Cougars 'finish' the job
Emphasis in practice pays off with ultimate effort at the end of the game
Seattle Times staff reporter
BOULDER, Colo. — Two weeks ago, at San Diego State, Washington State coughed up a three-point lead in the fourth quarter and WSU coaches concluded the indignity was something that could be remedied.
The practice mantra became "finish." So before and after a bye last week, the Cougs saved some of their toughest conditioning drills for the end of workouts. They ran 10 sets of 10-yard sprints, and if everybody didn't run through them in unison, they ran again.
"We ran, ran and ran," said receiver Marquess Wilson. "If you're tired, work through it and stay focused."
Ergo, the Cougars figured that concentration stood them well Saturday when they stole a 31-27 victory out from under Colorado with two touchdowns in the final 2:35 of the game.
"We just kept fighting and grinding," said WSU coach Paul Wulff. "Our kids just kept playing."
The play that killed Colorado, ironically, was a near-replica of WSU quarterback Marshall Lobbestael's only interception, which came on the Cougars' first drive.
"The safety jumped a similar route," said Lobbestael. "We thought we could get him to bite again. Coach Sturdy (offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy) drew it up. It literally happened just exactly like he thought it would."
It became the decisive, 63-yard touchdown pass, Lobbestael to Wilson, helping the sophomore receiver atone for a drop of what would have been a third-quarter touchdown.
"Right after I dropped that one pass," said Wilson, "I flushed it."
Linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis reiterated the "finish" theme of practice, and said happily, "This means the start of a new era for Cougar football. The old days are over. This is the new Cougar football squad. This is our year."
The Cougars' Travis Long blocked a Colorado field-goal attempt after the early Lobbestael interception, but it appeared WSU gave back the three points just before intermission.
They had tied the game at 10-10 with 21 seconds left and instructed kicker Andrew Furney to squib-kick it — never mind that Colorado ranked dead last, 120th, in NCAA kickoff returns.
The squib carried only to the Colorado 29, and fullback Evan Harrington lugged it to the CU 48. Three plays later, freshman kicker Will Oliver belted a 48-yard field goal to put Colorado ahead 13-10.
Wulff said the Cougars wanted to squib the ball past Harrington's line, and, "It skipped right into the upback's hands, and he took it straight ahead. It didn't turn out."
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