Creating mismatches in Boise: Cougs on target

THE MANTRA OF the spread offense, whether presided over by Bill Walsh in the "West Coast" version or Mike Price in the "one-back," is simple: Create and exploit one-on-one matchups. In short, get gifted players isolated so they can make things happen out in the open spaces where the steak eaters ain't lurkin'.



6:42 | TD | WSU
Nakoa McElrath 7-yard
pass from Jason Gesser
(Drew Dunning kick)

7:40 | TD | BOISE
Lou Fanucchi 66-yard
pass from Ryan Dinwiddie

14:08 | TD | WSU
McElrath 26-yard pass
from Gesser
(Dunning kick)


3:46 | TD | WSU
Mike Bush 65-yard
pass from Gesser
(Dunning kick)

12:15 | TD | WSU
Matt Kegel 1-yard run
(Dunning kick)


6:16 | TD | WSU
Raonall Smith 54-yard
interception return

8:53 | TD | BOISE
David Mikell 47-yard run
(Nick Calaycay kick)

9:57 | TD | WSU
McElrath 71-yard pass
from Colin Henderson
(Dunning kick)


4:22 | TD | BOISE
Jay Swillie 14-yard pass
from Dinwiddie
(Calaycay kick)

Washington State's Cougars put on a clinic in the art of the one-back Saturday night on the blue turf at Boise State.

The Cougars scored on their first four possessions each covering between 71 and 85 yards by turning the spread offense mantra into a real-life nightmare for Wes Nurse, Gabe Franklin and the rest of Boise State's pint-sized secondary.

Trips right, trips left, two tight ends. Outside, inside. Short, deep. Price had the Broncos guessing from the opening snap.

There was Jason Gesser, with a Bronco draped all over him, hitting wide-open Nakoa McElrath on a 43-yard, third-down gainer that would set up the Cougars' first score moments later: a 6-yard pass from Gesser to McElrath.

There was Gesser executing a perfect screen pass that wide-open David Minnich took deep into Boise State territory. Six plays later McElrath ran a picturesque post pattern and hauled in a 25-yard aerial from Gesser that would put the Cougars up 14-6.

There was Gesser, his pump-faking finest, lofting a ball 45 yards on the fly to 6-6 Mike Bush, who caught it in stride on the 20 and waltzed into the endzone for the Cougars' third TD of the first half.

And then there was Gesser's QB-mate, Matt Kegel, hitting four of four passes, including two big-time connections with McElrath, to set up TD No. 4: A Kegel keeper from the one with 2:45 left in the first half.

The Cougars walked to intermission with a 28-6 lead. Boise State's 14-game home winning streak was all but over. The Broncos' hopes of ending a career drought against the Pac-10 was postponed for another season.

Bring on the Buffaloes. The Cougars are back. Next week against Colorado the crimson horde has a chance to go 3-0 for the first time since downing these same BSU Broncos in '98.

The final score Saturday, 41-20, was purely academic, because McElrath, Bush, Collin Henderson and Trandon Harvey stand too tall, run too fast and jump too high. The Broncos, like the Vandals before them, didn't stand a chance.

It's easy to create mismatches those crucial mismatches with talent like that, especially with a QB as poised and gifted as Gesser pulling the strings.

This was offensive exploitation the way it was meant to be. The way Joe Montana used to do it.

Exploitation the likes of which would get you locked up here in the Gem State if your name was Larry Flynt.

In all, the Cougars piled up 490 yards of offense 380 of them by air. Gesser completed 18 of 27 passes for 252 yards and three TDs, while McElrath , brilliant again, grabbed eight balls for 210 yards and three trips to paydirt.

The last of those three McElrath scores came on a bit of gadgetry that is quickly making Henderson part of Palouse grid lore. For the third time in his career, the junior wideout took a lateral pass and then stopped to heave the ball downfield for a touchdown. This time it was a 71-yarder to McElrath in the third quarter that pretty much left the 30,000 Bronco Stadium fans looking toward Central Michigan next week. For his career, this son of former WSU quarterback Jerry Henderson, is five-for-five passing.


As much as the Cougar offense was clicking early and often, the crimson D was misfiring at an alarming rate in the first quarter. BSU sophomore QB Ryan Dinwiddie, making only his second career start, was going deep with confidence and success.

He opened the game with two long passes one that fell incomplete and another to Tacoma's Jay Swillie that burned Lamont Thompson for a 42-yard gain. That drive stalled, but on the next series Dinwiddie did it again, taking on the vaunted Cougar secondary with a bomb, this time to Lou Fanucchi, for a 66-yard TD strike. On the very next series, Dinwiddie went deep again on the first snap, hitting Swillie for a 34-yard gainer to the Cougar 39. But when WSU held on a fourth-and-one play at the 15, notice was served that the fun and games were largely over.

"They made some plays at the start that were a bit of a shick," said WSU linebacker Raonall Smith, who picked off Dinwiddie in the second half and returned the ball 54-yards for a TD. "We didn't expect to see them throw that well."


  • The penalty prone Cougars were at it again, following up their 15-flag, 128-yard effort against Idaho with a 13-penalty, 104 yard night at BSU.
  • McElrath slightly sprained his knee in the second half, but returned to the game. Minnich tweaked an ankle, giving freshmen Jimmy Wilson and Allen Thompson a chance to impress Price, who

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