Cougars hope Apple Cup is step forward into 2013


Cougars hope Apple Cup is step forward into 2013

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) In the midst of his biggest win since returning to coaching, Mike Leach was matter of fact about moving ahead.

``The offseason starts on Monday,'' Leach said minutes after getting swarmed, pushed, grabbed and revered by crimson-and-gray-clad fans storming the field.

At least now, thanks to Washington State pulling off the biggest comeback in the 105 meetings with rival Washington, Leach has a benchmark victory to build on as he tries to put behind him a rocky first season on the Palouse.

The belief before the season was Leach would to do exactly what he did at Texas Tech and immediately bring success to Washington State. But the demands of accountability and work ethic from Leach and his staff led to player dissent, and in the case of former star wide receiver Marquess Wilson, claims of abuse by coaches.

In part because of Leach's past, Wilson's claims led to investigations by both the Pac-12 and Washington State, the results of which are expected to be released soon. And it became one more distraction in a season already rife with them because of the Cougars' inconsistent play.

There was the fourth-quarter meltdown against Colorado; the blowout losses to Utah and Arizona State; the near misses against Stanford and UCLA; and finally the upset of Washington. Throw in the unwanted attention from Wilson's claims and not meeting those outside expectations and it's been a trying year for both Leach and his players, but one that was capped with an unlikely win thanks to an 18-point fourth quarter rally that added another chapter in Apple Cup lore.

``What I think we need to learn from this is some of this is easier than we've been making it,'' Leach said. ``It's really just hanging together and everyone doing their part. Not trying to make too much happen. Everybody do their job, make a routine play and stick in there and do it for 60 minutes.''

Washington State was able to pull off the remarkable comeback thanks to gutty plays by quarterback Jeff Tuel and a defense that was underappreciated at times this season because most of the focus was on an offense that failed to live up to its billing. The Cougars sacked Washington quarterback Keith Price twice and forced him into his worst throw of the day on the first play of overtime.

Logan Mayes, the son of former Washington State star running back Rueben Mayes, got the call to fill in for injured starter Travis Long. On the first play of overtime, Mayes ran a stunt and was able to get his hand on Price, pulling him back toward the ground. Price was able to get off a desperation heave, but it fell into the arms of Cougars defensive tackle Kalafitoni Pole, who nearly ended the game returning it for a touchdown.

The turnover set up the Cougars for Andrew Furney's game-winning 27-yard field goal on their overtime possession that set off a wild celebration.

``I just remember as a kid being so heartbroken when we lost these games,'' Mayes said. ``Right when we one I thought there is some little kid up there who is going to be happy for the next three days because they won the Apple Cup. ... That just felt really good to me.''

The feeling across the state was far different and the collapse left an incomplete taste to the Huskies' regular season that was supposed to be a launching point for 2013.

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian won't be able show progression of regular season improvement from year-to-year. The Huskies won seven games for the second straight season and beat a pair of top 10 teams, but two midseason blowouts versus Oregon and Arizona, combined with a loss to their rival to end the season might overshadow it all.

Washington can still reach eight victories with a bowl victory. But it may not resonate the same way and it could come in a lower-tier bowl thanks to the loss to the Cougars.

``We're lucky we don't play in seven days and we have a little more time to start the healing process and figure out where we're going to play our bowl game,'' Sarkisian said.

While Washington's defense progressed under first-year coordinator Justin Wilcox, there remains concern about Price. For most of the season he looked nothing like the quarterback that was a longshot Heisman candidate before the season began after throwing 33 touchdown passes as a sophomore.

He came around toward the end of the season, but made two costly mistakes in the Apple Cup. Washington had one scoring drive longer than 20 yards and its 269 yards of offense were the lowest of the season, excluding a blowout loss at LSU.

``We just couldn't get in a rhythm and we didn't execute late in the game like we usually do,'' Price said. ``We had a few three-and-outs, we had penalties and we didn't play consistent. That cost us the game.''

Quick Links

10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

USA Today Sports

10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

8) Want better offense? Get more out of the tight ends 

7) Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

6) After losing Reuben Foster, how's the Redskins LB situation?

5) Will potential match production for Redskins WRs?

When a team picks in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft, folks around the NFL expect that player to become a Pro Bowler. For Washington, that exact scenario unfolded with right guard Brandon Scherff. 


