PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Getting to eight victories was supposed to be Washington's steppingstone. Proof that they had recovered from a midseason stretch of three bad losses and continued on the path of yearly, incremental improvement under Steve Sarkisian.
That path took a surprising detour Friday when Washington was waylaid in the largest collapse in the 105 matchups of the Apple Cup.
"Hurt. Devastated. Especially when you expect to win," Washington quarterback Keith Price said. "We thought we were going to pull away from them when it was 28-10. The offense didn't execute the way we needed."
Andrew Furney kicked a 27-yard field goal on Washington State's first possession of overtime, and the Cougars overcame an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter to stun rival Washington 31-28 in the Apple Cup, snapping an eight-game losing streak.
In a rivalry known for unpredictability, the 2012 version will rank among the tops in Apple Cup lore. Washington (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) led 28-10 after Bishop Sankey's second touchdown run late in the third quarter, but the Huskies wilted under a siege of self-inflicted mistakes with turnovers and penalties coming back in favor of the Cougars (3-9, 1-8).
Price committed two turnovers in the fourth quarter and overtime, his interception on the first play of the extra session nearly getting returned for a touchdown. The Huskies were flagged for a school-record tying 18 penalties, including eight that directly gave Washington State a first down.
The 18-point rally was the largest ever overcome in the Apple Cup to win. For Washington State, it was its biggest fourth-quarter rally since 1985 and a bright moment in an otherwise unattractive first season with Mike Leach in charge in Pullman.
And it left the Huskies stunned, angry and confused as to how it all got away.
"This one is going to sting, I'll be honest with you," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. "You have a loss like this, in a game like this, in a rivalry game, this one sting and will hurt for more than a day quite honestly."
In spite of giving up the 18-point lead, the Huskies still had a chance in the closing seconds to win a fourth straight Apple Cup and close the season with five wins in a row. Price put together one of his best drives of the game and got the Huskies to the Washington State 15 where they faced third-and-1 with 47 seconds left. The Huskies rushed to the line and Price was able with a hard-count to get a Cougars' defensive lineman to jump offside. But the flag went against the Huskies, backing them up 5 yards and when Sankey wasn't able to get the first down, Washington lined up for a 35-yard field goal with 5 seconds left.
"We were trying to draw them offsides, we did and they called a penalty on me," Price said. "Yeah, that's the way we've been practicing it. I guess the ref made his decision and decided to throw the flag. It was kind of out of my control."
The penalty was just a precursor of what was to come. Travis Coons' 35-yard field goal attempt on the final play of regulation never had a chance after a poor snap and stayed out to the right.
Then on the first play of overtime, Price was pressured and tried to throw for Sankey, but the pass landed in the arms of Kalafitoni Pole. The big defensive lineman tried to end the game with the interception return, but was caught at the 5 by Cody Bruns.
Because Pole didn't score, Washington State took possession at the 25 and on third-and-4, Washington State QB Jeff Tuel found Brett Bartolone for 10 yards to the 9 and Mike Leach decided to end it there. Furney lined up and the kick was true, giving the Cougars their first win over their rivals since 2008 and setting off a sea of crimson and gray rushing the field.
"It's upsetting, you go out there and you work hard all week, and it doesn't really matter if it's Wazzu or anyone else," Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins said. "When you go out there, expect to win, you play really hard and you have the lead in the fourth quarter, it's pretty frustrating when that happens."
Washington was on the verge of putting away the Cougars, much the way it did with Utah and Colorado the previous two weeks. The Huskies did it for a quarter, turning two Cougars turnovers into a pair of touchdown runs from Sankey to go along with Price's TD toss to Bruns that gave the Huskies a 28-10 lead and a path to eight wins.
But that was gone after Carl Winston's two touchdown runs early in the fourth quarter. The second TD run came after Price's fumble and was aided by Tuel escaping a sure sack for a 29-yard pass play and three Washington defensive penalties. The two-point conversion pulled the Cougars' within 28-25 and Furney's 45-yard field goal with 1:59 left got Washington State even.
Tuel finished 33 of 53 for 350 yards and two interceptions. Price was 20 of 34 for 194 yards and two touchdowns, but committed two costly turnovers. He had a fumble in the fourth quarter that led to Winston's third TD run. Sankey rushed 84 yards, seeing his streak of 100-yard rushing games snapped at three, but had two touchdowns bringing his season total to 15.