With just over eight minutes left in the 2021 Apple Cup, Washington State defensive linebacker Armani Marsh intercepted an inverted pass from Washington quarterback Sam Howard and turned it back for the touchdown. The score and the point that followed after WSU raised 40-13, ensuring that the Apple Cup drought, approaching a decade, would be over.
This sparked a frenzy among the powerful cougar fans. I stood – I don’t say sat because we didn’t sit the whole game – in one of the larger groups behind the WSU bench. I didn’t pay much attention to the game after Marsh’s score, instead, I floated from a crimson-clad to a crimson-hugging five-year-old making sure everyone knew the plan was to meet in midfield when the clock hit Triple zeros.
My being there in that moment would never have happened had it not been for a change of heart on my part. Less than a week ago, I was telling everyone who asked that I was going to skip the Apple Cup and that I would never set foot in Husky Stadium again.
Washington has had a long winning streak in the Apple Cup series before, but the seven straight wins from 2013-2019 have been particularly frustrating. Those contests have rarely been competitive—UW has won each one by double digits, in the process beating 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. At some point in 2017, she started writing it off as a loss before the season even started. I thought about skipping all the Apple Cups going forward, whether it was in Pullman or Seattle. This is especially noteworthy as I am a season ticket holder who attends nearly every home match of Wazzu.
The defining moment that influenced my decision to never watch the Apple Cup at Husky Stadium again came at the 2015 meeting. I bought tickets for the dedicated WSU fan section – a series of disconnected rows near the top 300. Mixing up fans led to some issues – Husky fans were more Who are happy to rub the loss in our faces, as some invaded my personal space telling me WSU had failed.
It wasn’t an experience I’d care to risk again, so for me at the time, Husky Stadium Apple cups were no longer an option. Reaching this level of indifference in the Apple Cup was in stark contrast to previous years when the competitive game was among the most important events of my life each year. The passion that surrounded the event was gone, replaced by a cold indifference aimed at shielding from pain.
The 2003 Apple Cup was my first as Coug. I wasn’t there, instead watching it on TV in the bedroom while visiting a high school friend at Western Washington University. It was a disappointing match and a sixth straight loss in the series. It was a fitting taste of the future, but it didn’t do anything to dampen my enthusiasm for the Apple Cup.
The following year, I waited in line almost all night to secure my favorite seat on the rail for the 2004 Apple Cup, the first time I attended in person. I’ve been a ball of nerves all week. UW was bad, WSU wasn’t that bad. The Cogs won and we rushed onto the field to celebrate a 1-10 win over the team. He meant everything.
At the beginning of my junior year, I wanted to make sure I had the money to buy a student ticket to the Apple Cup in November. I paid the necessary $25 in my bedroom and stayed there until tickets went on sale. I got that ticket. WSU won again. We rushed to the field and took part in the W. It is still one of my favorite college memories.
After that, she attended the 2006 Apple Cup as a student and the 2008 Apple Cup as a graduate. One was another disappointment, one of which was epic in their combined incompetence. I rushed onto the field again after winning the WSU Apple Cup for the fourth time in five years. At that point, the game wasn’t just a huge problem but a source of delight as well.
What followed was just one Coug’s win over the next 11 Apple Cups – and that required an 18-point return in the fourth quarter. I moved east and won’t bring someone else until the infamous 2015 day.
WSU’s victory over Arizona in the Apple Cup was an emotional win for many reasons. It was graduation day, with one of the most successful and resilient classes ever through Pullman. It was also a victory for eligibility, which is always important to achieve before the Apple Cup. Finally, the sparse attendance was heartbreaking to see a group that I feel deserves all the support in the world.
It strained my mind the following days. Then, thanks to an Oregon State loss and an Oregon State win, the Apple Cup suddenly had stakes in WSU. By Sunday, to my surprise, I was seriously considering attending the Apple Cup.
I drove five hours each way to attend six of the Seven Homes Games this season. This year, more than any other year, I felt like I wasn’t doing it just for my own entertainment, but to do my small part in showing support to the WSU players. They’ve been through more than any group should go through – the deaths of their teammates, multiple training changes, dealing with COVID-19 on top of all that.
Despite this, they were in contention for the Pac-12 North title heading into the Apple Cup. They deserved as much support as possible, especially in enemy territory. I made the decision to go and started reaching out to friends for a group to tag along with. If I can make the long trip to Pullman, I thought, I should suck it up and head the short drive north to Seattle.
Soon I found a group to sit with and another group to celebrate with. I bought a ticket for more than the 2005 price. I was committed to attending the Apple Cup at Husky Stadium again.
When Apple Cup day arrived, I hopped on a minibus for my friends and we headed off to do some prep in Eastlake, about a 1.5-mile walk from Husky Stadium. We had lunch, removed the jugs, then grabbed some ways and headed to the match.
My friends Marnie and Cory bought some beers specifically for the Toast group on the University Bridge – E9 Puppies Against Cats. We stopped, got a great picture, and were in the right state of mind to wander into the middle of the University of Washington campus and into the purple sea that lay ahead.
I wasn’t seated with the pre-game group – I couldn’t find a ticket in their section. So I broke up with them and was taken to my seat by my friends whom I often have in the Pullman, right behind the cougar seat. There were Washington fans, but the top ten or so ranks were mainly Cougs. At least I knew there would be like-minded people around me if the game went badly. My fragile psyche was protected.
Over the course of the week, I became increasingly confident in WSU’s chances of ending its seven-game losing streak in the Apple Cup. So much so that I went from fearing the game to looking forward to it, and by Thursday night I was again that ball of nerves.
There was a feeling when I got to my seat that it was going to be a special night. The Cogs around me were expecting a win with a reasonable level of caution. With every Cougar score, every interception from Howard, and every pitch-priced beer, that level of caution slowly faded away.
By the fourth quarter, the cougar division behind the bench had grown and the party was getting started in earnest. My previous group moved to join us. Smiles were everywhere, and Husky fans became a rare sight. The Cougs extended the lead again, any rational human being would expect WSU to win at that point — but Marsh’s score really was when Coug fans fired the loss.
Before that moment, I felt my passion for the return of the Apple Cup. I’ve seen Cougs win dominant fashion a few times, but this felt different. The Cogs were beating in Washington at Husky Stadium, and I felt an unquenchable happiness that I wanted to share with everyone in Crimson around me.
Then, as in 2005, we ran to Husky Stadium to celebrate. I thank every player I saw. We danced to W, and then had WSU Creamery Smoky Cheddar on W. The apple cup again is a source of joy.
Thanks to this feeling, I can shake off my cold indifference to the Apple Cup for the time being. It will be an important event for me again. Now I remember that sometimes it can be a good thing, and Jayden de Laura plants the Wazzu flag at Husky’s court, which isn’t a foolproof pit of desperation. All it took was one great day, and I’m hooked again. The apple cup is back.