Ode to Acholonu

ASIDE FROM THE obvious Rose Bowl implications, the worst part about WSU's upset loss to Washington is that it deprived <b>D.D. Acholonu</b> from getting the mountain of post-game attention he deserved for turning in what has to rank as one of the greatest individual defensive performances in Apple Cup history.

No adjective can truly capture his work against the Dawgs, but a few that I've heard bandied about by people in the know are brilliant, incredible, and -- my favorite -- other worldly.

His box score tells the tale nicely: The senior defensive end from Inglemoor High had nine total tackles against the Dawgs -- three of them sacks and two others for losses. He would have had a fourth sack were it not for a timely holding penalty by a Dawg lineman who put a virtual strangle-hold around D.D.'s neck in the second quarter. In addition, he recovered a fumble, and generally made life hard for Cody Pickett all day long.

It was a fitting exclamation point on a great season and career for one D.D. Acholonu, who will leave WSU with his name etched alongside two of the greatest sack-masters in Cougar history: DeWayne Patterson and Keith Millard.

D.D.'s 13.5 sacks this season rank him No. 2 in the Pac-10 in that category behind UCLA's Dave Ball (16.5), and also tie him with Patterson (1994) for No. 2 on WSU's all-time single-season list behind the 1993 Patterson (17). In addition, D.D.'s 18 Tackles for Loss this season rank him No. 5 on the school's all-time list.

From a career standpoint, the numbers are just as impressive -- 29.5 career sacks, ranking him No. 2 on WSU's all-time list behind Patterson (37.5). And his 43 career Tackles for Loss edge him past Millard for the No. 2 spot behind Patterson (52.5).

And how's this for a fancy footnote on D.D.'s college career: As a sophomore in 2001, he didn't start a single game, yet led the Pac-10 in sacks with 9.5 and earned honorable mention all-conference recognition.

It's no coincidence that during D.D.'s tenure, which coincided perfectly with fellow rush-end wonder Isaac Brown, WSU has been the nation's most prolific sacking team. Over the last four seasons combined, the Cougs have 158 sacks, four more than No. 2 Texas. And with 40 this year, the WSU leads the Pac-10 for a second-straight year.

IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS, though, it's Acholonu's energy and attitude on the field that set him apart more than his statistical legacy. Simply put, his fight and fury make those around him even better. And his outgoing personality off the field truly qualifies him as a Cougar for the ages.

Bill Doba captured it well the other day when he said D.D. "is a special kid."

The coach also noted that Acholonu --- who stands 6-3 and weighs 245 --- has improved every week this season, combining his natural stength and speed with a growing knowledge of the game.

"He hasn't played a lot of football, he only played about a year and a half in high school and he didn't redshirt here," Doba said. "If some NFL team gives him an opportunity, I think he could develop into quite a football player (for them)."

Anyone who watched Saturday's Apple Cup can attest to that.


While the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, reserved for the No. 2 team in the Pac-10, looks to be a lock for the Cougars, there's still a mathematical chance WSU could sneak into the Rose Bowl. A number of things would have to happen, chief of which would be WSU climbing from No. 15 in the BCS ratings to no less than No. 12, which is the cutoff to qualify for a BCS bowl game. Climbing up would require a number of teams ahead of the Cougs to fall, which is a possibility since 10 of the 14 still have regular seasons to complete. From there, it would be a beauty contest likely among WSU, LSU and Texas. Bottom line, Sea World here I come!!!!!

Middle linebacker Don Jackson posted a bone-jarring 15 tackles against the Dawgs, to raise his season total to a team-leading 91. Unfortunately, a hip pointer late in the game on Saturday kept his sidelined during that maddening final charge by Pickett's brigade. Will Derting and Erik Coleman are tied at No. 2 on the total tackles list with 82 each.

Sammy Moore needs just 40 yards in WSU's bowl game to become just the fourth Cougar ever to amass 1,500 or more all-purpose yards in one season. Sammy has 1,460 so far, courtesy of 656 on kickoff returns, 467 in receptions and 337 in punt returns. Other CouGreats in that exclusive club are Bernard Jackson (2,118 in 1971), Steve Broussard (1,790 in 1989 and 1,533 in 1988) and Rueben Mayes (1,768 in 1984).

With 10 more penalties against UW, the Cougars racked up 144 in the regular season, tying the 1977 Grambling team for most flags in a single season.

With 128 yards against Washington, senior running back Jonathan Smith has put himself within striking distance of cracking WSU's 1,000 yard club. He has 851 ground hashes on the season, leaving him 149 away from the magic mark. With a big day in WSU's bowl game he'll become the 10th person in WSU history to rush for 1,000 yards or more in a single season.

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