November 16, 2006

Two Go In, One Comes Out

The Apple Cup, like all good rivalry games, cannot be quantified on paper or by expert analysis. Ask the 2001-2003 Cougars, who posted three straight ten-win seasons without once beating the Dawgs. Or the 1994 Huskies, who delivered the "Whammy in Miami" but could not prevail in Pullman.

So as the 99th Apple Cup approaches, two beaten-up programs search for their own respective ways to salvage the season as writers scramble to guess what might really affect the outcome this time. A win, to be sure, would prove huge for both sides, securing a high-note ending to a roller-coaster season and a chance for impassioned seniors to leave with heads high.

Momentum, as usual, will factor, though this year it seems harder than ever to gauge: while the Cougars saw their bowl assurances and national ranking disappear with back-to-back losses to the Arizona schools, the Huskies have lost six straight-each more devastating than the last, including consecutive overtime heartbreakers and last week's trampling by previously-winless Stanford, a team that had not held so much as a lead since Sept. 9-and have watched promise of a 4-1 start and a program turnaround dissolve.

At the forefront of every Apple Cup preview worth its ink or bandwidth stands the convoluted Washington quarterback situation. When the team lost starter Isaiah Stanback, around whom much of the offensive scheme revolved, to a foot injury in the seventh game against Oregon State, fans remained cautiously optimistic, and backup Carl Bonnell led the offense to a 446-yard showing in an overtime loss at California the following week.

But a concussion, shoulder sprain, and thigh bruise have limited Bonnell's time since-offensive coordinator Tim Lappano has suggested that he might sit this week-and third-stringer Johnny DuRocher also suffered a concussion and had to leave the Stanford game.

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