Relive the Roses
Nov. 20, 2007
By Jason Krump
To this day, the moment resonates with Steve Gleason.
"I still remember leaving my house, walking to Bohler Gym, and seeing the other guys walking to the gym," he said. "We all wore the same warm-ups. All of a sudden I'd be walking, and coming from the left there would be someone else walking in the same uniform; then someone else. Next thing you know there would be 10 guys walking.
"I remember the feeling of we have the chance to make history. It was a perfect football memory."
The walk's destination was to buses parked outside of Bohler Gym, marking the beginning of the Cougars' journey to Seattle and the Apple Cup.
Sixteen years earlier, another Cougar team was in similar circumstances.
When the 1981 Cougars headed to Seattle for their annual Apple Cup battle with the Huskies, the game carried extra emphasis . . . a Rose Bowl berth to the winner was at stake.
However, done in by six turnovers (three fumbles, three interceptions) the Cougars saw their Rose Bowl dreams denied while Washington punched its ticket to Pasadena with a 23-10 win.
"The one thing I noticed was Washington had played in championship games before and Washington State hadn't," remembers Paul Sorensen, an All-American free safety on the '81 team. "You don't realize how huge a deal that is until you actually play in a game like that and understand how much effort you have to make above and beyond what you normally make.
"They were used to it and we were not," Sorensen continued. "That was the surprise; the intensity tempo and the level and the ferocity of that game went up about four notches. It was something I noticed and wished we could have a do over."
For Mike Walker, a defensive tackle on the 1981 squad, the memories of the 1981 Apple Cup were still fresh in his memory as the 1997 edition approached.
"I kept stressing to the defensive line: `Don't let this happen,'" Walker said. "I brought that up everyday. Those guys were on a mission to prevent that from happening again."
Unlike 1981 where a win guaranteed a Rose Bowl berth, the 1997 Cougars needed a little help from, ironically, UCLA.
Since opening the season with losses to WSU and Tennessee, the Bruins, now ranked seventh (AP) and ninth (ESPN/Coaches) in the country while WSU was 11th in both polls, had run off eight straight wins, the latest a 52-28 disposing of Washington. That loss erased any remaining Rose Bowl hopes for the Huskies.
Entering their Nov. 22 games, WSU and UCLA both had 6-1 conference records, as did Arizona State. For the Cougars to punch their ticket to Pasadena, they could finish in a two-way tie with UCLA or a three-way tie with UCLA and Arizona State. If WSU finished in a two-way tie with Arizona State, the Sun Devils would make a repeat trip to the Rose Bowl as a result of their win over the Cougars earlier in the month.
So if the Cougars beat Washington to improve to 7-1, they needed UCLA to defeat USC and improve its record to 7-1 as well, ensuring the tie. If UCLA lost and the Cougars won, then WSU would have to wait until Nov. 28, when Arizona State hosted Arizona, to find out its fate.
A WSU loss to Washington didn't eliminate the Cougars' Rose Bowl and Pac-10 title hopes, but they would need losses from both UCLA and Arizona State in order for that to be fulfilled.
But losing had become a rare occurrence for the '97 Cougars, and, as their win tally grew each week, so did the media spotlight on them. That spotlight would be even more glaring Apple Cup week.
"I remember showing up at the hotel and there were tons of media," Gleason said. "It was one of the first times I had been surrounding by that much media."
With the ever-increasing attention paid to his team, Mike Price preached to his players not to give the opposition bulletin board material.
In other words, be respectful of your opponents when talking with the media.
And when talking with reporters the Sunday of Apple Cup week, Chris Jackson used the word "respect" several times, but not quite in the context that Price was hoping.
"Last year they didn't show us any respect," Jackson was quoted in several newspapers. "So I don't have an ounce of respect for them. They have some good players but I don't respect them as players or people."
Other Jackson observations included: "I'll be damned if I'm going to let the Huskies get in my way of going to the Rose Bowl," and "we've seen teams that don't have as good an offense as we do put up 40 points on them so we're looking forward to studying them pretty well and going out to put 40, 50 points on them."
And so began Apple Cup week 1997.
"My hand still hurts from slamming it on my desk that Sunday," Mike Price quipped when he recalled his reaction upon learning of his wide receiver's quote.
"I remember all the buzz around Chris Jackson's comments; I couldn't believe it," Gleason recalled. "It was so far from something that I would say. It just made me laugh. I thought he is probably going to be in trouble for that or reprimanded."
He was. A 6 a.m. meeting for Jackson with his head coach was on the agenda that Monday.
"I spoke with the confidence of our team," Jackson recalled. "I didn't mean it to get out that way. I just said look, I know it is a big rival game being the Apple Cup but I just think we've done some things and made some strides this year. I think if we put together a game that we're capable of putting up I can see us putting up 40 points on these guys.
"That was my quote, I didn't say we were going to guarantee this," Jackson added. "Coach Price went off on me and said what he said. It was forgotten about when I left that meeting room."
In Friday's team meeting, the day before the game, Jackson did an impersonation of Price in a reenactment of Monday's scene. It was just an example, in Price's view, of the relaxed state of mind of his players, although he wasn't necessarily.
"As a coach, I wasn't really relaxed, but I tried not to show the team I was really uptight," Price said.
"The team meeting the night before was hilarious," added Price. "They were super, super confident."
"I felt a pretty strong sense of calm," Gleason said. "I felt a lot of confidence going into that game."
They were confident in spite of history. Since Price became head coach in 1989, the Cougars had not won a November road game, a span of 13 contests with the last defeat occurring three weeks earlier, Nov. 1, at Arizona State.
In addition, WSU had not won at Husky Stadium since 1985, a span of five games. UW also held a 57-26-6 advantage in the series and had won the last two, including the 1996 overtime thriller in Pullman. So, in spite of WSU's superior record and ranking (the 9-1 Cougars were ranked 11th while the No. 17 Huskies were 7-3) it was this information that seemed to hold more sway, as the Cougars were made six-point underdogs.
But the Cougars had beaten history before, as evidenced by the win over USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum. It was their intention to do so once again in Seattle.
Relive the Roses
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