Top 10 Apple Cup games of all time

The Washington Huskies and Washington State Cougars will meet for the 112th time on Friday, Nov. 29 to take part in a Washington state football tradition unlike any other. The stakes aren’t nearly as high in this year’s Apple Cup as they’ve been in recent years. While both teams are still bowl eligible, the game doesn’t carry the weight of a potential Rose Bowl or College Football Playoff berth as it has in the past. But the rivalry remains, and so do the bragging rights at stake. The Dawgs have demoralized the Cougars, winning six straight Apple Cups and nine of the last 10. But the annual clash of purple and crimson seems to typically produce compelling games, regardless of the consequences. Scroll through this list to relive some of the very best Apple Cup thrillers in this storied rivalry.

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112th Apple Cup: By the numbers

Meetings: 111

Record: UW 72-32-6

Current streak: UW 6 (2013-18)

First meeting: Nov. 30, 1900 (5-5 tie)

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Photo by Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times

Nov. 23, 1991: #2 UW 56, WSU 21

Huskies stay perfect

Having already sealed both a Pac-10 title and a trip to the Rose Bowl, the 10-0 Huskies entered the 1991 Apple Cup with their sights set on a national championship.

In a seemingly lopsided matchup, the Cougars gave UW all it could handle -- for a while, at least. Washington’s 7-6 deficit after the first quarter marked just the second time all season the Huskies trailed a team after one quarter. And while WSU sophomore quarterback Drew Bledsoe offered a glimpse of what WSU fans would come to cherish — throwing for 430 yards that day against a stout Huskies defense — it was far from enough to take down the behemoth that Washington had become that season.

Washington quarterbacks Billy Joe Hobert and Mark Brunell combined for four touchdown passes on the day, while a late interception by UW safety Tommie Smith delivered the dagger to Washington State and its upset bid. Don James’ Huskies would go on to complete their unblemished 12-0 season en route to their second national title with a convincing 34-14 Rose Bowl victory over Michigan.

» Huskies 1991 flashback: Tommie Smith’s interception in Apple Cup seals big win

Photo by Rod Mar / The Seattle Times

Nov. 23, 2012: WSU 31, UW 28 (OT)

Comeback Cougs

In Mike Leach's first Apple Cup, the Cougars trailed 28-10 in the fourth quarter, seemingly destined for a disappointing 2-10 season. But, as we all know, crazy things can happen when these teams get together.

Staring an 18-point deficit squarely in the face, the Cougars didn't blink. Senior quarterback Jeff Tuel led two touchdown drives — both capped by Carl Winston rushing scores — and just like that, WSU was within striking distance. After the potential game-winning field goal by UW's Travis Coons sailed wide right, the Cougs forced a turnover in overtime and put the finishing touches on the largest Apple Cup comeback ever.

» Remembering Cougars’ improbable victory in 2012 Apple Cup

Photo by Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times

Nov. 19, 1988: #19 WSU 32, UW 31

WSU holds on

Fresh off a three-game winning streak, including a win over top-ranked UCLA, the No. 19 Cougars entered the Apple Cup riding high. But UW quickly squelched any notions of a WSU blowout, storming out to a 12-point lead by halftime.

The Cougars, however, would not go away quietly on that snowy November day in Pullman. Quarterback Timm Rosenbach and the Cougars' offense came back reinvigorated in the second half, quickly cutting the deficit to two points in the third quarter. Rosenbach completed the comeback in the final quarter, taking the game-winning touchdown into the end zone himself. With just a one-point lead and nine minutes to play, the WSU defense dug in its heels, not allowing another score.

Photo by Harley Soltes / The Seattle Times

Nov. 22, 2003: UW 27, #8 WSU 19

Huskies pull off the upset

Not only did the Huskies take down the No. 8 Cougars in this Apple Cup thriller, the 27-19 win salvaged a 6-6 season for the Huskies — continuing a streak of 27-straight seasons without a losing record. As for WSU, this one stung. The Cougars finished 9-3, but were denied a third-straight 10-win season, suffering a sixth consecutive Apple Cup loss to their cross-state rivals.

The game itself was an all-timer. Trailing 19-14 with four minutes to play, the Huskies battled back behind the arm of Cody Pickett to take a 20-19 lead. With 1:10 left, Pickett iced the game, heaving a 21-yard strike to wide receiver Corey Williams, and moments later elated fans stormed the field, climbing the goal posts to celebrate the upset.

Photo by Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times

Nov. 21, 1981: #17 UW 23, #14 WSU 10

Huskies smelling roses

1981 was a year in which Cougs and Huskies alike yearn to replicate. It was an Apple Cup matchup for the ages, as the Cougs entered the game with an 8-1-1 record and looking to make their first Rose Bowl appearance in 50 years. Meanwhile, the Huskies – fresh off a Rose Bowl appearance of their own – entered the game with a record of 8-2, needing a win and a little help to get back to Pasadena. On that Seattle day, both the Pac-10 title and Rose Bowl were on the line – just like Cougar and Husky fans had always dreamed of.

The game itself didn’t quite live up to the anticipation, at least not until after an unfortunate turn of events for the Cougars in the first half. Leading 7-3, and in complete control, WSU quarterback Clete Casper went down with an injury. After that, Washington took over and never looked back en route to a decisive 23-10 victory in front of a then record 60,052 Husky Stadium crowd.

