WSU Football | Cougars badgered by nation's No. 7 team
For the second straight year, the Cougars opened the season as high-quality road kill in the stadium of a top-10 opponent. In one of America's...
Seattle Times staff reporter
MADISON, Wis. -- For the second straight year, the Cougars opened the season as high-quality road kill in the stadium of a top-10 opponent.
In one of America's greatest college sports towns, Washington State hung tough with No. 7 Wisconsin for three quarters, then saw its upset hopes float away like a sailboat on nearby Lake Mendota.
The final score was 42-21, which was reminiscent of last year's 40-14 loss at No. 4 Auburn.
In this game before 81,547 at Camp Randall Stadium, the Cougars offense did some good things while the defense and special teams were deficient.
"I feel we played even better offensively than we did at Auburn," said senior quarterback Alex Brink.
Junior guard Dan Rowlands said, "We've got some good confidence now on offense that we'll be able to do a lot of things."
Against a quality defense, the Cougars rushed for 157 yards, with Dwight Tardy leading the way with 96 yards on 21 carries.
Brink, on whose shoulders the season rides, completed 17 of 27 passes for 171 yards and one touchdown. While those aren't big numbers for the proven performer, what was impressive was that he wasn't intercepted and was sacked only once. The Cougars were playing with tackles Vaughn Lesuma and Micah Hannam, both starting their first Division I games.
"I've got a good feeling about the line," said Brink, who set up the Cougars' second touchdown with a 27-yard scramble.
Coach Bill Doba looked at the rushing stats after the game and commented, "I never thought we would do that coming in."
The Cougars held leads of 7-0 and 14-7 in the first quarter before being outscored 14-0 in the second period that left them trailing 28-14 at halftime. They cut the lead to 28-21 in the third period, then Wisconsin scored the final two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
The Cougars defense allowed 486 yards, allowed the Badgers to convert 11 of 15 third-down tries, and allowed some Wisconsin seniors to have career days.
Tyler Donovan, Wisconsin's starting quarterback who was starting his third game, completed 19 of 29 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns before being pulled in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. He also ran for a TD.
The Cougars made Luke Swan, a competent but hardly jaw-dropping wide receiver, look like Steelers Hall of Famer Lynn Swann. Swan caught eight passes for a career-high 170 yards and two touchdowns.
One Washington State defensive accomplishment was limiting All-America candidate P.J. Hill to 84 yards on 21 carries. He scored runs of 1 and 2 yards.
Two things the game will be remembered for are wild plays involving Cougars punter Ed Blunt. He had a punt blocked in the first quarter when teammate Kendrick Dunn released from his block early. But Blunt picked up the ball after it was blocked and scrambled 11 yards for a first down.
"I saw the ball and kept my eyes on it and ran with it instincts," he said.
Brink hit Brandon Gibson with a 38-yard pass on the next play and Tardy scored on a 9-yard run after that for a 7-0 lead.
Trailing 35-21 in the fourth quarter, Blunt was back in the running for ESPN highlights. On fourth-and-2 from midfield, the Cougars attempted a fake punt with Blunt throwing a pass.
However, Tony Thompson's snap was high and Blunt had to leap for it and then let fly with a throw-and-hope heave intended for Husain Abdullah.
"When I got the high snap, there was no time for me to look," Blunt said. "Guys were already in stride and I had to get rid of it."
The wobbly pass was intercepted by Aaron Henry at the Cougars 28 and returned 26 yards to midfield. Eight plays later, the Badgers got their final TD off the turnover on a 1-yard keeper by Donovan.
The touchdown that stung the most was the Badgers' final TD of the first half because the two-play drive required only 15 seconds and put the home team ahead 28-14 at the break.
After a penalty on WSU true freshman Hallston Higgins on a punt set the Badgers up at their 47, Donovan hit Travis Beckum for 15 yards and then Swan got behind true freshman cornerback Chima Nwachukwu, who was picked on all day, for a 38-yard touchdown.
The upset-minded Cougars left empty-handed at a stadium where one of the traditions is for the student section to jump up and down madly at the end of the third quarter to the song "Jump Up" by the group House of Pain. In the end, the group's name aptly described the day for the Cougars defense and special teams.
Craig Smith: 206-464-8279 or email@example.com
|Cougars 2007 schedule|
|Sept. 1||L 42-21, at Wisconsin|
|Sept. 8||San Diego St.*||4 p.m.|
|Sept. 15||Idaho||7 p.m., FSN|
|Sept. 22||at USC||5 p.m., Ch. 4|
|Sept. 29||at Arizona||TBA|
|Oct. 6||Arizona State||TBA|
|Oct. 13||at Oregon||TBA|
|Oct. 27||UCLA||3:30 p.m., FSN|
|Nov. 3||at California||7 p.m., FSN|
|Nov. 17||Oregon State||TBA|
|Nov. 24||at Washington||TBA|
|* game at Qwest Field|
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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