Selected fifth overall in 2015, the Redskins took Scherff to play right tackle and anchor the offensive line opposite Trent Williams. That idea quickly faded, helped by the emergence of Morgan Moses, and Scherff moved inside to play guard. For four years, it's worked out great, with Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017. 

Scherff is a mauler in the best sense of the word. He has great footwork and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has called the former Iowa Hawkeye the best pulling guard in the NFL. Scherff is strong and nasty, words that won't win beauty pageants but absolutely win in the trenches of the NFL. 

Considering all of that, a contract extension for Scherff should be easy. Right?


Currently in the final year of his rookie deal, multiple reports stretching over the last six weeks indicate that the organization is way off in their extension offers to Scherff. He might not command the biggest contract in the league, but he will get paid like a top three guard. In 2019, that means a lot of money.

Cowboys guard Zach Martin makes $14 million a year. Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell makes $13.3 million a year. Scherff might not get to Martin's salary, but he will probably get to Norwell, whether Washington pays it or not.

That means the Redskins need to pony up the cash now because as each day passes, the team is approaching an ugly set of options. Scherff and his representatives might continue to negotiate during the season, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Once free agency becomes in view, players tend to wait for it. Just ask Kirk Cousins. 

In fact, the situation between Scherff and the Redskins has some resemblance to the Cousins saga from a few years ago. 

In that case, Washington low-balled their homegrown quarterback in their first set of negotiations. From there, things went sideways, and the team used consecutive franchise tags on Cousins before he finally left via free agency. 

If the Redskins can't get a deal done with Scherff, the team could use a franchise tag in 2020. But that's a dangerous game of roulette. 

The time to get a deal done with Scherff is now, if not last month. Redskins team president has said in the past that deadlines drive deals, but with Scherff, there is no exact deadline. He can decide to stop working on a contract extension at any moment, particularly once the pads come on at training camp. 

The Trent Williams holdout might be complicating things a bit, if Williams only wants more cash and the issue isn't about much more than that. The truth is a Scherff extension would actually free up cap space in the short term, as his signing bonus would be spread out over the life of the contract, and some of that salary cap relief could go to Williams right away. 

Williams' status isn't the hold up between Scherff and the Redskins. Whatever is the actual holdup best be resolved soon. or the Redskins are beginning down an all too familiar franchise path.


Quick Links

Sánchez and Adams lead Nationals in crucial win over Braves

USA Today

Sánchez and Adams lead Nationals in crucial win over Braves

ATLANTA—Anibal Sanchez outpitched Mike Soroka and scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning, Matt Adams homered and the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 5-3 on Saturday night.

Second-place Washington pulled within 5 games of the NL East-leading Braves, improving to 33-14 since May 24, best in the majors over that span. Atlanta has dropped four of five.

Sanchez (6-6) got a big assist in the bottom of the fifth when shortstop Trea Turner turned a bases-loaded double play, leaping to nab Nick Markakis' liner and throwing to first to beat Josh Donaldson back to the bag.

Soroka (10-2) allowed four runs and nine hits in six innings. He had won 10 straight decisions, best by an Atlanta pitcher since Hall of Famer Greg Maddux had a 10-decision streak in 2001.

Sean Doolittle got the last five outs, facing the minimum, for his 21st save in 25 chances. He struck out Ronald Acuna Jr. with a runner at second to end the eighth and breezed through the ninth.

Washington went up 4-1 in the fifth when Sanchez reached on an infield single to third, took second on Donaldson's throwing error and scored on Turner's double. Turner took third on Adam Eaton's single and scored on Anthony Rendon's single. Eaton scored on Juan Soto's single.

The Nationals took a 5-3 lead in the eighth off A.J. Minter as Turner singled, stole second and scored on Eaton's single.

Adams went deep for the 15th time, an opposite-field homer that bounced off the top of the wall in left-center and into the stands to tie it at 1-all in the fourth.

Sanchez, who pitched for the Braves last year and helped them win the division, allowed three runs and six hits and has a 2.70 ERA in his last nine starts.

Atlanta led 1-0 in the first when Acuna reached on an infield single, stole second base, advanced on a flyout and scored on Freddie Freeman's single.

Brian McCann's ninth homer, a two-run shot in the sixth, chased Sanchez and cut the lead to 4-3.



NBC Sports Washington's Michael Stearman contributed to this Associated Press story.