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‘It’s the biggest thing’: Apple Cup still looms large for UW despite underwhelming season

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‘It’s the biggest thing’: Apple Cup still looms large for UW despite underwhelming season

Interim head coach Bob Gregory watches his players during the second half of Washington's game against Colorado at Folsom Field on Nov. 20. The Huskies have gone 0-3 in their past three games and will miss a bowl for the first time since 2009.

The script for the 2021 Washington football season has already been written. All that’s left to add is the final chapter.

Washington State comes to Seattle on Friday afternoon after the 2020 Apple Cup game was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If enough changes occur on a yearly basis before the Huskies and Cougars’ meetings, the past few months of turmoil have amplified that even more.

Before the season, the showdown was supposed to be about two men coaching their first Apple Cup game: UW’s Jimmy Lake and WSU’s Nick Rolovich. Expectations were high for the Huskies (4-7, 3-5 Pac-12), while the Cougars (6-5, 5-3 Pac-12) were looking to build off the solid foundation that former head coach Mike Leach had built.

But neither of those men will coach in this year’s game.

Lake lasted just 13 games at Washington after falling short of expectations this season, culminating in outrageous behavior during and prior to the Oregon game, which ultimately led to his suspension and eventual firing.

Rolovich was forced out of Pullman in mid-October due to his unwillingness to comply with the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

With interim head coaches on both sides — Bob Gregory for UW and Jake Dickert for WSU — the Apple Cup is a matter of bragging rights now more than ever.

“Any time you play the Apple Cup, there’s gonna be some juice to it,” Gregory said. “We’ve played a lot of them and there’s gonna be some juice to it.”

While the Huskies might not have much to play for other than bragging rights, they can also serve as spoiler for the Cougars’ hopes of winning the Pac-12 North.

With an Apple Cup win and an Oregon loss to Oregon State, the Cougars’ 5-3 Pac-12 record would be tied with the Ducks and Beavers, but WSU would win the Pac-12 North because of its better record within the division.

But this is all for naught if the Huskies win their eighth straight Apple Cup.

“It’s a big emphasis,” redshirt freshman tailback Cameron Davis said. “We need to keep that trophy at UW, so we got something to play for this week. It’s a big game, that game’s been circled on our schedule for the whole year, so we’re gonna come with our energy and just play hard next week.”

As a freshman during the most recent Apple Cup meeting in 2019, Davis did not see any game action. Davis is one of many Huskies that have yet to play in an Apple Cup.

Due to UW’s young roster and last year’s meeting being cancelled, Friday will be the first Apple Cup for 66 Huskies, while 22 are participating in only their second game against WSU. 

Although UW’s roster may be two-thirds freshman or redshirt freshman, sophomore defensive back Kyler Gordon doesn’t think the lack of experience will have any impact on the Huskies’ energy.

“It’s the biggest thing right here,” Gordon said. “We’re not trying to let that trophy go at all. We’re going to keep it in Seattle surely.”

Washington is 10-1 in Apple Cup games since 2009, with its only loss coming in 2012. The Huskies’ seven-game winning streak is the second-longest in the history of the series. A UW win Friday would match the eight game winning streak record for the Huskies against the Cougars.

Unlike the past 10 Apple Cup games, this rivalry meeting will be the final game of the Huskies’ season, as they are assured a losing record and will not be eligible for a bowl game for the first time since 2009.

While winning may not shift the overall narrative about Washington’s season, keeping the Cougars’ Apple Cup trophy closet empty for another year will certainly be a driving factor in the Huskies’ preparation for the rivalry game.

The 113th Apple Cup game will kick off Friday, Nov. 26 at 5 p.m.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Edwards at Twitter: @edwardsanthonyb

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