regular season with a 7-5 overall record, a 5-4 Pac-12 mark, a penchant for getting run over by elite teams, and an ability to put a lot of points on the board . . . we knew where they stood.

So when Jesse Callier ran in a blocked punt to open the scoring, and a banged-up Keith Price threw for three touchdowns and almost 300 yards, and the Dawgs feasted on WSU quarterback Marshall Lobbestael as if he were 215 pounds of raw steak, well, it really came as no surprise.

The Huskies were better than the three straight losses and the four defeats in five games they brought into the contest. Whether they could prove it was the only question.

“We got that big monkey off our shoulders,” said defensive back Sean Parker, who came up with a crucial fourth-quarter interception. “We haven’t celebrated in a long time. It feels good to just laugh.”

Washington built a lead, turned back Washington State’s valiant challenges, and used running back Chris Polk to grind down the clock in the fourth quarter.

“This has been, obviously, a long month for us,” Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said. “We talked about ‘want to’ and our guys, every day, as hard as it’s been, have really bought it.”

Predictable, to some extent.

Even if the unpredictable often raises its head in the Apple Cup.

All of which might have made the Cougars the more intriguing story line. Washington State came into the game amid much speculation about the future of coach Paul Wulff, who walked off the field carrying a 9-40 record to show for his four seasons at WSU.

Talk about a monkey on your shoulders.

“I just want to say this is a young football team,” Wulff said. “We’ve done a hell of a job recruiting kids, and the football program has a bright future. That’s my job, and I’ve been doing that.”

Whether that’s enough remains to be seen.

Are the Cougars better than in previous years? Considering that they finished 4-8 this year, that they have been increasingly competitive each of the past three years, and that they were forced to use a third-string quarterback who threw for 344 yards against Washington, well, yes, they are much improved.

We knew that, as well, but that’s not really the question to ask.

No, the question for fans and athletic director Bill Moos to ponder is if Washington State could go out right now and hire a coach who they know would be an upgrade. And, to be honest, that’s one question to which we don’t know the answer.

So, what, indeed, did we learn from the 104th edition of the Apple Cup?

Well, the answer might have come when it was time for Gov. Chris Gregoire to present the Apple Cup trophy to the victors. She was booed lustily, proving, I guess, that Gov. Gregoire is not popular among football fans.

But we might already have known that, too.

Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at greg.jaynecolumbian.com. To read his blog, go to columbian.com/weblogs/GregJayne