In the process, the Cougars improved their season record to 10-3, becoming the first Pac-10 team in 70 years to string together three successive 10-win seasons. The victory also should propel WSU back into the Top 10, making them the first Pac-10 team in 30 years to finish in that rare club three straight seasons.
This bit of history was made possible by stellar performances up and down the Cougar roster. The defense was its usual attacking self; the special teams play was remarkable; and the offense was moving again.
Erik Coleman & Matt Kegel (AP/Smith)
Matt Kegel, in a season full of gutty performances, pulled off his best one of the year. Kegel threw short. He threw long. He was on target over the middle. And he directed the offense with precision and skill to the tune of 360 yards, injured shoulders be damned.
Erik Coleman was simply phenomenal. The senior had 8 tackles, a forced fumble (that teammate Jason David gathered up for a touchdown), broke up three passes, partially blocked a punt and helped harass one of the best rushing teams in the nation into attempting 49 passes.
Jonathan Smith averaged 5.2 ypc, totalling 109 yards on 21 touches. Time after time, Smith took the handoff from Kegel out of the shotgun and ripped off large chunks of yardage.
Moving the chains, setting up the offense in short yardage situations and keeping the defense well rested on the sideline, Smith and Chris Bruhn were money all night long. Bruhn ripped off 44 yards on 10 carries of his own.
Will Derting dominated; simply imposing his will at key junctures of the game. Derting, who is slated to move to MLB next year, had four tackles including a sack and two fumble recoveries. But his stats don't tell the full story of his performance, he had Texas quarterbacks running for their lives.
And for good measure, middle 'backer Don Jackson turned in yet another great game; tackling with his face, recording 10 sticks to share the team lead with Virgil Williams.
Sammy Moore (AP/Smith)
Moore also added an electrifying 52-yard punt return, aided in part by an absolute decleater of a block by Adam Braidwood. The return set up Smith's 12-yard TD run off a direct snap as part of a 19-point 3rd quarter explosion by the Cougs.
Kyle Basler nailed seven punts for an average of 40.1 – particularly impressive given he deliberately took something off of several efforts in order to pin Texas deep. And pin them deep he did, all night long. Texas had poor field position for much of the game. Basler had a long of 56.
The offensive line may have turned in their best performance of the season, and certainly in the area of run blocking. The Cougs opened holes that Smith and Bruhn exploited to the tune of 154 yards on the ground – The Cougs, with 157 total net yards, outrushed Texas - who ended the game with 131 net.
Together with TEs Troy Bienemann, and Cody Boyd, the front five of Calvin Armstrong, Josh Parrish, Mike Shelford, Nick Mihlhauser and Sam Lightbody handled the vaunted Texas d-line for much of this Holiday Bowl.
And when the Cougs weren't drive blocking and chewing up yardage on the ground, they were providing the protection needed for a quarterback that had two bad shoulders -- Kegel was not sacked the entire game.
Coach Bill Doba and the staff at Washington State deflect any praise directed towards them as they have all season long; they prefer the players receive the credit. But attention must be paid to their efforts, particularly on offense and on the offensive line.
Washington State ran nearly everything out of the 'gun against Texas -- the extra time before the back hit the line allowed the front five to finish their blocks. It also allowed the backs to see the lanes opening up.. And by keeping Kegel in the shotgun it afforded him the ability to avoid most of the hits, as well as the time to find the open receiver.
It was a great game plan. And it was well executed. Very well executed. "This was a total team effort," said coach Doba. "This was just a great team effort."
So how important was this win? "It was huge," said Doba. "It was huge to beat the No.5 team in the nation."
"I'd definitely say we deserve to be in the Top 10."
Offense, Defense, Special teams. The Cougs beat the Longhorns in all three areas on this night.
But this Texas squad wasn't the No. 5 team in the nation for nothin'. After a fluke tipped interception, Chance Mock found Roy Williams for a 30-yard scoring strike with 4:29 to play.. Until that point, with under 5 minutes to go in the game, Williams had been held well in check by the Cougs' D with a mere 21 yards receiving.
D.D. Acholonu (AP/Lindquist)
Fittingly, it was Acholonu with one final sack and tackle-for-loss to cap his WSU career and ensure the victory. And with the Cougs' seventh sack of the game, (and Acholonu's third), ‘The Mailman' delivered one final piece of mail; a Holiday card to the Cougar faithful.
CEDRIC BENSON 1 YD RUN (DAVID PINO KICK GOOD)
15 plays, 71 yards
SAMMY MOORE 12 YD PASS FROM MATT KEGEL (DREW DUNNING KICK)
8 plays, 66 yards
DAVID PINO 39 YD FG
6 plays, 52 yards
SAMMY MOORE 54 YD PASS FROM MATT KEGEL (KICK FAILED)
1 play, 54 yards
|13-10, Washington State|
JONATHAN SMITH 12 YD RUN (DREW DUNNING KICK)
4 plays, 26 yards
|20-10, Washington State|
JASON DAVID 18 YD DEFENSIVE FUMBLE RETURN (KICK FAILED)
|26-10, Washington State|
DAVID PINO 19 YD FG
13 plays, 49 yards
|26-13, Washington State|
|28-13, Washington State|
ROY WILLIAMS 30 YD PASS FROM CHANCE MOCK (DAVID PINO KICK)
6 plays, 57 yards
|28-20, Washington State|