Washington TE adds some spice to Apple Cup week

SEATTLE -- Nothing like a little trash talking to get Apple Cup week started.

A normally mundane Monday, accentuated by Washington coach Steve Sarkisian insisting his team wouldn't get caught throwing verbal jabs at rival Washington State, got a little spicier only minutes later thanks to tight end Kavario Middleton.

Asked by a local television reporter about the large point spread of 24½ heading into Saturday's matchup with the Cougars at Husky Stadium, the tight end who wasn't even recruited by WSU tossed a salvo across the state.

"I'm not really into any of that stuff," Middleton told KCPQ-TV about the point spread. "But we plan on scoring 50. We're ready to go."

Even a combined four victories between Washington and Washington State can't keep some of the disdain out of this rivalry.

And the comments from Middleton came shortly after Sarkisian said his team wouldn't make such statements, letting their effort on Saturday be all the talking the Huskies would need.

Apparently Middleton didn't get the message.

"I don't know what you get out of it. I don't know where you gain," Sarkisian said. "I think the guys that like to do that are looking for attention, whether it's here or anywhere else. I like to think that we put our helmets on, we put our uniforms on and we talk with the way we play. It's not about what you say, it's what you do."

While Sarkisian preached to have his players keep their mouths shut, Middleton speaking confidently on Monday wasn't an isolated event this season. In the process of trying to rebuild confidence among a team that went winless in 2008, a few players have let slip with bold statements.

Before Washington's upset of Southern California, defensive back Quinton Richardson guaranteed a Huskies victory, a claim that seemed laughable until Washington pulled off the 16-13 stunner. Running back Chris Polk also said he had a personal battle to wage with USC before the Huskies beat the Trojans.

Middleton's comment might be harmless, considering Washington State has given up at least 40 points to six of its last seven opponents. But during rivalry week, everything is amplified.

"It's a special one in that there's a lot of emotions involved," Sarkisian said. "Households are divided. A lot of times, potentially siblings on either team go to either university. That is what makes it special from the players' standpoint, the fans' standpoint, the coaches' standpoint that you get that opportunity to be a part of something like that."

This week will be an education for Sarkisian, who has never experienced the Apple Cup. He's often compared the rivalry to the USC-UCLA matchup he became familiar with in his years as an assistant with the Trojans. This week, Sarkisian is relying on alumni, supporters and those on his coaching staff who played or coached in the game to give a crash course.

While Washington's football staff includes former star UW quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo, now an assistant strength coach, one person Sarkisian can get a different perspective from is special teams coordinator Johnny Nansen. As a college player, Nansen was a three-year letterman at linebacker for the Cougars (1994-96).

"I razz Nansen every day," Sarkisian said. "Johnny Nansen, he's been a part of this series and I'm sure he'll get plenty of razzing from the entire football team throughout the week. He just knows the perspective of the rivalry from that side of it."