Nov. 18, 2006
PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) - What better way to end a dismal season than to beat your cross-state rival and deny them a trip to a postseason bowl game?
Washington has that mind-set as it travels to Pullman to take on Washington State in Martin Stadium Saturday in a matchup of the state's Pacific-10 Conference rivals.
Washington State desperately needs a win to secure one of six bowl spots reserved for Pac-10 teams. A victory would be the Cougars' third straight over the Huskies and that's never happened in the 98-game Apple Cup series between the two schools.
A Washington win would help ease the pain of six straight losses after starter Isaiah Stanback's season ended with a broken foot, and would make the Huskies the spoiler.
"That's hopefully one of the things that will be on the minds of our guys," Washington coach Tyrone Willingham said. "Yes, you'd like to be able to do that."
The Huskies (4-7, 2-6 Pac-10) are led by Carl Bonnell, a junior who signed a letter of intent with WSU but transferred to Washington after a "grayshirt" semester in Pullman.
His open scholarship went to Alex Brink, who has led the Cougars to rare back-to-back victories over Washington the last two seasons.
Washington State (6-5, 4-4) is bowl-eligible, but in all likelihood needs a seventh victory and a winning conference record to be invited to a postseason bowl game.
The Cougars posted a 6-3 record with losses to top-ranked teams Auburn, Southern Cal and California, then lost their last two games.
There is motivation and pressure on both sides of the Cascades.
"The feeling is we have to win this game," WSU wide receiver Jason Hill said this week. "The coaches are feeling pressure. The players are feeling pressure from everywhere, so it's time to win."
Bonnell, who roomed in Pullman with an older brother who was a walk-on linebacker for WSU, has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
"There's a lot of extra motivation. You know the players there, you know the atmosphere, you've been in the front row of Martin Stadium watching the Apple Cup," Bonnell said. "Just having the opportunity to go out there and finish the season off on the right foot is just a huge opportunity."
A dozen straight games without a bye have left both teams ailing.
Bonnell suffered a thigh bruise in the Stanford game, but will start against the Cougars, who saw their two top receivers, Hill and Michael Bumpus, sidelined by high ankle sprains in the Arizona game Nov. 4.
Their status for the game was doubtful.
WSU defensive end Mkristo Bruce, who has 10 sacks, is hobbled by a sore right knee, but Willingham doesn't think that will have an effect.
"I think, No. 1, I look at them defensively, and even though he's slightly limping a little bit, their all-star defensive end is one of the better players in our conference," Willingham said. "They are a good solid unit that I think has a spectacular player."
"The quarterback, Brink, I love the things he adds to their football team," Willingham said.
Brink knows the Huskies always play their best games against the Cougars. Both teams will forget about previous games to get a win in the Apple Cup, he said.
UW senior wide receiver Sonny Shackleford agrees.
"Especially if we bring the Apple Cup back to Seattle. That's all we're looking at," he said. "I'm not worried about the last 11 games we've played. That's history. I'm worried about Wazzu coming up."
WSU fourth-year coach Bill Doba would become the only WSU coach ever to beat the Huskies three straight.
A victory to end the regular season would give the winner a leg up in fierce intrastate recruiting of blue chip players, Doba said.
"It's important, No. 1, to our seniors. We want to send them out with a win," Doba said. "As far as the long-term program implications, it's important, but not the end of the world if we don't win."
Doba's star defensive end, Bruce, sees it a bit differently.
Bruce grew up in Renton and wore Cougars colors to Spirit Day in junior high school, but idolized Washington's star running back Napoleon Kaufman.
Beating the Huskies three straight would put a cherry atop this season, he said.
"Not so much just to set history, but the fact we get to end on such a good note," he said. "That would be huge for our program. It would be huge to send our seniors off with a win against the Huskies."