Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 12/4/12
Exclamation Victory in Apple Cup Saves Hopeless Season Prior to the final game of the season against Washington, the Washington State Cougars couldn’t have had a more disappointing season. They defeated only Eastern Washington and UNLV, while losing to everyone else including Colorado – whom the Cougars gave their only victory. To add onto that, star wide receiver Marquess Wilson quit the team with only three games left, along with releasing a statement claiming physical and emotional abuse from the coaching staff. With all of these dark clouds hovering over the football program,Mike Leachstill found a way to rally his team and defeat the Huskies in the most important game of the season. The Apple Cup. With that being said, let’s take a look back in time at the Washington State Cougar’s 2012 college football season. Best Play The best play of the season came at the most crucial time possible for the Cougars – in overtime of the Apple Cup. It was the first play from scrimmage for the Cougars’ defense, and Washington quarterback Keith Price dropped back in the pocket. WSU linebacker Logan Mayes ran a stunt from the outside and wound up untouched through the middle of the offensive line. This pressure forced Price to make a split-decision, and he tossed a ball towardsBishop Sankey in the flats before being taken to the turf by Mayes. However, defensive lineman Kalafitoni Pole anticipated this pass and snagged it out of the air with one hand. The 277 lb (RS) sophomore proceeded to run the length of the field. He reached the five yard line before eventually being caught behind by UW receiver Cody Bruns. Nevertheless, it was a game-changing play and was the loudest I have heard Martin Stadium in my college career. Fast forward to 7:10 for the replay here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOofoyYTM80 Best Moment This was another easy one to decide, considering there was really only one great moment in the entire season. And that was to see senior quarterback and team captain Jeff Tuel finally get to raise that Apple Cup trophy. Tuel has had a rough college career. He has been present for one of the worst droughts in WSU history, and has had little to work with in his four years. His skills and mechanics led many to believe he would be a very efficient quarterback, and possible even exceed to the professional level. However, injuries and coaching changes took their toll on the young QB and he never had the breakout season that was so highly anticipated. To see Jeff hoist that trophy above his head to the thousands of fans who have watched him work so hard for in his four years was truly a Hallmark-moment. Best Offensive Player This wasn’t the easiest of choices, considering the general lack of production across the entire offense. The best receiver quit the team, neither quarterback could seem to hold their starting position, and the running backs were irrelevant. If there was one guy that seemed to keep his head above water and lead the team no matter the situation, it was Jeff Tuel. Tuel’s stats were no where near the projected outcome – 2080 yards, 8 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 119.5 – but that was just part of the learning process regarding Leach’s system. It is unfortunate that Tuel only had one year to learn and execute the offense, but he did the best he could and held his head high. He was consistently encouraging his teammates on and off the field , which was something the team truly needed. Best Defensive Player The WSU defense under Mike Breske was far from consistent, but they did have their strengths in certain areas. Senior Travis Long and junior Deone Bucannon were the two stars of the squad, while freshman Darryl Monroe proved to be a rising star. Long received All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention, while Bucannon made the Second-Team Defense. Long had a strong senior campaign with 9.5 sacks and 61 tackles, but Bucannon’s production was off the charts, which is why he was the team’s best defensive player. Bucannon has always been a tackling machine at the strong-safety position. He had 84 total tackles his freshman year (67 solo) and 80 total his sophomore year (58 solo), but his 2012 campaign was insane – 106 total tackles with 65 solo and 4 interceptions. Guess he’s been drinking that tacklin’ fuel. Best Special Teams Player The special teams became crucial throughout their season, especially in their final outing. The most consistent player on the special teams was easily Andrew Furney. Furney was 14 of 20 field goals on the season, including a long of 60 yards in the Eastern Washington game. Furney’s incredible leg strength and success in clutch moments earned him All-Pac-12 Second Team honors. Most Improved Player It is rare for players to have substantial improvements when their is a complete coaching-staff overhaul. Because of the scheme changes, many of the players found themselves in new positions and couldn’t quite grasp the idea. One player who excelled in his new position was linebacker Travis Long However, one player who excelled in his new position was linebacker Travis Long. Long was commonly hyped as the best player on defense, and his season was highly anticipated because of the move to “buck-linebacker.” This position allows Long to roam the field more freely, and keeps the offensive line off-guard. In his 2012 campaign, Long had 9.5 sacks – his previous high was 5 in 2012 – along with 61 tackles – compared to his high 0f 51 in 2010. Long obtained these stats even though he sat out the final game, and will likely improve his stock in the 2013 draft. Team MVP In a 3-win season, the MVP of the team isn’t simply the guy with the best stats. As the title states, it is the player “most valuable” to their team. That player, by a long shot, was Jeff Tuel. He was the best player on the offense, grasping the scheme late in the season and taking care of the ball. But he is MVP because of his positive attitude throughout the year. It was far from easy to have a positive outlook on the Cougars’ production, especially when you are constantly being subbed-in and subbed-out for the backup quarterback. Tuel did not let this affect him, as he was seen cheering his teammates on up and down the sidelines when being benched, and doing so in the huddle when on the field. Tuel eventually won the starting job, and was victorious in his final game of the season. For these reasons, he is the team’s MVP. Fast Forward While the Cougars’ 2012-2013 season may be over, they ended it with an exclamation point and have some momentum heading into the off-season. The recruiting process has been encouraging so far under Leach, and it will only get better as the team improves. With Tuel likely graduating (considering the NCAA has yet to decide on his medical red-shirt plea), their is an opening at quarterback. We shall see who wins the job and gets the opportunity to throw to this deep group of young receivers. All-in-all this season hurt, but with a great ending and a hopeful future, it is definitely exciting to be a Cougar. CLICK HERE CHECK OUT THE COUGARS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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