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Cougs need a miracle to pull off an Apple Cup upset

By Jim Moore

I'm trying to figure out what the chances are of Washington State winning the Apple Cup game or at least covering the 12-point spread.

Before the season started, I would have said there's a really good chance. But if you asked me right after the 46-7 loss to Arizona State last Saturday, I would have said there's no chance at all.

Now that I'm a few days removed from that desert debacle, I feel like it's something in between – anything from a decent chance to a glimmer of a chance to a ... OK, who am I kidding?

Raise your hand if you think the Cougars can win. All right, I see that one hand over there. Explain why.

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WSU has lost eight straight games, the last three by a combined 90 points. (AP)
Let me guess –

• The Cougs are at home, which improves their chances.
• The Cougs, if they play like they did against Stanford for the entire game and like they did in the second half against UCLA, can beat the Dawgs.
• It's a rivalry game, throw out the records.
• And, and, and ...

I can't think of anything else either.

Now then, a show of hands from those who think the Cougars will lose a close one or get shellacked. Wow, I think we've got an overwhelming majority here.

Let me guess again –

You've seen the Cougs all season. You've seen them give us snifters of hope against Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford. But you've also seen them get blown out by Utah and Arizona State in the last few weeks.

Sandwiched between those two horrible games, you saw the first half of the UCLA game in which the Cougs had four kicks blocked and trailed 37-7 at the break.

You also saw them lose to the supposedly worst team in the country when Colorado rallied from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to win 35-34.

And you know that the Cougs are more than likely fractured in the locker room. Some of the players – hopefully most – have fully bought in to the Mike Leach regime. Others have not. I'm no Dr. Phil, but I'm guessing this has been a factor in the Cougs' lackluster season.

You realize the Cougs have lost eight games in a row while the Huskies have won four in a row. I think that's the definition of two teams going in opposite directions.

Personally, I've never been this disillusioned about what's going on with my favorite football team. However this turns out in years to come, there's just no way we should be this bad now, not 2-9 bad.

I've also never felt such little hope for the Cougs entering the Apple Cup. The team I've seen the last few weeks isn't awful; it's gawd-awful.

If you ask me: "Wait a minute, what about that second half against UCLA?"

I'll say: "I don't want to hear about belated comebacks from 30-point deficits anymore, OK?"

The reason I think we're gawd-awful has more to do with the emotional and mental state of the Cougs than the talent level. We'd be 5-6 or maybe even 6-5 if all of the players were on board with Leach, but they're not so we're not.

I don't sense that we'll suddenly turn in a magical 60-minute performance in front of what could be a record-low crowd for an Apple Cup. I hope that's not the case, but think about it – the game's on the day after Thanksgiving, the weather's terrible, the Cougs are terrible and the students are on a week-long break.

But I'm going to the game. We'll be leaving the Renton Highlands Thursday morning in what amounts to a traveling circus with my wife, my Uncle Rick, my 8-year-old twins and my golden retriever.

My wife will be mocking the Cougs before we get to North Bend; Uncle Rick will be laughing in the back seat; Mikey and Stevie will be fighting about something stupid before we get to Ellensburg; and Willie will be panting, fogging up the windows, wanting us to stop so he can chase a tennis ball.

I'll be driving, wondering why I'm spending close to $1,000 to watch the Cougs lose again.

But here's the thing: what if we win? What if the crimson-and-gray longshot comes in? What if Jeff Tuel shines in his final game and leads us to the upset? What if the defense plays like it did against Oregon State and bottles up Teeth and The Traitor, Keith Price and Bishop Sankey?

And what if Andrew Furney hits the game-winning field goal as time expires, causing us to storm the field in celebration?

Remember, too, that Leach has promised to show up and buy drinks at Valhalla if the Cougs win. What a scene that would be.

Imagine all of that. I have. Over and over again. Fantasy, meet reality.

Go Cougs. Kick-off at 12:30 p.m.

Cougs 27, Dawgs 24

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