A Once-In-A-Generation Event
Tomorrow afternoon, there will take place an event of such magnitude that the cosmos can apparently only stand to allow such an event once in a generation, likely out of fear that two such occurrences would irreparably damage every living thing.
I am, of course, speaking of the state of Washington's 2008 edition of The Apple Cup, featuring Washington (0W-10L) vs. Washington State (1W-10L) - a battle between the two worst teams of the 119 that play major college football, and quite possibly the two worst teams in the history of major college athletics.
I was a witness to the last such meeting of suckage of this magnitude: 1987 Kansas vs. Kansas State. Prior to my transferring to ND as a 25 year-old sophomore in 1992, I did my first attempt at college at the U. of Kansas from 1986-88. In the fall of 1987, KU and Kansas State were ranked #1 and #2 in USA Today's 'Bottom Ten' rankings of the worst team in college football.
K-State opened the season by surrounding their first home game (vs. Division 1AA Austin Peay) with weekend-long festival that included a Willie Nelson concert. The football team responded by losing 26-22. They followed that up by losing, also at home, to Army 41-14. Things went even further downhill from there.
KU opened the season at Auburn, who carried a 42-0 lead into halftime. The game was played with a running clock in the second half. The next week, the Jayhawks lost their home opener to Kent State 31-17. They did manage a single win on the season, however, a 16-15 home victory over Division 1AA Illinois State. KU quarterback Mike Orth drove around campus in a shiny new cherry red Corvette and never seemed to be present during class test days, but could not complete a screen pass.
KSU lost to Oklahoma and Nebraska by a combined 115-13. Those two teams routed KU by a combined 125-12.
On Nov. 7, 1987, 1W-7L KU met 0W-8L KSU on State’s cozy little campus in Manhattan, KS. What transpired was possibly the worst-played football game at any level in history. The teams combined for 21 penalties and 11 turnovers. With the score knotted at 17-17 in the final minute of the game, each team had a field goal attempt blocked. I exited the stadium as quickly as I could, as I feared that with the final gun the earth would open up and swallow the stadium and all its inhabitants.
KSU finished 0W-10L-1T and KU finished 1W-9L-1T. USA Today called for a KU-KSU rematch in one of the lower-tier bowls.
KU won the national championship in basketball that spring.
I left KU after the spring semester, worked for a couple of years, went back to school at UCF and got my GPA way up, then fulfilled my dream of attending ND. The first live college football game I attended as a spectator since '87 KU-KSU was the '92 ND home opener featured the #3 Irish against #6 Michigan.
That game also ended in a 17-17 tie.
I used to do game previews for each Notre Dame game from 2005-early 2007, mostly for Lynda but also for anyone else who wanted to read them, and Tom has saved them and provided a link to them to the right. I shall give a small preview of tomorrow’s donnybrook:
The hosts are the toothless WSU Cougars, whose single win was over Division 1AA Portland State. They have been outscored in their eleven games by a combined 533-139 (avg. 48.4 – 12.6). Some other notable achievements in 2008 Wazzou football:
The Cougars are “coached” by Paul Wulff, a.k.a. “Skippy”, who is in his first year with WSU, and in his first year coaching in Division 1 football. He is only 41, but he looks like he’s about 25. He yips and yaps up and down the sideline, and is the kind of coach who, after losing to USC 69-0, says he’s excited about how well his team competed.
The visitors are the equally toothless U-Dub Huskies, who have not won a game in more than a calendar year. They have been outscored “only” 399-139. Other notable achievements:
The Huskies are “coached” by former Notre Dame head coach (2002-04) Tyrone Willingham, a.k.a. “Paint Dry Ty” and “Chauncey Gardiner” (for the Peter Sellers character in “Being There”, who spoke in nonsensical platitudes that high society took for nuggets of wisdom). After a 2004 Ty-coached Irish team lost 41-16 at home to Purdue, Ty proclaimed that ND had been only "4 or 5 plays away from winning the game". Presumably he meant the plays where Purdue scored touchdowns.
Ty reacted to news of his termination at Washington thusly:
I don’t make any excuses. I never feel sorry for Tyrone Willingham. But the truth of the matter is, everything is not microwave popcorn.
For those of us that have experienced Ty-speak, that can be translated as follows (per ndnation.com’s petendcollin):
To successfully make microwave popcorn, OK, you need to have a number of things go correctly, and executed in the proper fashion when you set out to microwave a bag of popcorn in this matter, which we attempt to do on a daily basis. You've got open the microwave, and you've got to put the bag in. You've also got to close the microwave, and then press up to 4 buttons in the proper sequence to get the thing to work. Does it require excellence? Yes. Do we strive to achieve excellence? Yes.
Yesterday, when we set the kitchen on fire, we came up short of excellence. But we're close, if just a few more of those buttons were pressed at the right time, and if I didn't leave a metal spoon in there, we would have made the popcorn in an excellent and competitive fashion, OK?
But now, once the fire marshal says we can go back inside, we've got to get right back to trying to make that microwave popcorn in the excellent fashion that is our stated objective. We've got to execute in making the popcorn, OK?
Ty was the head coach at Stanford from 1995 through 2001, and his 1999 Cardinal team won the PAC 10, which is cited every time someone wants to claim that he is a good, or even competent, head football coach. What they don’t mention is that Stanford did not have to play the only other PAC 10 team to win more than 7 games that season (Oregon), beat only one team with a winning record (7W-5L Oregon State), lost their opener to Texas 69-17, gave up a whopping 30.3 points a game, and lost at home to woeful San Jose State.
Still he rode that Rose Bowl appearance and his skin pigmentation to a job at ND, where he won the first 8 games of his tenure, for which he is still lauded as a coaching genius by some. However, ND lost 16 of the next 29 under Ty (8 by 20+ points), he recruited all of 2 offensive linemen in three years, signed 2 of the lowest rated recruiting classes in ND history, and was negotiating with Washington prior to the end of the 2004 regular season, after which he was fired. Notre Dame was nevertheless lambasted as racist. Go figure.
He has done even worse at Washington, winning a total of 12 games in 4 seasons, and his lack of recruiting effort or skill has pretty much emptied the cupboard for whomever UW hires in the offseason. Ty has successfully made himself a multi-millionaire by running two historically strong programs into the ground.
In contrast to WSU’s Wulff, Ty prefers to stand like a cigar store Indian statue (motion- and emotion-less, with a stern but blank look on his face) while his team falls apart around him. Defenders of the Tytantic say it is his ‘steely nerve’, but fans and alumni of Notre Dame and UW know better: it is because he doesn’t have the slightest idea what to do.
Ties are no longer an option since college football implemented overtime in 1996. I’ve seen both teams a couple of times this year: the Cougars look like a high school team and the Huskies look like a dispirited mess. The Cougars are statistically worse, but the Huskies have Ty as coach and his team quit on him more than a month ago.
I predict that the winning team will carry the opposing team’s coach off the field in thanks and celebration.
Labels: Two Teams - One Cup