3:15 PM ET, November 19, 2005
SEATTLE (AP) -- The Washington State Cougars had heard it all season. Across the Pac-10. Across the state. Heck, even across their own campus.
"They're Coug-in' it again."
Through five losses by four points or less -- after blowing leads in bitter defeats to nationally ranked UCLA and Oregon, and to California and Oregon State -- they kept "Coug-in' it," which is crimson and gray for "choking late in games."
But Saturday, Washington State didn't "Coug" away the Apple Cup.
Instead Brandon Harvey, who earlier had fumbled a punt to help rival Washington take the lead for the first time, caught a 1 yard pass from Alex Brink and ran 38 yards for the winning score with 1:20 remaining to propel Washington State to a 26-22 win over the stunned Huskies.
Harvey, making just his fifth start in three years, scored his first touchdown of the season in his final collegiate game. He needed a key cut block from fellow receiver Greg Prator, who had earlier scored his own touchdown.
"It was almost an out-of-body experience," Harvey said. "There was nobody by me. I was so shocked. Then I just kept on going.
"The only reason I knew to stop running was because I almost went into the band."
National rushing leader Jerome Harrison hardly stopped en route to 207 yards on 36 carries. He was a big reason why the Cougars (4-7, 1-7 Pac-10) won their second straight over the Huskies (2-9, 1-7) after six consecutive Apple Cup losses.
The thrilling finish capped a wild final 31 minutes with four lead changes. It also ended a seven-game Washington State losing streak -- and provided vindication for a team that had grown tired of "Coug-in' it" jokes.
"We WON!" senior linebacker Will Derting bellowed with his arms raised afterward.
"Sorry," he said. "A little excited.
"It makes up for the whole season," the co-captain said. "I won't remember anything from this senior season in games, except this one."
It was the Cougars first Apple Cup win in Seattle since 1997, when Ryan Leaf led them through the Huskies to the Rose Bowl.
There will be no bowl of any kind for the Cougars this season, though. They finished with their worst conference record since 1999.
Yet the raucous, stomping player celebration on Washington's midfield "W" logo gave no hint of that.
The Cougs' dancing led some Washington players to charge out and confront them, namely senior center Brad Vanneman. A few, brief shoving matches occurred within the mass of 100-plus players.
So ended Washington coach Tyrone Willingham's debut season, which was actually better than last season's school-worst mark of 1-10 overall and 0-8 in the conference.
"A tremendous letdown," is what Willingham called the finish, after the Huskies had taken a 22-19 lead with 14:50 left on a three-yard run by tailback James Sims.
As for his players' response to the Cougars' celebration, disciplinarian Willingham said he was "very disappointed to the point of being embarrassed."
In the huddle before the decisive play, Harvey, a senior, had told classmate Prator to block what turned out to be Washington's only outside defender, cornerback Josh Okoebor. When quarterback Brink saw Okoebor and the Huskies late getting into defensive position, he quickly called for the snap and threw immediately to Harvey, who caught the ball while still near the line of scrimmage.
Prator then dutifully took down Okoebor, and Harvey had his uncontested march to the Cougar band.
"Yeah, this does make everything better," Prator said. "There's no better way to go out than this."
Harrison finished the season with a school-record 1,900 yards rushing. He extended his own Pac-10 record with his 14th straight 100-yard game by halftime, but his team led only 13-7.
But Washington wasn't taking advantage.
One week after rolling for a season-high 490 yards in a startling win at Arizona, the Husky offense repeatedly missed opportunities through the first 2½ quarters. Quarterback Isaiah Stanback twice overthrew wide-open receiver Anthony Russo on potential touchdown passes. When Russo dropped a third-down pass to begin the second half, the usually unflappable Willingham punched the air in disgust.
But then, on the next play, Washington finally found an opportunity to seize.
Harvey muffed a low Washington punt. The ball bounded to Husky J.R. Wolfork at the Cougars 35. Seven plays later, Stanback lofted a 16-yard scoring pass to Chris Chambers. Washington had its first lead, 14-13, with 7:41 remaining in the third quarter.
Washington State recaptured the lead, 19-14, less than five minutes later on a 10-yard Harrison run. But Stanback then completed three straight passes for 61 yards to set up the Sims score.
That, in turn, set up the Cougars' answer to "Coug-in' it" yet again.
"Yeah, we had tough losses, and we put that on ourselves," Brink said. "But we believed in each other."