Cougars stun Huskies 16-13 in double overtime
PULLMAN, Wash. (AP)—In a moment of calm following the mass chaos of Washington State’s upset win over Washington, Cougars coach Paul Wulff walked down a vacant hallway with his family at his side. Wulff leaned over to his young son and posed a simple question:
“Who’s still winless?” Wulff asked.
“The Huskies,” the boy replied.
He’s right. Washington is still the only winless team in the country thanks to one of the most stunning conclusions in the history of the Apple Cup.
Nico Grasu’s 28-yard field goal on the final play of regulation forced overtime, then Grasu hit the game winner from 37 yards as Washington State shocked rival Washington 16-13 in double overtime on Saturday to retain the Apple Cup.
Washington controlled the action for 59 minutes, bringing themselves to the verge of snapping the longest losing streak in the country and becoming the last Football Bowl Subdivision team to beat someone. The Huskies (0-11, 0-8 Pac-10) bounced on the sideline at the prospect of ending the worst skid in school history.
Then their misery was extended thanks to an unlikely hookup that added a new duo to Apple Cup lore.
Washington State quarterback Kevin Lopina, playing just a week after getting knocked out with a concussion, was erratic all day. He missed easy throws and open receivers. He ran when he shouldn’t and often threw to the wrong receiver.
But he was nearly perfect in the final minute as the Cougars drove 69 yards to force overtime. After hitting Brandon Gibson to convert a third-and-1 at his own 34, Lopina found freshman Jared Karstetter right in stride sprinting behind a beaten Washington secondary. Karstetter, with only three catches all season, raced for 48 yards to the Washington 18 with 24 seconds left and suddenly overtime was a possibility.
“You never really plan on something like that,” Karstetter said.
Karstetter then caught a 7-yard pass but didn’t get out of bounds, forcing Lopina to rush to the line and spike the ball with 2 seconds left. Grasu, with a nervous stutter step at the start of his approach, then hit the first of his three kicks to send the game to overtime tied at 10.
Grasu wasn’t done. He put WSU (2-10, 1-8) up 13-10 in the first overtime hitting from 19 yards after the Cougars had first-and-goal at the 3 but were stopped. Washington’s Ryan Perkins matched Grasu with a 22-yard kick to force a second extra session.
That’s when Perkins missed for the second time in the game. He was wide left from 28 yards with 3:24 left in regulation, then missed wide right from 37 in the second overtime. Perkins lied on his back as Martin Stadium erupted at the possibility of a shocking upset.
After WSU’s offense advanced just five yards, Grasu nailed his 37-yarder right into the Washington cheering section. WSU students frustrated with a season of misery poured on the field while the crestfallen Huskies quietly accepted a 13th consecutive defeat.
In the locker room, the Cougars’ jubilant seniors posed for pictures with the Apple Cup trophy after it was presented by Gov. Chris Gregoire.
“I don’t think I’m going to sleep. I’m so excited,” Grasu said.
This was supposed to be the most rotten of Apple Cups. It was the first time two 10-loss teams had ever faced off in Pac-10 history. The Huskies and Cougars were punch lines for college football pundits.
Washington State’s only other win this season came over Portland State of the Championship Subdivision and the Cougars had been shut out in three of their previous four games.
But as is usually the case with this rivalry, a classic broke out. While it might not be remembered for the highest quality of play, the Cougars and Huskies played a tight game that continued the tradition of the rivalry. Only once in the last 14 matchups has the game been decided by more than 10 points.
“A rival game like this, it hurts bad, and we’re all feeling it,” Washington’s D’Andre Goodwin said.
It was a painful experience for Washington and outgoing coach Tyrone Willingham. The Huskies dominated the line of scrimmage all day, able to bully a team for the first time this season, and seemed set for their first win in more than a year.
But they made crucial mistakes in the fourth quarter, unable to finish a pair of drives inside the WSU 25. Then both Washington kickers—Jared Ballman and Perkins—missed makable kicks. Ballman was wide right from 40 yards, before the first of Perkins’ misses.
“When you feel like you’ve got a game won and you just need one play and you don’t get it done, it’s tough,” Willingham said.
Washington led 10-0 behind the running of Willie Griffin, who finished with a career best 112 yards and a 3-yard touchdown in the first half. Perkins also hit a 35-yarder in the second quarter and the Huskies jogged off the field at halftime taunting the Cougars’ student section with a 10-0 lead.
Washington State finally got its spark late in the third quarter when Logwone Mitz sprinted 57 yards for a touchdown just as Cougars fans finally started refilling the stands after heading to the parking lots at halftime. It was the first time the Cougars scored since the first play of the fourth quarter against Arizona on Nov. 8.
The run gave a confidence boost to the Cougars’ beleaguered offense and it paid off in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“I’m very proud of the players hanging in there and kept fighting to the end,” said Wulff, the Cougars’ first-year coach. “They believed and fought to the end.”