Cougs' Pago Pago Pipeline sealed the deal

BACK IN THE 1980s, Washington State had its famed "Compton Connection" of players from that area of southern California. In the 1990s, it was the "Curtis Connection" from the high school in Tacoma.

After the Cougars' game-winning final play Saturday at Oregon, it's time to celebrate the Pago Pago Pipeline.

The heroes were many in the Cougars' 45-38 double-overtime thriller in Eugene, but the play that sealed it was all about the capital of American Samoa.

Pago Pago, a town with a population that doesn't quite reach 4,000, produced both ends of one of the most  memorable -- and emotionally exhilarating -- plays in the last dozen years of Cougar football.

With Oregon trailing WSU by seven and facing a fourth-and-nine in the second overtime, Duck quarterback Jeff Lockie -- his backside draped with Cougar tackle Daniel Ekuale who had barreled in and around from the right -- fired to the end zone where Cougar safety Shalom Luani reached high and pulled down an interception that sent a cathartic cheer throughout Cougar Nation.

Ekuale, who posted five total tackles and forced a fumble, is a third-year sophomore from Nuuuli Technical High  ... in Pago Pago. Luani is a JC transfer junior who prepped at Faga'Itua High ... in Pago Pago.

The odds that Pago Pago would play such a huge role in WSU's victory aren't astronomical because five other Cougars besides Ekuale and Luani, including starting defensive lineman Destiny Vaeao, are from there. But when you consider the population of the place -- at just less than 3,700 -- the fact the two key actors in WSU's critical final play hail from the island territory is nothing less than head turning.

Of course, no mention of Saturday's "Pago Pago Heroics" can go by without a nod to Cougar defensive line and assistant head coach Joe Salave'a, who leads the recruiting effort there.


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