No. 4 Washington insists focus is solely on Wazzu
After clinching a spot in the Pacific-12 Conference championship game with a 22-20 victory at then-No. 11 Oregon State last week, Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was asked whether the Huskies might overlook this week’s Apple Cup to focus on the title game.
Penix was incredulous.
“It’s the Apple Cup. What you mean? We can’t lose that,” Penix said. “That’s one of the biggest games for Husky Nation, with the whole tradition and everything. We’re not looking over that. We’re going to be ready for it.
“Yeah, man, it’s exciting to know we’ll be in the (Pac-12) championship. But there’s still work to be done. Like I said, man, if you’re not excited for the Apple Cup, then you’re in the wrong spot.”
While the Saturday game in Seattle will be the last meeting between the rivals as members of the Pac-12 — No. 4 Washington is among four conference schools leaving for the Big Ten next season — it was announced earlier in the week that the Apple Cup will continue, as the schools agreed to a five-year deal to continue playing.
“We should never have to get to this point where we have to schedule out-of-conference games (against Washington),” Washington State coach Jake Dickert said. “I understand both sides of the reaction. I do. But when I step back, and I look at a 360-degree view, we’ve been playing for over 100 years, and that needs to continue.
“I think any time you have an issue that people have an emotional reaction to, that means they’re bought into it, whatever side of the coin you’re on, right? I see it both ways. I do. But at the end of the day, we’re playing for the Apple Cup. That means something to every person that wears the Coug, every man that has been in our locker room, it’s very important to him. So everyone tunes in to watch the game.”
The Huskies (11-0, 8-0 Pac-12), who moved up to No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings this week, are paced by Heisman hopeful Penix, who leads the nation with 3,695 passing yards. Rome Odunze ranks fifth nationally with 1,206 receiving yards, and Dillon Johnson, who is hopeful to play after sustaining a foot injury last week, has rushed for 879 yards and scored 11 TDs.
The Cougars (5-6, 2-6) snapped a six-game losing streak with a 56-14 victory against visiting Colorado last week. Washington State would become bowl eligible with a victory against Washington.
Cameron Ward threw for 288 yards and accounted for four touchdowns vs. the Buffaloes, and Brennan Jackson returned fumbles 48 and 78 yards for scores. Nakia Watson ran for a season-high 47 yards on eight carries.
“He was (almost) an 800-yard running back last season and we haven’t been able to get him to that point for a variety of different reasons,” Dickert said of Watson. “To see him go out on Senior Night and perform the way we always felt like he was capable of playing is important. You would love to see that more, and I want to see that again this week because we’re going to need it.”
–Field Level Media