I thought with the current state of affairs around here, it might be nice to look back at some history and feel GOOD about some things? And why not? We're 1-4, the economy sucks, the political debates rage on where republicans and democrats are CONVINCED they won last night, blah blah blah. Besides, it's Friday and nobody works Fridays, right?
So, anyway, UCLA. We've got this funny little recent history with these guys that is fairly impressive, no? Strange. I've looked at it several times, and I still don't get it. We've beaten them when we've been awful (3-8 in 1995, beat them 24-15 in Pullman). We've beaten them when we've been great (1997, beat them 37-34 vs. UCLA in a game that started a history-making season). We clinched a Rose Bowl bid against them in 2002, when Jason Gesser limped through as impressive a performance as many have ever witnessed watching football on the Palouse, a 48-27 win in Mike Price's last regular season game as the REAL head coach of Washington State. The 37-15 win in '06, securing what we all thought as a bowl bid with a 6th victory of the season.....but we know how that turned out. Heck, we even beat them last year when UCLA was still pretty good, coming into the Pullman match-up at 5-2 and off a huge win vs. Cal the week before.
So 10 of the last 14, and six of the last seven times, WSU has prevailed. But if you go back a little further, there is one game that more or less started it all, all the way back to 1988. WSU has won 11 of the last 17 in the series if you go back to '88. But believe you me, it wasn't always this way.....not even close. What's amazing is that from 1958 leading up to the 1988 game, UCLA was an amazing 17-1-1 vs. WSU! The Cougs beat them at home in 1979, and tied them in 1981, but otherwise, UCLA had completely owned WSU. But then, 1988 happened. A win that kick-started a strong recent run against UCLA, but also regarded as perhaps the best win in school history.
October 29th, 1988 to be exact, a day that will live forever in the hearts of WSU football fans everywhere.
To do a quick recap, '88 was a big-time breakthrough season for WSU. After a disappointing 3-7-1 first year at WSU in '87, Dennis Erickson's second season was a rousing success, a 9-3 season capped by an Aloha Bowl victory. But what many people forget about that season is that when the UCLA game rolled around, the team needed a victory. They were coming in off a two-game losing streak, including a bitter home loss to ASU the week before, and the team was starting to stagger. After a hot 4-1 start, including huge wins at Illinois (44-7), Minnesota (41-9) and Tennessee (52-24), and at home against #19 Cal (44-13), suddenly they were 4-3 and some doubt was setting in. Perhaps they weren't for real after all?
Meanwhile, UCLA was crazy/sexy/cool, with Troy Aikman and company as the number-one team in the land. Aikman was a legit Heisman candidate, thriving under the bright lights of the LA market. So the task was huge, and the Cougs got off to a slow start as UCLA sprinted out to a 20-6 halftime lead. It didn't look good. But WSU rallied, big-time, behind Timm Rosenbach, Tim Stallworth, Rich Swinton, Mike Utley, Chris Dyko, and oh yeah, the current head coach of your Cougars, Paul Wulff, for a stunning 34-30 win. Check out the waning moments, plus the on-the-field interview from Dennis Erickson after the game.
I love how that, even in the situation where UCLA had all the momentum (1st and goal on the 6?), the Cougar D still ATTACKED. Those last two pass plays saw blitzes, and Aikman took some heat. No scaling back at that point, might as well force the issue. But man, the joy Erickson had at the end of that game, with his Dad, how cool was that? Talk about pure joy!
I was too young to be at WSU at the time, but our own Hooty McBoob was a mulleted-up true FROSH in the fall of '88. He said that, while watching the game in Pullman on TV, when that last 4th-down pass was batted down in the corner of the end zone to seal the deal, you could hear a collective roar all across campus. What a moment. Here's hoping we'll experience something similar, again....someday.
Enjoy your Friday, and GO COUGS!