Pippins wants to bring back Apple cup

JACOB MOORE | Evergreen sports editor

LUKE HOLLISTER | The Daily Evergreen
Pippins talks about why he chose to sign with WSU instead of University of Utah.

Of all the Cougar football games senior cornerback Marcellus Pippins has played in, one sticks out more than others — the 2014 Apple Cup. It was the first Apple Cup he played in, and his third collegiate game overall.

University of Washington beat WSU in the 2014 rivalry game, then again in 2015 and 2016. But it wasn’t the outcome that gave Pippins chills on the field during that frigid November day. It was the fact that he was a freshman playing in one of the most anticipated games of the year, in front of a sold-out crowd at Martin Stadium.

Pippins started the game, recorded five tackles and one for a loss. Fast forward three years and he is now in his senior season for the Cougs. He doesn’t just want to play in the Apple Cup this year, though — he wants to finish on top for the first time in his college career.

“Man, it’s my last season,” he said. “I want to bring that Apple Cup back to Pullman.”

He said Cougar football can do it, and he wants to be a part of it.

Pippins, senior defensive back Robert Taylor, sophomore safety Jalen Thompson and junior cornerback Darrien Molton make up a defensive quartet at WSU, self-branded as the “Hot Boy$.”

Football defenses have long been known to brand themselves. For example, the “Legion of Boom” lives with the Seattle Seahawks, the “Steel Curtain” helped the Pittsburgh Steelers win four Super Bowls and the Dallas Cowboys dynasty was associated with the “Doomsday Defense.”

Before the season began, Pippins said it’s not his words he likes to show, but his actions. On the field, he and the Hot Boy$ have combined to record 113 total tackles in seven games for the Cougars.

That has surely helped the team, as they currently stand near the pinnacle of the Pac-12. The cornerback said he learned some of his position skills from former Cougar defensive back Lamont Thompson.

Before his time at WSU, Pippins competed under Thompson at El Cerrito High School. He said the mixture of playing on offense and having Thompson guide him on defense was helpful when taking up a full-time position at cornerback for WSU.

“Having him as a coach was crazy,” Pippins said. “[Thompson] always pushed me to be a better player.”

His high-energy competition comes in the form of tackling and breaking up pass plays. From the stands, fans identify Pippins by his jersey No. 21. That has not changed in his transition from high school to college.

However, Pippins almost wore No. 21 for a different conference team. He de-committed from Utah and committed to WSU after visiting Pullman in 2013.

“When I took my trip, I really felt that it was the right place to be,” Pippins said, according to the Mercury News. “I talked with my mom and dad about it and they said it would be a better fit for me.”

Although Pippins was attracted to WSU’s football program already, Thompson, who once sported a WSU uniform, had somewhat of an influence on the cornerback’s decision to  move to Pullman.

Whether it’s a highlight video from high school or a college game, it’s not uncommon to see Pippins dancing, jumping or raising his arms to signify a big play. He forced a fumble at the goal line in the triple overtime victory against Boise State. In the following game, he forced another fumble, resulting in a 40-yard touchdown return.

The three-star athlete coming out of high school did not shy away from showing his excitement on either play.

As Pippins prepares for the final five regular season games (including his last Apple Cup), he looks forward to seeing where his team, which is already bowl eligible, will end up.

“I’m not sure how far we’re going to go,” Pippins admitted, “but we want to go as far as we can.”