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Originally published November 22, 2009 at 5:55 PM | Page modified November 22, 2009 at 11:46 PM

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UW, WSU once again meet to see who's worse

For the third straight year, neither Washington or Washington State has a winning record entering their annual rivalry game Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Husky Stadium — UW at 3-7, WSU at 1-10.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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It's Apple Cup week, and you know what that means — rounding up the records, rolling down the windows and throwing said records out said windows.

Though the way the Cougars and Huskies are going these days, they'd probably earn a fine for littering in the process.

For the third straight year, neither Washington nor Washington State has a winning record entering their annual rivalry game at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium — UW at 3-7, WSU at 1-10.

In fact, only once since 2003 has either team come into the game better than .500 — WSU at 6-5, falling to 6-6 when the Huskies won 35-32 in 2006.

It doesn't help soothe the pain to know that just to the south, Oregon and Oregon State are gearing up for one of the biggest Civil Wars ever Dec. 3, the winner assured a spot in the Rose Bowl.

Washington State athletic director Jim Sterk, though, insists that soon, the Apple Cup will again have that kind of meaning.

"I think it will happen quickly with both teams," he said during WSU's 42-10 loss Saturday at Oregon State. "The Huskies are making progress and we've got a young group that is going to do that, too. So I think the future is very bright for Apple Cups of the future."

Sterk on Saturday removed what might have been one of the more suspenseful aspects of this Apple Cup week — whether there is any doubt about the return of WSU second-year coach Paul Wulff for another season.

Sterk said he hadn't necessarily told the coaches recently they will return next season, as WSU co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball indicated last week in an interview on KJR-AM. But in his comments, Sterk said he was pleased with the progress of the team and gave no indication Wulff won't be back next season despite a 3-21 overall record, 1-16 in Pac-10 play, in his Pullman tenure.

"Nothing has been said [to the coaching staff] or anything like that," he said. "But I just said, 'You guys are moving in the right direction and we need to continue to do that.' Obviously, we'd all like to have more wins, the coaches and everyone. But I think they are doing the right things to turn the program around.

"I think you can see from his [recruiting] classes that they are doing a great job of getting kids here. I think this is the youngest team in Washington State history. So many freshmen kids have started. So I think they are getting the kids that are going to be really competitive in the future. So that's gone in a great direction."

That's also been the theme of the year at Washington, where first-year coach Steve Sarkisian had the Huskies on a big upswing early in the season before a recent four-game losing streak.

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Despite that slide, the oddsmakers heavily favor UW in this one, installing Washington as a 26-point favorite in the opening line Sunday. That's the largest spread for either team since the Huskies were 34-point favorites in 1991.

But Huskies fans will be wary, remembering when last year's team was expected to beat the Cougars in Pullman despite having not won a game all season, and WSU rallied for a 16-13 overtime victory.

That was WSU's fourth win in the past five Apple Cups, and Sarkisian said getting UW back on the winning side of this rivalry will be motivation enough.

"It's not about Rose Bowls or Pac-10 championships," Sarkisian said. "It's about pride. It's about being prideful of the purple and gold and being able to put that sweat shirt on Sunday morning after the game and bragging rights and all the things that go into it, not just from the players' standpoint, but from the fans' and university's standpoint."

Fans, though, seem to be wearying of these sort of Apple Cup matchups.

Washington officials report only 65,600 tickets have been sold for the game and that WSU returned 500 tickets of its allotment of approximately 4,000.

Note

• Wulff said he doesn't know whether freshman Jeff Tuel, who had been the starting quarterback before injuring his knee Nov. 7 against Arizona, will be able to play but said there's a chance. Senior Kevin Lopina started Saturday against Oregon State.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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