Nov. 23, 2012
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
PULLMAN, Wash. - Keith Price sat stunned on a weight-room bench across the hall from an equally shocked locker room.
"We are hurt. Hurt," he said.
Josh Shirley put two hands on a railing, pushed himself back and just stared into the floor. A few feet away Steve Sarkisian stood against a cinder-block wall in the hallway, knowing his guys were indeed hurtin'.
The Huskies have a "24-hour rule" they invoke after each game. Win or loss they are required to move on within the next day.
This 105th Apple Cup ended so bitterly that rule's maker is waiving it.
Asked if the fact UW is headed to its third consecutive bowl game will help take some of the sting away from Friday's 31-28 loss in overtime at Washington State -- after the Huskies blew a 28-10 lead in the fourth quarter - Sarkisian shook his head.
"We'll talk about that Monday morning," he said. "We are going to worry about this right now."
This was not good. UW committed a team record-tying 18 penalties, including six 15-yard fouls on the two touchdown drives that got WSU back from down 18 down to within 28-25 in the final quarter. Travis Coons missed what would have been a game-winning field goal from 35 yards on the last play of regulation. Then Price threw a harried interception on the first play of overtime.
All those mistakes led to a 27-yard field goal by Washington State's Andrew Furney that beat Washington in yet another wild Apple Cup Friday afternoon at Martin Stadium.
The improbable finish, while par for the history of this wacky rivalry, was the first time the Huskies lost in a dozen games decided by fewer than 10 points.
Sarkisian bemoaned the dozen-plus-six penalties that left the Huskies with 106 flags in 12 games. They had 78 in 13 games last season.
"That, and we had a chance to make some plays and we didn't make them," he said. "We miss a couple sacks that, in turn, they scramble around and make some passes. We had a chance to do some things offensively (such as Price's overthrow of wide-open Jaydon Mickens in the end zone) and we didn't execute that.
"Ultimately, it was snap, hold, kick. We didn't do it. They were able to do it."
Sarkisian looked into his silent locker room. Fourth-year seniors such as Desmond Trufant were shaking their heads at losing to the Cougars for the first time in their careers.
"With loss comes pain," Sarkisian said. "Whether it's a football game like this, it can be a family member or different things, it's painful. And in times like this we have to be there for one another
"This one is going to sting. This is not going to go away (Sunday) morning when we wake up. It's going to sting. So we have to be there for one another.
"We'll get back up. And we'll fight."
Sophomore Bishop Sankey extended his 1,000-yard rushing season with 84 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns for UW (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12), which lost for the first time in five games. The Huskies now await the destination of their third consecutive bowl. They are expected to find out on Dec. 2 where they are headed.
The Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 22 and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco on Dec. 29 are the most likely places for UW, depending on whether the Pac-12 gets two teams into the Bowl Championship Series.
No doubt, this was as shocking a loss as the Huskies have had in years.
They entered on a four-game winning streak, only the second time in 10 years that had won four in row. They trailed 10-7 at halftime, yet the game felt like it was theirs to seize after the break.
And they did. Washington's secondary, at-times too aggressive, plus a hit-and-miss pass rush forced three WSU turnovers deep in Cougars territory during the third quarter. The Huskies converted all three into touchdowns - on a 15-yard pass from Price to senior Cody Bruns, and on touchdown runs by Sankey of 2 and 1 yards.
It was 28-10 Huskies entering the fourth quarter, over a team that hadn't won a game since September.
"I thought we were rollin'," said Bruns, who caught his second career TD pass in as many weeks - then temporarily saved the game in overtime by running with 70 yards on all heart.
"We had a pretty commanding lead," said Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who extended his UW record for tight ends with his 12th career TD catch in the first half. "I think everyone can say they are pretty frustrated with what just happened."
What happened was a parade of flags that tied a single-game UW record set in 1976. WSU got backing to the game when Trufant and Marcus Peters were each twice called for grabbing WSU receivers on incomplete passes. Then Danny Shelton and Andrew Hudson got called for hitting Cougars quarterback Jeff Tuel late after throws.
"There were two drives where we had three 15-yard penalties," Huskies defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. "When you get three 15-yard penalties on a drive it's hard to keep them from scoring."
Trufant broke up three passes and forced a fumble, showing why many regard him as a high-round pick in April's NFL draft. Yet all anyone will remember are the calls the senior co-captain got reaching over and around WSU receivers to break up passes in the end zone. The second flag left Trufant with his palms pointed skyward, pleading with the officials.
