Call for punt block comes up foul for WSU

IT WAS A MOMENT that would be remembered – for all the wrong reasons. With a little more than 10 minutes left in the third quarter, and Washington State leading 24-14, the Cougars forced the Aztecs into a second consecutive three-and-out. The plan: Get the ball back, take it to the house, and put the game largely out of reach.

After all, three touchdowns would be a tough mountain for San Diego State to summit with just under a half-hour left to play.

And then came the call for a punt block.

Sophomore Bennett Bontemps, a sophomore walk-on from Rogers High School in Puyallup, got a good rush on Aztecs punter Brian Stahovich, but rolled beneath him.

He clipped his legs – and was called for a personal foul. Roughing the kicker. Fifteen yards and an automatic first down for the Aztecs.

SAN DIEGO STATE took possession at the WSU 47-yard line, and just three plays later, they had cut the deficit to 24-21 on a 25-yard catch from Ryan Lindley to Gavin Escobar.

"It was a specific play, for me to go and block the punt," Bontemps said in a postgame interview with The Seattle Times. "It's a terrible feeling, to do that to my team."

Cougars coach Paul Wulff didn't seem too surprised that the botched play marked the beginning of the end. The Aztecs outscored the Cougars 28-0 in the final 25 minutes.

"Yeah, a little bit," he said in a postgame interview with The Spokesman Review, when asked whether he sensed the momentum shift. "But they still had to capitalize, which they did, right? They scored a touchdown.

"BUT, YOU KNOW, good teams are going to learn to overcome those things. It's a teaching moment for everyone. When we face momentum swings, we have to fight our way back out of it. Make plays to counteract the momentum."

Instead, the Cougars dropped the ball at least four times, including what looked to be a first down on third-and-18 by Wilson shortly before the Aztecs went ahead for good.

"I hate it when I drop the ball," Wilson said. "It's one of my least favorite things. I just strive for perfection and I'm really of the mindset I want to catch everything."

THE DROPS WEREN'T the only problem. As WSU committed three turnovers – and three chop blocks in the fourth quarter – San Diego State running back Ronnie Hillman sprinted down the field for a 59-yard touchdown run. Cougars quarterback Marshall Lobbestael was sacked six times in the final period.

"It just changes the whole fourth quarter," Wulff said of the trio of chop blocks.

Wulff also said that Hillman, who finished with 191 yards on 32 carries, "wore us down a little."

In a postgame interview with The Seattle Times, defensive coordinator Chris Ball said that the team talked all week about embracing adversity.

But when adversity arose in the second half, "We didn't embrace it."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Defensive end Adam Coerper was the only Cougar injured during the game and unable to return. The junior had to be helped off the field by two teammates after suffering a sprained knee. His status is unknown. Defensive tackle Brandon Rankin, who left the field in the first half with a sore ankle, had it retaped and finished the game.

  • Senior running back Logwone Mitz didn't carry in the game, as scatbacks Rickey Galvin and Carl Winston shared 19 rushes.

    "It has nothing to do with Logwone at all," Wulff said in a postgame interview with The Seattle Times. "Logwone's been trying. These two kids have earned the right to play."

  • Saturday's win snapped the Aztecs' 19-game losing streak against Pac-12 schools.

  • San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley passed the 10,000-yard career passing mark with a second-quarter completion. Lindley is second in school history to Todd Santos, who threw for 11,425 yards. He has thrown touchdown passes in 13 straight games, but his lone interception Saturday broke a string of 112 pass attempts without one.

  • Senior tight end Alston Umulo, who had three catches for 32 yards, played at Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane early in his high-school career.

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