But there was also a time—again, not so many years ago—when inconsistent offensive play, momentary losses of poise, bye week hangovers, and 16 penalties spelled sure doom for the Cougs. Thankfully, those days, too, seem to be mostly gone.
As has often been the case thus far in the 2003 season, WSU's defense turned in a near flawless performance against the Cardinal today, recording two interceptions, five quarterback sacks and holding Stanford's running game to 42 yards on 34 carries. And while the Cougar offense did just enough sputtering and stalling to keep Stanford mathematically alive in this one, they also made enough big plays to keep control of the scoreboard.
"We want to play better than we did today, but it was a win," WSU head coach Bill Doba said afterward. "It shows the good character of our football team to make plays when they have to."
Receiver Chris Jordan was involved in two of those big plays, scoring twice on Matt Kegel passes, the first coming just over two minutes into the contest from 12 yards out. It would be the only score of the first half.
Cougar safety Virgil Williams set the table for the Cougars' second score—another Kegel to Jordan connection—intercepting a Trent Edwards pass early in the third quarter. Edwards would leave the game shortly after following a vicious hit by linebacker Will Derting.
The Cougs responded to Stanford's first score of the game, a one-yard run by Kenneth Tolon in the third quarter, with another highlight film play by Sammy Moore. Moore took a Cardinal punt 64 yards to the three-yard line. Kegel hit Cody Boyd in the end zone on the next play. His two point conversion pass to Troy Bienemann made it 21-7.
"Sammy just keeps making plays," Doba said.
Despite temporarily leaving the contest after dislocating his left (non-throwing) shoulder, Kegel connected on 26 of 47 passes for 331 and two touchdowns.
Stanford kept hope alive, on paper anyway, closing the gap to seven when Chris Lewis, in for the injured Edwards, found Mark Bradford with six minutes remaining from 12 yards out.
However, WSU answered with another crucial big play, this one a fantastic over-the-defender catch by Devard Darling that went 31 yards, setting up Drew Dunning's 37-yard field goal and pushing their lead to a comfortable 10 points.
But like the Cougars' contest with Arizona two weeks ago, the Cardinal—while appearing to be within striking distance of an upset much of the game—really had no chance against WSU. Such is the confidence and comfort of having one of the country's toughest defenses and an offense that has the ability to pull out a big play when they must.
NEXT UP FOR THE COUGS: The Oregon State Beavers, 38-17 losers to Washington tonight, visit Pullman on Saturday, October 25, at 3:30 p.m. The game will be telecast live on Fox Sports Northwest.
WSU—Jordan 22 yard pass from Kegel (Dunning kick)
WSU—Jordan 22 yard pass from Kegel (kick blocked)
SU—Tolon 1 yard run (Sgori kick)
WSU—Boyd 3 yard TD pass from Kegel (Bienemann pass from Kegel)
SU—Bradford 12 yard pass from Lewis (Sgori kick)
WSU—Dunning 37 yard FG
WSU: Smith 13-45; Bruhn 11-15; Kegel 3-14
SU: Lemon 11-51; Tolon 17-22; Powell 1-0; Lewis 3-(-)13; Edwards 2-(-)18
WSU: Kegel 26-47-0-331; Swogger 0-4-0-0; Johnson 0-1-1-0
SU: Edwards 11-28-1-122; Lewis 9-22-1-95
WSU: Jordan 5-97; Darling 5-82; Bienemann 5-51; Smith 4-2; Moore 2-59; Harvey 2-14; Lunde 1-15; Bruhn 1-8; Boyd 1-3
SU: Camarillo 6-64; Powell 5-47; Bradford 4-50; Crochet 3-48; Tolon 1-4; Lemon 1-4
WSU: Jackson 9; Derting 7; Genatone 5; Williams,V. 5; Paymah 4; Williams, J. 4; Coleman 4; Shavies 4; Abdullah 3; Davis 3; Tupai 3; David 2; Hill 2; Acholonu 1; Turner 1; Miller 1; Hall 1; Braidwood 1; Bruce 1; Wagner 1