The win was especially sweet for the Huskies, as the team received help by way of a USC victory over UCLA on that day to help buoy Washington to its second straight trip to Pasadena and third Rose Bowl appearance in just five years. Meanwhile, WSU was left with the bitter sting of defeat, having let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers.

Photo by Barry Wong / The Seattle Times

Nov. 24, 2007: WSU 42, UW 35

Brink downs the Dawgs ... again

The 100th meeting between the two teams also turned into one of the most thrilling. After falling behind 10-0 early, WSU rallied back to take a 28-20 lead in the second half. But QB Jake Locker and the Huskies would not go away, bouncing back for two scores of their own.

With the game knotted at 35-35 in the final minute, WSU QB Alex Brink dropped back for a 35-yard strike to WR Brandon Gibson, delivering the dagger to UW. Brink ended the day with 399 yards and 5 TDs while also securing his third win over UW in four tries — the most ever by a WSU quarterback.

» Cougars score in final minute, win Apple Cup 42-35

Photo by Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times

Nov. 22, 1997: #11 WSU 41, #17 UW 35

A rosy day for the Cougs

The Huskies and Cougars combined for 76 points in one of the highest-scoring Apple Cups in history. While the Huskies entered the game as 8-point favorites, the Cougars looked to be the more determined team throughout, taking a 10-point lead into halftime. And WSU never relinquished it. Despite a couple of comeback efforts by the Huskies, who cut the lead to three points twice, the Ryan Leaf-led Cougs would not be denied. The WSU win ensured the Cougars' first Rose Bowl trip in 67 years, and even Huskies fans took notice of the moment, applauding the Cougars as they celebrated the victory.

"There was no way we were going to lose to them," Leaf said after the game. "There was no way we were going to lose to Washington. We worked too hard."

» Apple Cup history: High-scoring games

Photo by Rod Mar / The Seattle Times

Nov. 23, 2002: UW 29, #3 WSU 26

A call to remember

The Huskies entered this 2002 matchup as huge underdogs against the No. 3 WSU Cougars — an Apple Cup rarity. Despite the odds, UW played inspired football in Seattle, looking to topple its foes to the east. Facing a 17-7 halftime deficit, Cody Pickett and the Huskies stormed back to tie the game in the second half, forcing overtime.

After the teams traded blows and forced a third overtime perioud, the game would be decided on one of the most controversial plays in Apple Cup history. A throw by backup quarterback Matt Kegel — in for the injured Jason Gesser — was intended to be a screen pass but was batted down by UW defensive lineman Kai Ellis. Rather than being ruled an incompletion, referee Gordon Riese swiftly ended the game with a call that will ring in the ears of Huskies and Cougars fans forever:

“The ruling on the field was that it was a backwards pass. Washington recovered that pass, and the game is over.”

» Huskies win wild Apple Cup in Pullman

Photo by Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times

Nov. 22, 1975: UW 28, WSU 27

Moon to Gaines

After a disappointing 5-5 start to the season, Huskies fans were unsettled with the team and first-year coach Don James. Tensions only escalated after the Huskies, who entered the game as double-digit favorites, fell behind the Cougars (3-7) by 13 points late in the game.

The Cougars had the ball and the lead in UW territory when WSU coach Jim Sweeney opted for the knockout punch rather than settling for a field goal that likely would have iced the game. On fourth-and-one from the UW 14-yard line, WSU quarterback John Hopkins threw a pass over the middle that was picked off by UW safety Al Burleson and returned 93 yards for a touchdown.

The Huskies got the ball back with 1:58 to play and needed another touchdown to win. Quarterback Warren Moon heaved a deep pass toward wide receiver Spider Gaines. Two WSU defensive backs couldn’t pick it off and the ball was tipped into the arms of Gaines, who took the ball the rest of the way for a touchdown and a 28-27 UW victory.

Photo by Vic Condiotty / The Seattle Times

Nov. 21, 1992: WSU 42, #5 UW 21

Snow Bowl

If you ever want to make a Coug fan smile, all that is needed is two words: “Snow Bowl."On a blustery winter day in Pullman, and with the reigning national champions from across the state storming into town, Drew Bledsoe and the Cougars pulled out all the stops to make this an Apple Cup for the ages.

Perhaps the most famous pass in WSU history came on a third-quarter connection when Bledsoe found a diving Philip Bobo in the back of the end zone with a 44-yard pass. Bobo slid into a pile of snow underneath the goal posts as Bledsoe pumped his arms in front of the snow-covered Cougars faithful.

Photo by Rod Mar / The Seattle Times

This year: Cougars' viewpoint

The Cougars have enjoyed plenty of success under Mike Leach. They've gone 55-45 in seven seasons with Leach at the helm, earned bowl eligibility in five straight seasons and been a perrenial contender in the Pac-12 North. However, they haven't had success against UW. In 2017, WSU won 9 games, but got demolished, 41-14 in the Apple Cup. Last year, they won 11 games, but still got embarrassed, 28-15, to their cross-state rivals. A win over the Huskies would go a long way toward easing the sting from a down year for WSU.

Photo by Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times

This year: Huskies' viewpoint

It's been an utterly disappointing 6-5 season thus far for UW. The Huskies are 3-5 in Pac-12 play and are their offense is in disarray. Lots of questions will need to be answered after the season, most notably: Will Jacob Eason return? But before that, UW has two orders of business remaining: continue its dominance of Washington State and win a bowl game. UW's season could go from bad to dreadful if they lose to the Cougs and drop a middling bowl game.

Photo by Young Kwak / AP