"We gave it everything we had," said Bobby Wade.
The Cats hung with the Cougars despite an offense that couldn't do anything on the ground and struggled to protect quarterback Jason Johnson. Due to seven sacks the Cats finished the game with minus 17 yards rushing. Mike Bell and Beau Carr were unable to get much going on the ground and the Wildcats attempted just 14 running plays. "The offense couldn't get it done," confessed Wade. "We struggled all the way around."
Johnson was harassed all night and completed just 22-of-46 passes for 224 yards. Wade and Andrae Thurman were once again the focal point of the offense. Wade had 83 yards on nine catches and Thurman had 89 yards on seven catches.
For the second straight week the Wildcat defense was impressive. Despite surrendering 433 yards of offense to the Cougars, they limited the usually high scoring offense to just two second half touchdowns. The unit was constantly coming up big in the red zone, forcing the Cougars into four field goal attempts.
"Our defense played awesome," said Johnson. "I am so proud of those guys."
The first half was when the defense really shined. The Cats forced a pair of fumbles and on three occasions thwarted Cougar drives inside the Arizona 30-yard line. The Cats put enough pressure on Jason Gesser that he was unable to get into a rhythm. They also came up big on third down conversions, forcing the Cougars into three field goal attempts, of which they made just one.
Last year turnovers killed the Cats. The Cougars utilized the takeaway for big plays and scores again this year. With both teams's locked into a defensive struggle it was a turnover that got the Cougars on the board. Johnson had the ball batted away by Isaac Brown inside the tenm. However, when a pair of Cougar defenders failed to gather in the fumble, the bouncing ball scooted through the end zone resulting in a safety.
With the defense making play after play, the Arizona offense mustered just enough to give the Cats the lead. After the second missed Cougar field goal, Johnson marched the Cats on a short drive. Andrae Thurman made a diving catch that put the Wildcats at midfield and on the next play Beau Carr rattled off a 17-yard run around the left end. The Cats stalled and Bobby Gill nailed a 47-yard field goal to give the Wildcats a modest 3-2 lead.
The lead was short lived. The Cougars moved the ball, but failed again in the red zone and had to settle for a chip shot field goal. Two big plays and a penalty allowed WSU to get in great field position. Bush grabbed a Gesser pass for 17 yards and a personal foul added another 15 yards. Jermaine Green added another 26 yards on a screen pass, but the Cats held on three plays inside the five to force the kick.
The Cats offense rewarded the defense for their stellar play. After Wade returned the kickoff to the 42, The Cats mounted a drive where Johnson showcased seldom seen elusiveness. Johnson twice eluded what appeared to be sure fire sacks to make key completions. On two other occasions he held the ball to the last possible second to get a key completion. Thurman had catches of 17 and 5 yards and Wade finished the drive when he juked a host of Cougar defenders for a 27-yard touchdown.
The defense continued to tighten when it mattered most. The Cougars took the second half kick off and moved easily into Wildcat territory. Like Stanford the week before, the Cougars ran the ball well. After a long completion, Washington State turned the reins over to Jermaine Green. The Cougars got down to the Wildcat 21, but the defense put pressure on Gesser and the Cougars were forced to settle for a Drew Dunning 37-yard field goal.
The Wildcats added to their point total thanks in large part the Cougars' special team's unit. Twice the Cougars committed penalties on Wildcat punts. First they roughed James Molina in the end zone and then were flagged for holding giving the Cats another first down. The Cats used the breaks to tack on a 42-yard Gill field goal, giving them a 13-8 lead.
The Cougars finally converted in the red zone. On third and six Gesser hit Devard Darling at the 10-yard line and the sophomore receiver broke a tackle and scooted into the end zone. The Cougars failed to convert on the two-point conversion and led just 14-13.
The Wildcat defense came up big again on their own side of the field. The Cougars drove the ball, but decided to eschew a long field goal and went for it on fourth and two at the 28-yard line. The Cats put immense pressure on Gesser and the referees ruled his forward progress halted before a Clay Hardt interception.
The Cats were not able to reward the defense for their effort. On third and long Johnson attempted to avoid a sack, but had the ball stripped away by Fred Shavies. Isaac Brown gathered up the loose ball and the Cougars had possession at the Wildcat 33.
The Cougars made the most of the Wildcat miscue. Green broke a plethora of Wildcat tackles on his way to an 18-yard score that gave the Cougars a 21-13 lead.
The Cats had one last chance. They moved the ball to the 48, but on fourth and five Wade dropped a Johnson pass that appeared to be long enough for the first down. The defense put pressure on Gesser on second and seventeen, but the crafty senior found tight end Troy Bienemann on a 40-yard pass and the Cougars ran out the clock.