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Apple Cup 2K 

& & by Tony C. Duarte & & & &

It's that time again. You know what we're talking about. Don't try to play coy. It's the time when the crunch of melting slush meets the sting of a $40 ticket, and together they form something more tasty than another presidential election gone potato-salad bad -- that's right, it's the 2000 Apple Cup.

We did a recount (by hand, no less) of past Apple Cup results, and although it shows the University of Washington Huskies lead the series by the margin of 59-27-6, we've just discovered that 53 of those games were played on a tilted field -- in other words, in Seattle. It seems early on in the series, UW considered themselves so high and mighty that they didn't deem a trip to Pullman worthy to play a game of football against the lowly Cougars (when the Cougars' official colors were pink and blue -- ouch). This was mostly the work of ex-UW coach Gilmour Dobie, who, in his nine seasons (1908-17) as the UW coach, refused to play virtually any games on the road. He built up a 58-0-3 record, of which 48 were played at home. Needless to say, the Cougs didn't see much of UW in Pullman those years -- and Dobie's stubbornness was one of the reasons his undefeated UW team did not play WSU's undefeated Rose Bowl team in 1916. So when the two teams meet to exchange pleasantries in Pullman this year, it will be only the 40th time the Cougars have called it a "home" game -- and even 16 of those games were played in Spokane and not on campus in Pullman. So the Cougs have only played the Huskies in Pullman a grand total of 24 times -- where they are 11-12-1.

This year, though, will be the 10th straight time the Cougs have played a home game at Pullman against the Huskies since former Cougar head coach Jim Walden put his foot down in 1982 and insisted the game be moved from Spokane's Albi Stadium (where it was held when it was WSU's turn to play host) to Martin Stadium on campus. The change in venue has not brought unmitigated success -- the Cougs are 4-5 since then -- but it was far better than the alternative of being 3-13 against the Huskies in Spokane.

Apple Cup 2K brings a familiar scenario from the past two seasons -- the Huskies will be striving for a bowl game, and the Cougars will be striving for redemption and pride in their season. Originally, it was looking to be a battle of two of the league's best quarterbacks as the UW's Marques Tuiasosopo was going to lead his team against the Pac-10's top-rated passer, WSU's Jason Gesser. But when Gesser, who has never started an Apple Cup, suffered a broken leg against Oregon two weeks ago, it meant the title of this game changed to The Veteran versus The Rookie, as the Cougs' Matt Kegel will be starting his first Apple Cup.

Tuiasosopo is not only a veteran quarterback, but his team is a veteran of the Pac-10 wars and has shown an uncanny knack this season for digging themselves into holes in most games -- only to pull out victories with fourth-quarter comebacks. Senior leadership from Tuiasosopo has been the key to this success as -- despite pedestrian statistical numbers -- he has proven his worth by performing in that proverbial "crunch" time.

Kegel, on the other hand, has all of one start under his belt coming into his first Apple Cup and must rely on family bloodlines to prop him up. Kegel's cousin -- WSU's Rose Bowl QB, Ryan Leaf -- started his first game in the 1995 Apple Cup and promptly put up a 22-for-33, 291-yard, 3TD passing performance running much the same offense that Kegel will be running on Saturday. Kegel, who had a strong first outing in Los Angeles last week, will be attempting to show that these kinds of numbers run in the family when playing the Huskies but, of course, will be trying to achieve a different result. Leaf lost to the Huskies 30-33 in Seattle that year.

The spotlight is on the quarterbacks because neither defense has proven they can stop anybody on a consistent basis yet, and the game's outcome may depend on who has the ball last. In this regard, Tuiasosopo has made no secret this year that his favorite receiver is tight end Jerramy Stevens -- yet another in a long line of NFL-quality tight ends the Huskies have produced. Kegel, meanwhile, will be looking to utilize wide receiver Milton Wynn, who has been consistently ranked among the nation's leaders for receiving yardage per game as well as number of receptions per game. The only genuinely glaring mismatch is in the kicking game where UW's John Anderson is a solid 45-yard-plus field goal kicker, while the Cougs' Anousith Wilaikul has had a sporadic year and tends to lose accuracy at inopportune times.

But it's Apple Cup time, and with the Cougs' penchant for playing in overtime games this year (three so far), and the Huskies insistence on fourth-quarter comebacks, some new and vivid memories are waiting to be made.

& & & lt;i & The Cougars and the Huskies take the field in Pullman on Saturday, Nov. 18, at 3:30 pm. Tickets: $40 (end zone seats only). Call: 1-800-GO-COUGS. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Northwest. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &

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