With just over eight minutes to go in the 2021 Apple Cup, Washington State defensive back Armani Marsh intercepted a pass from Washington quarterback Sam Huard and picked it up to the end for a touchdown. The score and the point that followed put the WSU up from 40 to 13, ensuring its Apple Cup drought, nearly a decade, would come to an end.
This sent Cougar’s strong contingent of fans into a frenzy. I stood – I’m not saying seated because we weren’t seated the whole game – in one of the bigger groups behind the WSU bench. I didn’t pay much attention to the game after Marsh’s score, instead I floated from a person dressed in purple to a person dressed in purple giving out hugs and high fives, and in m ‘ensuring everyone knew the plan was to meet in midfield when the clock hit triple zero.
Being there at that time would never have happened without a change of mind on my part. Less than a week ago, I was telling anyone who asked me that I was skipping the Apple Cup and that I would never be setting foot at Husky Stadium again.
Washington has had long streaks of consecutive wins in the Apple Cup series before, but the seven-game winning streak of 2013-19 was particularly demoralizing. These contests were rarely competitive – UW won each of them in double digits and as a result beat some of the most talented teams in Washington state history.
Like many Coug fans, the nature of this streak killed my enthusiasm for the Apple Cup. Around 2017, I started writing it down as a loss even before the season started. I have considered skipping all Apple Cups in the future, whether they are in Pullman or Seattle. This is especially noteworthy because I am a season ticket holder and attend almost every home game for Wazzu.
The defining moment that influenced my decision to never watch the Apple Cup at Husky Stadium again came during the 2015 reunion. I purchased tickets for the assigned WSU fan section, a series of disconnected rows near the peak of level 300. Fan mixing led to some issues – Husky fans were more than happy to rub the loss in our face, some invading my personal space to inform me of the WSU failure.
It wasn’t an experience I wanted to risk again, so for me at the time, the Husky Stadium Apple Cups were no longer an option. Achieving this level of apathy for the Apple Cup was a stark contrast to previous years, when the rivalry game was among the most important events of my life every year. The passion surrounding the event was gone, replaced by a cold indifference meant to protect against pain.
The 2003 Apple Cup was the first I attended as a Coug. I wasn’t there, instead I was watching it on a dormitory television while visiting a friend from high school at Western Washington University. This game was a disappointment and a sixth straight loss in the series. It was a good taste of the future, but it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the Apple Cup in any way.
The following year, I stood in line most of the night to secure my preferred seat on the rail for the 2004 Apple Cup, the first I attended in person. I had been nervous all week. UW was bad, WSU was not that bad. The Cougs won and we rushed onto the field to celebrate a victory over a 1-10 team. It meant everything.
At the start of my junior year, I wanted to make sure I had the money to buy a student ticket for the Apple Cup in November. I put the $ 25 needed in my room and they stayed there until the tickets went on sale. I have this ticket. WSU won again. We rushed into the field and partied on the W. It’s still one of my favorite college memories.
After that, I attended the 2006 Apple Cup as a student and the 2008 Apple Cup as an alum. One was another disappointment, the other was epic in his combined incompetence. I rushed onto the pitch again after it, a fourth WSU Apple Cup victory in five years. At this point, the game was not only a big deal, but also a source of joy.
What followed was just a Coug win over the next 11 Apple Cups, and that required an 18-point comeback in the fourth quarter. I moved east and wouldn’t attend another in person until this infamous day in 2015.
The WSU’s win over Arizona ahead of the Apple Cup was emotional for many reasons. It was Seniors Day, with one of the most successful and resilient senior classes ever to come to Pullman. It was also a decisive win for bowl eligibility, and it’s still important to get ahead of the Apple Cup. Finally, the low turnout was heartbreaking for a group that I think deserves all the support in the world.
It weighed on me the following days. Then, thanks to a loss for Oregon and a victory for the State of Oregon, the Apple Cup suddenly had stakes for WSU. Sunday, to my surprise, I was seriously considering attending the Apple Cup.
I’ve driven five hours each way to see six of the seven home games this season. This year, more than any other, I felt like I was not just doing this for my own entertainment, but to do my little part in showing my support for the WSU players. They’ve been through more than any group should have gone through: teammate deaths, multiple coach changes, and handling COVID-19 on top of it all.
Despite that, they were in contention for a Pac-12 North title ahead of the Apple Cup. They deserved as much support as possible, especially in enemy territory. I made the decision to go and started contacting friends so that a group could accompany them. If I can make the long drive to Pullman, I thought, then I should suck up and drive the short drive north to Seattle.
Shortly after, I found a group to sit down with and another group to party with. I bought a ticket for a lot more than that 2005 price. I was determined to attend an Apple Cup again at Husky Stadium.
When Apple Cup day arrived, I hopped in my friends’ minibus and headed for pre-game preparations in Eastlake, about a 1.5 mile walk from Husky Stadium. We had lunch, took down pitchers, then grabbed some roadies and headed for the game.
My friends Marnie and Cory had bought some beers especially for a group toast on the University Bridge – Puppies vs. Kittens from E9. We pulled over, took a great photo, and were in the right frame of mind to stroll through the middle of the UW campus and into the purple sea that awaited us.
I wasn’t seated with this pre-game group, couldn’t find a post in their section. So I broke up with them and headed to my seats with some friends I often hang out with at Pullman, just behind the Cougar bench. There were Washington fans, but the top ten were mostly Cougs. At least I knew there would be some like-minded people around me if the game went wrong. My fragile psyche was protected.
Throughout the week, I had grown more and more confident in WSU’s chances of ending their seven-game losing streak in the Apple Cup. So much so that I went from fear of the game to impatience, and Thursday night I was this ball of nerves again.
I felt, when I got to my seat, it was going to be a special night. The Cougs around me expected a win with a reasonable level of caution. With every Cougar score, every Huard interception, and every stadium-priced beer, that level of caution slowly wore off.
By the fourth quarter, the Cougar section behind the bench had grown and the party had started in earnest. My pre-game group came down to join us. Smiles were everywhere, Husky fans became a rare sight. The Cougs extended the lead again, any rational human would expect WSU to win at this point, but that Marsh score was really when Coug fans went wild.
Before that moment, I felt my passion for the Apple Cup come back. I’ve seen the Cougs win by dominating fashion several times, but this one was different. The Cougs were banging around Washington at Husky Stadium, and I felt an unhindered bliss that I wanted to share with every crimson person around me.
Then, like in 2005, we rushed to the grass at Husky Stadium to celebrate. I thanked all the players I met from the bottom of my heart. We danced on the W, then we had WSU Creamery Smoky Cheddar on the W. The Apple Cup was once again a source of joy.
With this feeling, I can for now let go of my cold indifference to the Apple Cup. It will be an important event for me again. I remember now that sometimes that can be good and Laura’s Jayden plants a Wazzu flag at Husky Stadium, and that’s not a guaranteed sinkhole. All it took was an amazing day, and I’m hooked again. The Apple Cup is back.