Snapping a 10-game losing streak was certainly better than losing, so there was at least some cause for celebrating a 23-22 win over the visiting Bobcats, ranked No. 23 in last week's FCS poll.
But other than the win, there was little to feel good about from a game in which the Cougars were dominated by a team that a Pac-10 squad would be expected to beat handily, winning only due to a rather improbable 16-point rally in the final quarter.
"We're rebuilding and we'll take a win," said WSU coach Paul Wulff, who is now 4-23 as head coach, two of the wins coming against lower-division teams (the other a rout of Portland State in 2008). "We didn't play great and we found a way to win."
Still, this was hardly a confidence builder for the Cougars as they were outgained 407-316 and couldn't punch it in on three plays from the 2-yard line in the late going, having to settle for an 18-yard field goal with 2:13 left that gave them the winning points.
That was set up by one of three interceptions in the final 18 minutes that proved the only difference between victory and what would have been one of the most embarrassing defeats in WSU history.
WSU rushed for just 112 yards on 36 carries, 70 yards coming on one play by James Montgomery, as the Cougars did not move the ball consistently on Montana State until the fourth quarter.
Even after falling behind, Montana State drove quickly to WSU's 26-yard line. But instead of playing it safe and setting up a winning field goal, the Bobcats decided to throw, and a tipped pass was intercepted by the Cougars to seal the win.
As Wulff said, it was a win, and WSU finally had a lead in a game in regulation for the first time sine 2008.
James Montgomery had 116 yards on 20 carries, which looks better if you don't consider that 70 came on one play -- which indicates how Montana State mostly shut down WSU's running game. But it was the first 100-yard running game for WSU since Montgomery had 118 against Hawaii last season and a nice comeback story for a player whose career seemed over when he had a serious leg injury later in the 2009 season.
PK Nico Grasu made the 18-yard field goal that won the game, continuing a good start to the year that included nailing a 56-yarder at Oklahoma State last week.
The defense at least came up big when it had to, picking off three passes in the final 17 minutes and stopping MSU on downs with a sack on a fourth-and-4 and the score 22-14.
STILL NEEDS WORK
Other than being opportune, WSU's pass defense was picked apart much of the day as MSU was 26-of-39 passing for 284 yards, with receivers open everywhere; the Cougars managed just two sacks. Massive improvement is needed to slow down SMU's high-powered passing attack next week.
The running game was non-existent other than the 70-yard run, WSU getting 42 yards on its other 35 carries (including three sacks for 11 yards, which makes the rushing numbers look only a little bit better).
And the run defense wasn't much better. If you take out the QB sacks, Montana State had 158 yards on 27 attempts. Considering the opponent, pretty alarming numbers.
--DT Bernard Wolfgramm hurt his shoulder and couldn't play in the second half, but he was the only new injury to a key player that could last beyond this week.
--WR Jared Karsetter, who had suffered a concussion the previous week, played and caught three passes for 37 yards.
--WR Gino Simone, out the first week with a hamstring injury, returned and caught one pass for 9 yards.
--Tackle Micah Hannam made his 39th consecutive start, the most for a Cougar lineman since Mike Utley from 1985-88. Utley later went on to play for the Detroit Lions and is remembered for having his career ended with an injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
--The 15-point deficit was the largest WSU has overcome since beating Stanford in 1984 in a game in which it trailed 42-14 before winning 49-42.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Freshman linebacker C.J. Mizell -- The former Florida State commit who was the prize of the 2010 recruiting class, came off the bench to chip in five tackles and had the game-clinching interception on a tipped pass in the final minutes.
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