Why This Year’s Apple Cup Will Be Different Than In Past Years (Besides The Obvious Reason)

It was a Saturday night in November. Rain and wind and cold swirled around in equal measure. But the University of Washington Huskies were finally, finally taking the field at Montlake for their first game of the year, sans fans. 

With new head coach Jimmy Lake and many new players, viewers at home were unsure what to expect.

The Huskies received the ball first, starting at their own 25 yard line. After a series of dink and dunk plays, including three first downs, the Huskies found themselves on fourth down at the Oregon State 40 yard line. The punt team came out.

And then the Huskies long snapper sailed the ball clear over the head of punter Race Porter. Porter valiantly chased the caroming ball almost all the way back to his own endzone, with a pack of bloodthirsty Beavers in hot pursuit.

Porter finally got a hold of the ball and attempted to get off an actual punt, to no avail. Beaver specialist Hamilcar Rashed Jr. blocked the punt and then waltzed into the endzone for a scoop and score.

And just like that, PAC-12 football fans all over the world breathed a sigh of relief. 

Our beloved PAC-12 After Dark, in all its chaos, was truly back in our lives at last.

The Huskies eventually won the game, 27-21, but Oregon State gave them every last bit they could handle.

At the same time on another channel, the Washington State Cougars were giving conference-best Oregon everything they could handle, though Oregon eventually pulled away to a comfortable 43-29 victory.

None of this is what any of us expected during this crazy year, but man did it feel good to have this source of comfort to retreat into. 

And regardless of what happens this weekend when Washington plays Arizona and Washington State plays Stanford, the Apple Cup on Black Friday is setting up to be a potentially very interesting game.

Now, there is historical evidence to suggest that this year’s Apple Cup will be similar to the previous eight, all of which Washington won, and not by small margins.

The last time the Cougs won was an overtime field goal victory in 2012.

But if 2020 has taught us anything, the past is not always an indicator of the future. 

If you wear purple, you are licking your chops over the Cougars porous run defense, which gave up almost 270 yards to Oregon, most of them in the second half. That’s almost the exact same number that Washington rushed for against Oregon State. 

If you wear red on game day, you are taking comfort in chaos. 2020. Pandemic. New Coach. No fans. Hanging with Oregon for a half. You could also hope for some real winter weather to slow down the Huskies, though that hasn’t stopped them in the past. 

If you’re a more objective observer—if such people exist anymore—you’re at least hoping for a competitive game, which doesn’t really describe more recent Apple Cups. You’re hoping for that platonic ideal of the perfect rivalry. A toss up that trades winners every single year. A game with consequences.

At this point, given the way the pandemic is canceling college football games left and right, it will be a minor miracle if we can even make it to Black Friday with both programs relatively intact.

So settle in for a good fight this year, football fans. Who knows, we may be in for a rare treat, a game for the ages, one that will give us something new to talk about—at least until next year.

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About Paul Redman 122 Articles
Paul Redman is a writer and chef in Seattle who grew up in the Midwest. His work has appeared in print and online, including San Francisco magazine, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and Contrary. He eats too many chicken wings and cracks way too many dad jokes and food puns. Follow him on Twitter @predman.