WSU gets a taste of Leach with improbable win

TEXAS TECH FANS warned Washington State faithful throughout the season that almost no deficit was insurmountable under coach Mike Leach. After narrowly missing a couple of improbable comeback wins earlier in the season, the Cougars finally captured one when Andrew Furney connected on a 27-field goal to propel WSU to a 31-28 overtime win Friday against No. 25 Washington at Martin Stadium.

"I guess I have a habit of doing crazy stuff after a kick," Andrew Furney said during a postgame radio interview as his team overcame the largest deficit in the history of the series to win. "To have that in the Apple Cup, words wouldn't be able to describe it."

Afterward, Cougars' fans must feel there is something different about years where the final digit ends in 2. WSU (3-9 overall, 1-8 Pac-12) also won Apple Cup games in 1972, 1982, 1992 and 2012, with two of those decided by missed field goals. Similar to Chuck Nelson 30 years ago, Travis Coons' 35-yard field goal sailed wide right as time expired with the game tied at 28.

The Cougars ensured that momentum – and an opportunity to give its hard-luck seniors their first Apple Cup win – would not be wasted. WSU won the overtime coin flip and deferred. It only took one play for the Cougars to ruin the Huskies' four-game winning streak. As quarterback Keith Price faced intense pressure, he lofted a short pass into the air. Sophomore defensive tackle Toni Pole intercepted it and nearly returned the ball for a game-winning touchdown.

"I shouldn't have ate that much," Pole said, laughing. "My boy Junior [Gauta] put pressure on the quarterback. I made a play on the ball and kept on running."

After senior quarterback Jeff Tuel, who completed 33 of 53 for 350 yards and two interceptions, threw 7- and 8-yard passes to freshmen Dominique Williams and Brett Bartolone, respectively, Leach sent Furney on for the field goal to end WSU's three-game losing streak in the series.

Improbable might be an understatement. Had the Cougars lost, particularly after outgaining UW 369 to 269, the focus likely would have been on their youthful receivers. Outside of Dominique Williams, who finished with 143 yards on eight receptions, the wideouts made a series of crucial mistakes that almost cost WSU the victory.

After Furney kicked a 21-yard field to give the Cougars a 3-0 first-quarter lead, Bartolone bobbled a third-down pass from Tuel that would have extended the drive. Instead, the ball landed in Justin Glenn's hands to give the Huskies (7-4, 5-4) possession at the WSU 20-yard line. Three plays later, UW took a 7-3 lead on a 11-yard pass from Price to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

Buoyed by a 61-yard reception by Williams on third down, senior running back Carl Winston scored the Cougars' first rushing touchdown since Sept. 29 against Oregon on a 1-yard carry to give WSU a 10-7 halftime lead.

It would not last for long. After Price found Cody Bruns for a 15-yard go-ahead touchdown early in the third quarter, the Huskies capitalized a play after Gabe Marks dropped a first-down pass. Tuel was stripped on the ensuing play by Josh Shirley and Talia Crichton recovered it at WSU's 16. UW later extended its lead to 21-10 on a 2-yard run by Bishop Sankey.

The receiving woes continued on the next drive when Tuel's pass bounced off sophomore Isiah Myers and was intercepted by Travis Feeney, who returned to the Cougars' 7. Three plays later, Sankey extended the Huskies' lead to 28-10 on a 1-yard run.

As poorly as his receivers played during the third quarter, Tuel said he never lost faith in their abilities.

"They were just holding the heck out of our receivers," he said. "That was the only way they could stop them. Our receivers did a fantastic job."

Winston had 2- and 1-yard touchdown runs in the fourth quarter sandwiched by a Price fumble forced by Steven Hoffart, which was recovered by junior linebacker Justin Sagote. After taking advantage of a pass-interference call on the initial two-point conversion, Tuel found Bartolone to cut WSU's deficit to 28-25 with 7:26 remaining.

After forcing a three-and-out that was aided by a false start – one of 18 penalties assessed against the Huskies – Tuel drove the Cougars down to the UW 28 before his third-and-1 pass fell incomplete.

Leach said afterward that the decision to have Furney kick a 45-yard field goal with 1:59 left was difficult and one he still questioned because a touchdown on that drive would have given his team a four-point lead.

Instead, the Cougars waited anxiously as the Huskies utilized a personal-foul penalty to quickly drive down the field and set up a straightaway field goal for Coons.

But unlike the last game at Martin Stadium – a 44-36 loss nearly two weeks ago against UCLA – WSU finished an improbable comeback.

"This was the best game we've played all year," Leach said. "We had adversity on all sides of the ball that we overcame. It's a good lesson for us to learn that if we stick in there and finish, good things will happen for us."

And while Leach said the game can serve as a harbinger to the offseason, he also was happy that the senior class, particularly linebacker Travis Long, who suffered an undisclosed injury last week at Arizona State and was unable to play, could cap their college careers with a rivalry win.

"This is dedicated to all of our seniors," Leach said. "They have been through some tough times to build a foundation here. This is a great way for them to go out."

TURNING POINT OF THE GAME: Coons' missed field goal ensured the overtime, but Pole's fumble recovery essentially sealed WSU's victory.

CATCH OF THE GAME: Senior Gino Simone extended the Cougars' game-tying fourth-quarter drive with a difficult third-down catch.

STATS OF THE GAME: WSU converted 8-of-15 third-down attempts and was 5-for-5 on red zone scoring chances.

MISLEADING STAT OF THE GAME: Tuel was credited with a pair of interceptions, but both were the result of wide receivers not securing the ball.

LEADING TACKLERS: Safety Deone Bucannon had 11 stops, while cornerback Daniel Simmons added eight and linebacker Darryl Monroe had seven.


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