PULLMAN, Wash. – Back when they were freshman in 2010 and spending the season as spectators on the Washington sideline, Colin Tanigawa, DiAndre Campbell and the majority of the Huskies redshirts were placed on a bus and embarked on a five-hour journey.
They weren't going to play. But the Washington coaching staff at the time wanted that group of Huskies to see first-hand the atmosphere around the Apple Cup being played at Washington State.
"We saw the environment that was there and everything," Tanigawa said. "It's definitely not too much of a loving relationship."
The guys who sat on that bus are now seniors and will play the final regular-season game of their careers on Saturday night when the Cougars host the Huskies in the 107th meeting of the schools.
Two of the last three trips to Pullman have been forgettable for the Huskies. In 2008, a game remember for the horrific seasons by both schools, Washington State scored on the final play of regulation and pulled out a 16-13 double overtime win that dropped Washington to 0-11. Then two years ago, the Cougars pulled off the biggest comeback in the history of the rivalry, rallying from 18 points down in the fourth quarter for a 31-28 overtime win.
There's little drama for the Huskies to the context of this trip to the Palouse. Washington (7-5, 3-5 Pac-12) took the worry about its postseason fate out of the equation with a 37-13 win over Oregon State last week, making the Huskies bowl eligible for a fifth straight season.
"I know it's important to everybody," Washington coach Chris Petersen said. "But like I said, all these games are really, really important to us."
Washington State (3-8, 2-6) won't be going to a bowl in coach Mike Leach's third season but is trying to build toward next year behind improving redshirt freshman quarterback Luke Falk. The Cougars are hoping an Apple Cup victory could provide the boost it did two years ago. After pulling off the biggest comeback in Apple Cup history, the Cougars went to a bowl game the following season for the first time in 10 years.
While players spoke to the importance of that victory, Leach wasn't willing to make the correlation this week.
"I don't know. I thought we got better in the offseason," he said. "I thought we were excited to win the game and we're excited to win all games."
If nothing else, it should be competitive as games in Pullman have a tendency to be close. Eight of the last night Apple Cup's played in Pullman have been decided by seven points or less with five of the last six decided by three points.
"We are treating this as our bowl game," Washington State linebacker Peyton Pelluer said.
Here are other things to watch on what's expected to be a chilly night on the Palouse:
LINE OF SLIGHT: Along the line of scrimmage is likely where this game will be decided. Washington has one of the best defensive lines and pass rushes in the Pac-12 with 45 sacks, most from Hau'oli Kikaha, Danny Shelton and Andrew Hudson. Protecting the quarterback has been a problem for the Cougars, who allowed 32 sacks. If Washington State can protect Falk, he could have chances to pick apart Washington's young secondary.
MATURING CYLER: In his past two games, Washington's Cyler Miles has played the two of the most efficient games of his young career. He completed 20 of 29 passes for 223 yards against Arizona then followed up by throwing for 253 yards and two touchdowns in the Huskies win over Oregon State. Miles' passer rating of 199.4 against the Beavers was the highest of his career.
FLINGING FALK: Since Falk came on to replace injured starter Conner Halliday three games ago, Washington State has seen a little of everything. The good clearly was his first start against Oregon State when he threw for 471 yards and five touchdowns in beating Oregon State. The youthful mistakes were shown last week against Arizona State when Falk struggled to protect a 21-7 Washington State lead and threw four interceptions in the 52-31 loss.
TEAM GLEASON: Former Washington State linebacker Steve Gleason will be inducted into the Cougars Hall of Fame. Gleason is the lone honoree by the school this year and will be recognized between the first and second quarter of Saturday's game. Gleason was a four-year letterman in both football and baseball at Washington State and has been working to raise awareness of ALS since being diagnosed with the disease in 2011.