It had been 67 years since the Washington State Cougars made an appearance in the Rose Bowl. After a close, physical game against the Washington Huskies during the Nov. 22, 1997 Apple Cup, Washington State came out victorious with a 41-35 win. This gave the Cougars a share of the Pacific-10 Conference football championship for the first time since the 1930 season. In front of a sellout crowd of 74,268, Ryan Leaf passed for 358 yards and three touchdowns to beat the Huskies and help the Cougars improve their record to 10-1.
Freshman Lamont Thompson picked off three Washington passes making and this Apple Cup win was Washington State's first in Husky Stadium since 1985 and the team's second in the last four years overall. The Cougars' 10 wins tied the 1929 squad for most by a Washington State team in a single season.
The Huskies jumped out to an early 7-0 lead by driving 71 yards on their first possession, but the Cougars answered back when Michael Black busted loose on an eight-yard run for Washington State's opening score.
Leaf tossed a pair of scoring passes to senior Chris Jackson, who had a career day with eight catches for 185 yards. Jackson's first touchdown reception came on a 57-yard catch and run play that gave the Cougars a 14-7 lead halfway through the second quarter. Washington State went into the half leading 17-7 and then responded to every Washington challenge in the second half. Rob Rainville fell on a Black fumble in the Husky end zone in the third quarter, a score that put Washington State up 24-7. Jackson's second touchdown covered 50 yards and came late in the third quarter. Three touchdowns by Washington in the third quarter brought them within range of the Cougars, but it wasn't enough to take control. Leaf scored from one yard out early in the fourth quarter with a dive into the end zone which secured the Cougars' 41-35 victory.
While the Cougars offense was piling up 520 yards on the nationally-ranked Huskies, the Cougars defense picked off five Brock Huard passes. Huard completed 18 of 36 passes for 283 yards and four scores, but his five interceptions led to Washington State's first 17 points. Thompson, who didn't become a regular until the last three games of the year, was all over the field, making a team-high 12 tackles. Steve Gleason and Todd Nelson backed him up with six stops apiece.
The Cougars ended their season with a 21-16 loss to Michigan, which was crowned national champion after the game.
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