Arizona's new passing game leaves Cougars in desert dust
Like the sun going down in the Sonoran Desert, Washington State's bowl hopes dimmed considerably Saturday night. In a game they needed to...
Seattle Times staff reporter
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Like the sun going down in the Sonoran Desert, Washington State's bowl hopes dimmed considerably Saturday night.
In a game they needed to win before starting a four-game stretch against squads with a combined 18-2 record, the Cougars lost to beatable Arizona 48-20 before 50,945 spectators to fall to 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the Pac-10.
The Wildcats (2-3, 1-1) were led by junior quarterback Willie Tuitama and true freshmen Nicolas Grigsby and Rob Gronkowski.
The leaky Cougars' defense allowed Tuitama to complete 22 of 31 passes for 346 yards and five touchdowns.
"As a defense, we haven't been able to stop anybody this season," said safety and co-captain Husain Abdullah.
Senior tight end Jed Collins, who caught a career-high 10 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown, said, "Not a lot of stuff went right for us tonight ... You can't point the finger at any individual. Nobody gave a winning performance tonight ... Our locker room is going through some troubles right now. We have to stay together as a family."
Senior quarterback Alex Brink, who became the Cougars' leader in career attempted passes, completed 35 of 56 for 347 yards and three touchdowns. He was intercepted once.
Grigsby, in only his second start, rushed 30 times for 186 yards. He also caught nine passes for 76 yards and a touchdown.
Gronkowski caught four passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
Overall, Arizona amassed 567 yards while the Cougars had 418.
Arizona coach Mike Stoops, who coached with a kidney stone, said, "I felt great today and I feel even better right now."
"Our freshmen, both Nick and Rob, are very talented players who are capable of having a big impact for our team," Stoops said.
Arizona scored four consecutive touchdowns after the Cougars had pulled into a 20-20 tie early in the third quarter on a 14-yard touchdown pass to Gibson.
The Wildcats put the game away early in the fourth quarter after a 64-yard pass from Tuitama to Terrell Turner that led to a 1-yard plunge by the quarterback and a 34-20 lead.
The Wildcats went ahead 41-20 on a 57-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski. He was smacked hard at the 30 by Cougars safety Alfonso Jackson, who stayed down for a minute and later was taken to a hospital with a concussion.
At the 17-yard line, Gronkowski almost lost his balance but continued to the end zone.
The final touchdown was a 20-yard pass from Tuitama to Mike Thomas with 4:06 to play. Thomas had scored on a 27-yard pass in the third quarter.
At halftime, Arizona led 20-13.
In the second quarter, Brink threw one of the worst interceptions of his career and Devin Ross returned it 24 yards to the Cougar 49.
Brink was trying to hit Charles Dillon about 10 yards downfield but there were two defenders, including Ross, in front of him.
Tuitama capitalized by throwing an 18-yard TD pass to Gronkowski with 9:47 left until halftime for a 17-7 lead with the conversion kick. On the five-play drive, true-freshman Grigsby went over the 100-yard rushing mark.
The Wildcats added a 34-yard field goal later in the quarter.
The Cougars cut the lead to 20-13 with 2:16 left on a 10-yard touchdown pass to Collins, who caught four passes for 43 yards on the 80-yard drive.
Romeen Abdollmohammadi's conversion-kick attempt hit the left post.
The game had the standard start for the Cougars this year for the fifth straight week the opponent scored on its opening drive.
This time, it was a 22-yard field goal by Bondzio after a 69-yard drive that could have ended three plays earlier if Abdullah had hung on to an interception that hit him in the chest.
He stepped in front of a sideline pass and might have scored.
The Cougars went ahead 7-3 with a 65-yard touchdown drive that ended with an oh-my-goodness leaping catch in the end zone by Dillon of a 16-yard pass by Brink.
The Cougars have scored on opening drives in four of five games.
Arizona retook the lead 10-7 on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Tuitama to Grigsby, who was a sophomore at St. Paul High School in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., when Cougar running back Dwight Tardy was a senior.
Grigsby summed up the night, by saying, "They weren't expecting us to run the ball this well tonight."
Cougars coach Bill Doba agreed.
"It surprised us how much they ran the ball," he said.
Craig Smith: 206-464-8279 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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