The 2014 Apple Cup is the 107th meeting of Washington (7-5) and Washington State (3-8) with this edition being played at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. For the Huskies, this game is about getting the eighth win and advancing their bowl position; while the Cougars are looking to impress the high number of recruits touring campus this weekend.
Washington State is in the middle of rough, and disappointing season that has seen senior quarterback Connor Halliday go down with a fractured fibula, a near upset of (at the time) No. 2 Oregon, and a pair of crippling special teams plays that cost WSU its homecoming game. The Cougars should be fighting for bowl eligibility in this game but luck, and poor tackling have cost WSU games it should have won. But should have, and should be, are words that don’t mean anything when it comes to the bowl selection process; all that matters is wins and losses.
UW is going to its fifth straight bowl game, and is looking to avoid playing in the Fight Hunger Bowl for the second straight season. Washington has also had issues at the quarterback position, as redshirt sophomore Cyler Miles has struggled to take control of the offense in his first season as the starter. The Huskies struggled in their season opener against Hawaii and only won by one-points in Honolulu; Eastern was UW’s biggest test of its non-conference schedule. Once the Dawgs entered conference play, the team’s weaknesses along the offensive line and in the secondary were exposed (well ok, the secondary was exposed against EWU).
This game is going to hinge on Washington’s ability to put pressure on redshirt freshmen quarterback Luke Falk. Washington will be bringing one of the best defensive lines in the conference, if not the country, across the state. Nose tackle Danny Shelton has 8.5 sacks so far this season, six of those came in his team’s first two games, and consistently dominates the offensive linemen lined up across from him; Shelton is expected to be picked somewhere in the first four rounds of the 2015 NFL draft.
Fortunately for WSU, the Air Raid is designed to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands as quickly as possible. Head coach Mike Leach’s offense is primarily based off of five to seven yard routes, that open up holes in the defense for the quarterback to exploit. Senior wide receiver Vince Mayle will be one of Falk’s top targets during the game; Mayle has rewritten Washington State’s season records for receptions and yards. Falk will look to his freshmen running backs Gerald Wicks and Jamal Morrow for his hot routes, so he can dump the ball off.
Miles has struggled with consistency throughout the season as he has played exceptionally well in some games (Oregon State) and played terrible in others (Stanford). Fortunately for the sophomore quarterback, Washington State’s secondary is one of the weakest in the conference. He should have a solid day passing the ball, if he doesn’t get crunched by the Cougars experienced front seven. As Keith Price found out in 2012:
Miles has struggled throughout the season when he is consistently under pressure, and that’s exactly what the Cougars are going to have to try and generate. It’s going to be interesting to see how Washington offensive line is able to hold up against the WSU pass rush.
WSU 31 – UW 28
More Apple Cup previews
Emerald City Fandom previews the Cougars.
Sports with Neil and friends previews the Huskies.
Game time information
Date and time: November 29th, 2014 at 7:30 pm
Location: Martin Stadium, Pullman, Wash.
TV: Fox Sports 1