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Washington State Clears Hurdle

No. 5 Cougars stop Oregon's Smith on way to 32-21 victory, which puts them one step closer to Pac-10 title and keeps them in BCS race.

November 10, 2002|From Associated Press

PULLMAN, Wash. — The difference between the top two scoring teams in the Pacific 10 Conference came down to Washington State's defense.

The fifth-ranked Cougars reined in the league's top rusher, Onterrio Smith, and Jason Gesser threw four touchdown passes and Jermaine Green ran for a career-high 180 yards in Washington State's 32-21 victory over No. 15 Oregon on Saturday.

"The defense played unbelievably. They never gave Onterrio Smith a break," Washington State Coach Mike Price said. "They pressured the quarterback all the time."

The Cougars, 9-1 overall and 6-0 in the conference, moved within one victory of clinching a trip to the Rose Bowl. And with No. 1 Oklahoma's loss, Washington State might climb up from fifth in the bowl championship series standings, which determine who plays for the national title.

Green easily outperformed Oregon's banged-up star tailback, Smith, who was leading the conference at nearly 127 yards a game despite missing last week's victory over Stanford because of a sore left knee.

A year after he ran for a school-record 285 yards and three touchdowns in Oregon's 24-17 victory over the Cougars, Smith carried the ball 25 times for only 64 yards.

"Last year, they over-pursued and were too aggressive. That resulted in big plays," Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti said. "This year, they played it much safer. They kept their tackles home and played more cautiously to keep him contained. Onterrio is probably not 100%. He has a sore toe. They did a very good job of stopping him."

Oregon came into the game as the No. 1 scoring offense in the league, averaging 37.9 points per game, followed by Washington State, with 34.6.

Washington State beat the Ducks (7-3, 3-3) for the first time since 1997 and the first time in Martin Stadium since 1996. The unusual schedule had Oregon playing in Pullman for the third straight time in the series.

"We finally got it done," Gesser said. "When somebody beats you up three times, you really want to get them back."

Jason Fife threw a 16-yard scoring pass to Jason Willis, but it was the Ducks' defense that provided the rest of the team's points, returning a fumble and an interception for touchdowns. Fife completed 16 of 35 for 192 yards and an interception.

Gesser threw touchdown passes of three and four yards to Mike Bush and two more to Devard Darling covering eight and 46 yards. Gesser completed 20 of 38 passes for 277 yards.

Bush caught nine passes for 107 yards and Darling had seven catches and 133 yards.

Gesser said the Cougars planned to pick on the Ducks' shorter corners.

"We knew their corners were not as good as our receivers," he said.

"We said, 'If you want to go one-on-one, our guys are better than your guys.' "

The Cougars have next week off before playing Washington at home and UCLA at the Rose Bowl on Dec. 7.

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