Ugly ain't so bad

PULLMAN—There is ugly and there is <I>ugly</I>. And no matter if you watched this blunder bowl between No. 12 Washington State and UCLA from the relatively pleasant clime of Martin Stadium or the comfort of your sofa, there's no denying the Cougars and Bruins provided a reel's worth of lowlights today. We're talking mirror cracking ugly here.

Fourteen turnovers, 21 penalties, dropped balls, and missed opportunities abounded for these two Pac-10 teams, both tied with Southern Cal in first place coming into the game. Oh, and the Pac-10 officiating crew tossed in their now-trademark bad call a time or two.

But, for WSU anyway, ugly isn't quite as tough to look at as it was ten—or even five—years ago. In fact, upon closer inspection, ugly on the Palouse these days can look pretty darn attractive.

Attractive as in a 31-13 victory; attractive as in an 8-2 record; attractive as in alone—by a half-game—at the top of the Pac. Or attractive as in one win away from the magic mandatory nine wins needed for a BCS bowl. Or how about this one: Two victories away from a third consecutive ten win season, as well as a third consecutive top 10 ranking.

And through the ugliness of Cougar quarterback Matt Kegel's re-injury of his shoulder, his back-up Josh Swogger's rather rocky night passing, another handful of false start penalties, and Devard Darling's drop of Swogger's best pass of the night, there was, of course, the reliable beauty of the Cougar defense.

And there was Jonathan Smith.

Mr. Smith brought something back to Martin Stadium that Cougar faithful feared they'd never see again: a running game.

Smith, a senior, hauled the swine 36 times for 130 yards and three touchdowns. It was the first 100-yard rushing performance by a Cougar back since Nixon was in office. Okay, it only seems that way.

But it didn't stop there with Mr. Smith. He added 85 receiving yards to his game day resume, accounting for nearly half of WSU's air game.

And while Smith ran brilliantly, hopping and sidestepping a Bruin defense that was ranked second in the Pac-10, the Cougar offense line deserves much of the credit. Although the consistency was not quite there and head-scratching penalties, unfortunately, were (the Cougs' first offensive play was a false start), the steakeaters did more to narrow the gap between potential and performance than they have since week one against Idaho.

And on a day when Cougar big play receivers Darling, Sammy Moore, and Chris Jordan did not register a pass catch, when only eight (eight!) WSU passes were completed, that proved to be enough.

ERIK EVERYWHERE: Cougar senior safety Erik Coleman had a game for the ages against UCLA. He had 10 tackles, two interceptions, two near-interceptions, two forced fumbles and, believe it or not, his bullrush from a three-point stance appeared to play a roll in that misguided snap that led to the Bruins' muffed punt attempt.

OL' CRIMSON UPDATE: Cougar alums—now legends—Kevin and Erica Stephens made the 12 hour roundtrip from New Jersey to Pittsburgh so that Ol' Crimson should fly again on ESPN Gameday. Although facing off with some hostile Pitt fans, the couple still managed to garner some prime airtime for Ol' Crimson during the opening minutes and the Pac-10 segment. Bravo, Kevin and Erica!

NEXT UP FOR THE COUGS: The Arizona State Sun Devils visit Martin Stadium next Saturday. The game has been moved to 12:30 PST to accommodate live coverage by ABC-TV. ASU (4-6, 1-5) fell to Stanford today, 38-27.


WSU-Smith 1 run (Dunning kick)
WSU-Bienemann 32 pass from Kegel (Dunning kick)

UCLA-Medlock 46 FG
UCLA-Medlock 32 FG
WSU-Smith 12 run (Dunning kick)
WSU-Smith 9 run (Dunning kick)

UCLA-Bragg 34 pass from Moore (Medlock kick)

WSU- Dunning 42 FG

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