"I felt I was covering them great, honestly," Trufant said. "But sometimes it doesn't go your way.
"The penalties on defense were killing us. And it gave them momentum. It's rough. We had that game."
When Tuel completed a two-point conversion pass, Washington's lead was down to 28-25 with 7:26 remaining.
After a Huskies three and out, WSU (3-9, 1-8) took over at its own 30 with 5 minutes to go, down by 3. Huskies linebacker John Timu gambled and dived in an attempt to get to a third-down pass to Gino Simone, but WSU's senior receiver from the Seattle suburb of Sammamish caught it anyway for an 18-yard gain. That set up a 46-yard field goal by Andrew Furney with 1:59 left that improbably tied the game at 28.
Price answered by sharply leading UW downfield, aided by a 15-yard late-hit foul on Casey Locker - Jake's cousin - at the end of the quarterback's 7-yard scramble. With Kasen Williams double-teamed and Seferian-Jenkins triple-teamed, Price completed consecutive throws for first downs to DiAndre Campbell to move the ball to the WSU 24. Runs by Sankey forced the Cougars to spend all their timeouts in hopes of getting the ball back.
On third and 1 with WSU out of time outs and under a minute left, Sarkisian was going for the touchdown. He called for Price to draw the Cougars offside with a hard count to extend the drive. He did; a WSU defensive tackle bulled through the line prematurely.
But the officials' flag was on Price for a rarely called head bob. Never mind that the Cougar Price had enticed across early was a nose guard who had his head down at the turf and jumped at the sound of Price's voice calling his extra-loud cadence.
The officials told Sarkisian that Price drew the Cougars offside on the fateful play.
"That's the point," the coach replied to them.
Now third and 6 from the 20 instead of first and goal from the 10, Sarkisian ran Sankey to get the ball in the center of the field for Coons rather than risk another sack. Washington called time out with 5 seconds left. Coons was a 35-yard try away from sending UW back to Seattle with a third consecutive win in the Apple Cup.
The snap was low. Bruns dug it out off the turf. But Coons, 7 for 10 entering the game on field goals, pushed this one wide right by a few feet.
"From my view (on the sidelines), I thought it was good," Williams said. "I was jumping up and down. I was freaking out."
Ever a stand-up leader, Bruns refused to say the snap was off.
"We got it down," he said. "It just didn't go through."
WSU won the overtime coin toss and chose to play defense from its own 25 first.
"I thought we were going to score on the first play," Seferian-Jenkins said.
Price looked first for Williams. Two Cougars shadowed him. Then Price looked at Seferian-Jenkins. Three Cougars bracketed the big tight end. Holding onto the ball longer than usual, Price hung in until he was hit as he tried a bail-out, dump-off pass to Sankey. The ball fluttered into the arms of WSU's Kalafitoni Pole.
"I should have probably taken the sack and lived to see another play," Price said. "I just made a poor decision with the ball."
His coach agreed.
"I would have loved for him to throw the ball away," Sarkisian said.
The final result will overshadow this, but Bruns' grit and heart kept the game from ending on Price's interception. Pole, a 277-pound tackle, was rumbling the clear for an apparent winning touchdown. Bruns, unaware what had happened until he saw the 21 other players run in the opposite direction, sprinted from the sidelines 70-plus yards to chase down Pole at the Huskies' 5 and prevent the ending defensive score.
"I thought, `I have to get him. There's no one else,'" Bruns said. "I don't think I've tackled anyone since (Prosser) High School (six years ago)."
Price, who finished 20 for 34 passing for 194 yards, two touchdowns, marveled at Bruns' play on the killer interception.
"That's just Cody," he said. "I could speak so many words to describe Cody. That was just relentless effort. And it did give us another chance to win the game."
But only briefly. Tuel completed 10-yard pass on third and 4 to get WSU to the UW 9. After the Cougars and Huskies each called time out, Furney's field goal was as good as Coons' moments earlier at the same end was not.
"I've never lost an Apple Cup - especially like that. That was rough," Trufant said. "But we've been through worse."
They have. It's just that while they flew home to Seattle Friday night, it didn't feel like it.
INSIDE THE DAWGS: The Huskies were denied their first eight-win season since 2001.They were also denied their first five-game winning streak inside a season since their 2000 Rose Bowl team did that. ... Seferian-Jenkins had five catches for 38 yards. He has 789 yards receiving this season, 7 yards from breaking Dave Williams' record for a tight end in any Husky season.