Bill Doba’s team hasn’t missed a beat since making it to the Rose
Bowl last season, and they could be on their way back this year. Much to my
surprise, and I’m sure quite a few others as well, quarterback Matt Kegal
has stepped in beautifully and is really doing a phenomenal job running the
offense. He has completed over 50% of his passes in all but one game. That one
game you may
ask? The Oregon game, and you all know how that one turned out.
The Havre, MT native has thrown for 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions, eight and one in the Pac-10. Kegal has completed 10 or more passes to seven different players so far, compared to Derek Anderson’s four targets that have 10 or more receptions.
Kegal’s main target is former Florida State Seminole, Devard Darling. Darling is a big play guy with 29 catches for 525 yards, or 18.1 yards per catch. He has three touchdown receptions this year with yardages of 12, 38 and 84. Chris Jordan and Troy Bienemann have caught 21 passes apiece for the Cougars, and Sammy Moore has hauled in 17 passes for 430 yard (25.3 yards per catch) and four touchdowns.
Wazzu has a three-pronged running attack that has combined for 965 yards on the ground and five touchdowns. Jonathan Smith (no, not that one) leads the group with 479 yards and three touchdowns.
The real story behind this Cougar team is the defense. They have combined to intercept 16 passes (seven against the University of Oregon) and have recovered 10 fumbles, with many others forced. Three of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns, including two by Jason David, who may be the best corner in the conference. They have also returned a fumble for a touchdown and blocked a punt for a touchdown. Count ‘em up, that’s five defensive scores (maybe four if you count that blocked punt as a special teams touchdown).
The Cougar run defense is also solid. They had one close call, but so far this season they have not allowed a 100-yard rusher. Ryan Grant from Notre Dame was the closest with 17 carries for 98 yards. The second closet came in the same game, Washington State’s lone loss this season. Julius Jones had 11 carries for 72 yards.
If the Beavers play like they did this past Saturday against the Huskies they won’t only get beat, they will get completely humiliated. If they play like they did in the first two Pac-10 games, if they play like they can, if they play up to their potential, they have a great chance to knock off a top 10 team, on the road, in what could be the toughest conference in college football.
Matt Kegel's teammates admit they had some doubt when he took over as quarterback this season in place of Jason Gesser. After Kegel's gutsy performance Saturday, those thoughts are all but gone. Kegel passed for 331 yards and three touchdowns as his non-throwing shoulder throbbed in pain at the end, and Sammy Moore's 64-yard punt return set up another score as No. 6 Washington State defeated Stanford 24-14...Cougars stuff Cardinal 24-14
WSU leads the series 45-39-3 since the first game was played in 1903…the Cougars have taken the series lead thanks to a 18-4-1 record over the Beavers since 1975…included was a streak of 10 straight victories, 1983- 93…WSU won the last meeting 34-27 in Pullman in 2001, while OSU captured the 1999 and 2000 games…the two teams didn’t play in 2002…while this is Mike Riley’s third season at OSU, it is his first game against WSU, since the teams didn’t play each other during his previous two years at OSU, 1997 and 1998.
2003 media/coaches outlook.
Washington State is ranked #6 in the coaches poll and the associted press poll. The Cougars were picked to finish seventh in the Pac-10 by the media.
Washington State went 10-3 last year, 7-1 in Pac-10 play, and were the 2002 Pac-10 champions. The Cougars lost 34-14 to Oklamhoma in the Rose Bowl.