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Comedy Prize Goes to Cougars

Washington State beats Oregon State, 36-30, in a laugher featuring a myriad of mistakes and low rushing yardage.

October 26, 2003|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

PULLMAN, Wash. — Jay Leno had a stand-up gig on campus Saturday night, yet it was hard to imagine a funnier performance than the one Washington State and Oregon State put on earlier at Martin Stadium.

In a game that featured 12 turnovers, 12 quarterback sacks, three safeties, 22 penalties and a combined 18 rushing yards, Washington State rallied to win, 36-30, in front of 35,117, but no one was bragging about it.

The amazing part was Washington State improved to 7-1 and 4-0 in Pacific 10 Conference play and, thanks to No. 3 Virginia Tech's defeat Wednesday, will likely move from No. 6 to No. 5 in this week's Associated Press poll.

The win sets up next week's showdown at the Coliseum against 7-1 USC, a likely matchup of top-five teams and the most important regular-season Pacific 10 Conference game to be played in recent memory.

If Washington State brings Saturday's act to Los Angeles, however, the Cougars will get whacked in the first half and the hook in the second. The only positive thing you could say about Washington State was: thank goodness for the defense.

Cougar defenders could have walked out on the job in protest of an atrocious offense but gave new meaning to the term bend but don't break.

You want bad?

Washington State senior quarterback Matt Kegel finished with seven turnovers, five interceptions and two fumbles. He also threw an interception on a two-point conversation attempt, but that one didn't count against his record.

In between mistakes, he also passed for 305 yards and three touchdowns.

"It was one hell of a roller-coaster," Kegel said. "For a while there, it seemed like everything I threw up a guy in a white [Oregon State] uniform came down with."

You wondered how Washington State escaped defeat here, but Oregon State contributed to the cause with two interceptions and three lost fumbles.

Washington State took an early 14-0 lead and then almost literally fumbled and tossed it away, as Oregon State scored 25 unanswered points to take a 25-14 lead at halftime. Oregon State held a 28-16 lead into the fourth quarter when Washington State hit the panic button.

The Cougars capped a 76-yard drive when Kegel tossed a nine-yard scoring pass to Scott Lunde with 14:41 left. That cut the lead to 28-23.

Later in the quarter, after Washington State recovered an Oregon State fumble on the Beavers' 28, Kegel found Lunde again over the middle for an 11-yard scoring pass.

Lunde held on to the ball despite taking a hard hit in the end zone by safety Lawrence Turner.

How did he hold on?

"Fearless, fearless," Lunde later joked. "I guess it was my time."

Washington State retook the lead at 29-28, failing on the extra point attempt.

The go-ahead touchdown, however, would have never happened had Oregon State corner Brandon Browner, earlier in the drive, not dropped a sure interception in the end zone.

We told you this win was seat-of-your-pants.

For instance: Down by a point late in the game, Oregon State safety Mitch Meeuwsen thought he had intercepted his fourth Kegel pass with a chance to set up the game-winning touchdown. But Oregon State was called for two penalties on the play, which gave Washington State a first down at the Beavers' 21.

On first down, Jonathan Smith ran 21 yards for a touchdown to put the Cougars up, 36-28, with 9:07 left.

Washington State took an intentional safety on the game's last play to account for the final score.

Oregon State fell to 5-3 overall and 2-2 in conference in a game it let get away.

"I don't know if we ever had control, but we had the lead," Beavers' Coach Mike Riley said. "We had some opportunities and they made some plays. That's how it came down."

Oregon State quarterback Derek Anderson completed only 16 of 42 passes for 276 yards.

He was sacked seven times by a Washington State defense that pretty much had to do the heavy lifting.

Washington State, which still has to be considered a national title contender, lived to play another big game. Yet, it was understood that this kind of shaky performance won't fly next weekend when the Cougars fly south.

USC?

"Oh man, oh man," Washington State Coach Bill Doba said. "I haven't thought about USC yet."

Doba was about to start thinking ... real hard.

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