Washington State took the first bite of the apple, but the Washington football team went home with the rest of the fruit.
Giving the rival Cougars plenty of yardage but just a lone touchdown, the Huskies turned the 112th Apple Cup into a one-sided affair, pulling away for a 31-13 victory on a brisk but sunny Saturday afternoon at Husky Stadium.
UW (7-5 overall, 4-5 Pac-12) spotted its rival a somewhat uncontested score on the first series of the game, then put six defensive backs on the field at all times and effectively bottled up WSU (6-6, 3-6).
The outcome propelled the Huskies to one of any number of bowls, including the Sun, Holiday, Cheez It, Vegas and Redbox.
After an uneven season that was very much a surprise to the team and fans alike, Chris Petersen's players came away encouraged that the Apple Cup might serve as a springboard to better things in the future, especially defensively.
"From now, it's taking this game and knowing what it takes to be a great defense and applying it to every situation," junior cornerback Elijah Molden said.
The Huskies beat WSU for a seventh consecutive time, a noticeable sore spot for Mike Leach. In his post-game media exchange, the Cougars coach was asked about his failure to win the Apple Cup and he went off on his inquisitor, veteran Spokane Spokesman-Review columnist John Blanchette, calling him "a sanctimonious troll."
WSU looked every bit the nation's No. 1 passing team when it took the opening kickoff, used quarterback Anthony Gordon to shred the UW secondary and scored in 13 plays, capped by Max Borghi's 1-yard TD run.
But outside of a couple of harmless field goals, that was it for the high-octane Cougars. The Huskies made their personnel change and momentum quickly shifted in front of a crowd of 70,931.
"It's not about the yards, it's about the points," Petersen reminded. "I thought our guys on defense executed to a tee."
The Huskies tied the game on their second possession, moving into scoring position after quarterback Jacob Eason hooked up with sophomore Terrell Bynum on a 57-yard pass play that put them on the WSU 12. Three plays later Eason followed senior center Nick Harris into the end zone on a 3-yard scoring run.
"I have full faith in our defense all the time; it's been that way for the last four years," Harris said. "They came up huge. They made their adjustments. Elijah Molden played well. Joe (Tryon) played well. They all played well. I wasn't tripping at all."
While WSU's Gordon completed 48 of 62 passes for 308 yards, Molden finished with 14 tackles, including a tackle for loss, and came up with a first-half interception.
Senior inside linebacker Brandon Wellington, starting alongside redshirt freshman Edefuan Ulofoshio after getting replaced by him the game before, led the Huskies with 16 tackles.
Ulofoshio collected 12 tackles, including two TFLs, as he continues to solidify his place on the defense.
Sophomore outside linebacker Joe Tryon provided a pair of sacks, giving him a team-high 8 for the season.
WSU went ahead once more, 10-7 on Blake Mazza's 28-yard field goal, but the Huskies responded with three unanswered TDs and this rivalry game effectively was over by the end of the third quarter.
Eason, who was efficient in completing 15 of 22 passes for 244 yards, threw a 16-yard scoring pass to Bynum--his first career Huskies TD--and redshirt freshman Richard Newton came off the bench to score on runs of 1 and 2.
UW starting running back Salvon Ahmed finished with 85 yards on 16 carries, giving him an even 1,000 for the season.
Leading 28-13 entering the fourth quarter, the Huskies DBs kept making big plays to keep this one well out of reach.
At the UW 9, freshman cornerback Trent McDuffie barreled in and caused Cougars running back Deon McIntosh to fumble the ball after a short reception and senior free safety Myles Bryant made the recovery.
On the following defensive series, McDuffie picked off Gordon at the UW 11, the first pass theft of his college career, and returned the ball 29 yards, ending another scoring drive.
"We knew they were going to throw 60 to 70 times--it's a DB's dream," Molden said (catch him on the video). "This was our seventh straight win over them, so we've figured these guys out."