Seniors finally savor sweetness of apples

3 TDs for Winston

THIS ONE WAS for the seniors. The players who, in their first three years, had never seen an Apple Cup victory. The class that almost closed out its final season in crimson and gray without a single conference win. Saturday's 31-28 overtime thriller against Washington was both engineered by and for Jeff Tuel and Co., a group that simply refused to give up.

"We dedicate this win to our seniors," said coach Mike Leach in a postgame radio interview. "They've been through a lot."

That started with Tuel.

"We came out ready to go," said the starting quarterback who has seen far more than his fair share of injuries in the last two seasons. "We played with everything that we have."

TUEL ENDED THE SEASON with 5,936 passing yards, the seventh-most in school history. His 531 career completions are also the seventh-most on the university's list. He is also Washington State's career leader in completion percentage at .614 (531/865)

The NCAA has yet to decide whether it will grant the senior quarterback an extra year of eligibility, and Tuel has not decided if he would return if another year is offered.

So on this night, he simply savored the sweet taste of an Apple Cup win.

"To see we can come together and get wins (is) a great finish," he said.

Tuel's performance Saturday was indicative of the change that Saturday brought. He completed 33 of 53 attempts for 350 yards – but not a single touchdown. In a season where the Cougars' running game has been virtually nonexistent, it was a startling but welcome sight to see crimson jerseys streaking into the end zone.

"I couldn't be prouder of the way our players stuck in there the whole time," Leach said.

Freshman wide receiver Dominique Williams, who in his first season with the Cougars got a taste of what the seniors had craved for four years, said in a postgame radio interview that the team was determined to get them one final win.

"We've been behind before," he said of their mindset. "No matter what happens, we'll play our hearts out for our seniors."

And the seniors did the same.

RUNNING BACK Carl Winston said that he had one goal coming into his final game in Martin Stadium.

"I wanted to be remembered for something," he said after the game.

He ended the day with three touchdowns, the most by one Washington State player since Jerome Harrison scored a trio at Oregon State in 2005. It was the first time a Cougar scored three touchdowns in an Apple Cup since Shaumbe Wright-Fair in 1992.

"It was a great game," he said. "Everyone was on the same page. We all did a great job.

"We were getting 6 yards on first down. That's an offensive coordinator's dream."

But Winston's favorite memory came after the game ended, when his mom found him on the field amid the throngs of elated players and fans.

"It was a really emotional moment," he said. "It's a Cougar's dream to win the Apple Cup."

THE COUGARS PLAYED their final game of the season without star BUCK specialist Travis Long, who had started in every game of his four years with the program before being sidelined by a knee injury.

"Before the game, we said, ‘Hey, we're going to win this game and we're going to hand Travis Long this trophy'," sophomore linebacker Logan Mayes said in a postgame interview with The News Tribune.

After the game, they did just that.

Leach praised Long's work ethic, calling him a solid piece of the team's foundation.

"(He has) the mentality that's needed to win and to play this game, so I think he's been a really good example," he said.

Leach said he was thrilled to have the Apple Cup trophy in Pullman.

"We have it for a year," he said. "Now we need to hang onto it."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • The Cougars set a Pac-12 record by throwing 624 passes this season – 52 per game. The record was previously set by Washington, with 621 in 2002. The Cougars also set a school record with 363 pass completions, surpassing their previous mark of 309 in 2007.

  • Andrew Furney's three field goals brings his career total to 31, the fifth-most in school history.'

    The junior said that he had a weird feeling coming into the game.

    "I had yet to have a game winner," he said. "Why not today?"

  • WSU's last overtime victory came against Southern Methodist in 2009, when they won 30-27.

  • Junior Deone Bucannon recorded the first sack of his career and made 11 tackles, his seventh double-digit tackle performance in his career.

  • Dominique Williams recorded his second 100-yard game of his career with 143 receiving yards, a personal record.
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