Sports

COUGARS: SK grad Languein's recovery of a blocked punt helped lead WSU past UW in 1988

He still vividly recalls the play that changed the course of the Apple Cup 19 years ago.

On that snowy night in Pullman, Jay Languein, a 1986 South Kitsap graduate, suggested to special-teams coach Dave Arnold that he step closer to the sidelines as former high-school teammate Eric Canton prepared to punt for the Huskies.

Languein felt the blocker would follow him and free teammate Shawn Landrum to pursue Canton. It was a risk that paid off as Landrum went untouched to block the punt, which he recovered at the Washington 13-yard line with 10 minutes, 42 seconds left in the game. Washington State quarterback Timm Rosenbach later scored on a 5-yard run with 9:06 remaining to propel the Cougars to a 32-31 victory.

Two players, two uniforms. Same class, same high school.

One memory forever in Apple Cup lore.

“It was just kind of what are the odds?” Languein said. “As cool as it was to recover the fumble, it would’ve been nice to block it.”

The win led Dennis Erickson’s Cougars to a third-place finish in the Pac-10 and 9-3 record after a win against Houston in the Aloha Bowl. It also marked only one of four times in Don James’ 18-year tenure at UW that the Huskies were left without a bowl bid.

“Everyone says it’s about bragging rights, but recruiting also is a big issue,” Languein said.

In the following class, WSU beat out UW for the state’s top prospect -- Walla Walla quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who later became the No. 1 selection in the NFL draft by the New England Patriots.

But it was another high-profile quarterback who provided Languein with his favorite collegiate football memory. A letterman at safety for the Cougars from 1987-89, Languein intercepted future Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer when WSU earned a 46-41 win against BYU on Sept. 7, 1989.

“I’m seeing the end zone, but with the elevation, my legs just ran out of gas,” said Languein, adding that they scored on the drive. “I had a direct impact on the game because we ended up scoring and winning.”

Similar to Bledsoe, it might seem odd that Languein chose WSU for his collegiate career. Bledsoe’s father, Mac, played for the Huskies, while Languein’s mother, Kathie, is Jim Lambright’s cousin. Lambright was the defensive coordinator for UW when Languein was recruited and later coached the team from 1993-98.

He said he never considered the Huskies because he didn’t want people to say he went there to play for Lambright, and chose WSU after taking official visits to Oregon and USC.

“The intriguing thing about Wazzu was that it was far enough away that people wouldn’t just show up everyday,” Languein said. “UW was too close to home; I wanted the true college experience.”

Languein, 39, now works for Statera, a consulting company for business and technology, and lives in Kirkland with his wife, Holly, whom he met in Pullman, and their two children, Jake, 6, and Emma, 4.

“Jake all of the sudden is all about football,” Languein said, adding that he‘s not in a hurry for his son to start playing. “He’s well aware of the rivalry. He roots for the Cougars.”

Meanwhile, Jake’s parents plan to attend today’s game and hope the Cougars, who enter the Apple Cup with an identical 4-7 record to the Huskies, can win -- and save embattled coach Bill Doba’s job. Doba was the linebackers coach when Languein was there in 1989.

“You’ll never find anyone that has a bad thing to say about him,” Languein said.

And as for his playing legacy? Well, Languein is happy that he was able to beat the Huskies once.

“You don’t want to go through your career having not beaten somebody,” he said. “Especially the Huskies.”

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