Harrison's emergence; plus lockerroom quotes

PULLMAN -- As disappointing as the nail biting loss to Oregon was, WSU fans still have something very big to smile about: The return of the Cougar ground game and the emergence of JC transfer <b>Jerome Harrison</b> as a bona fide Pac-10 running back. For the first time this season, the Cougars actually mounted a ground attack with traction.

Against the Ducks D – by no means a group to be confused with the Steel Curtain, but nonetheless surrendering a respectable three yards per rush – the Cougars produced 143 ground yards.

And for ye who point to the 285 rushing hashes WSU piled up against Idaho, I'll just be frank and tell you I consider any stats from that game to be about as relevant as those from a spring scrimmage. In other words, they just don't count.

At New Mexico the Cougars managed a woeful 43 net rushing yards on 31 carries. The Colorado game was even worse – 15 net yards on 40 carries. And at Arizona it was 28 yards on 35 carries.

A rejuvenated offensive line, coupled with the slashing and dashing of Harrison, put a whole new dimension in the offense Saturday and the results were impressive. In scoring 38 points, the Cougars doubled up on their per-game average against News Mexico, Colorado and Arizona.

Harrison not only made a case for doing away with the running back-by-committee approach, but put a vice grip on the starting spot.

His efforts were not lost on running backs coach Kelly Skipper. "Jerome Harrison has come a long way, especially in his understanding of the playbook. He can just perform now instead of thinking of the plays," said Skipper, who knows a good one when he sees him. The coach has helped a dozen backs graduate from college to the NFL.

Harrison's statistics were gaudy. He ran for 117 yards and one TD on 14 carries. That's a glossy per-carry average of 8.35 yards.

His timing was impeccable as well. After Oregon tied the game at 7, Harrison ripped off a 29-yard run to the Duck 30, setting up Josh Swogger's second TD pass of the half to Jason Hill. In the third period, when the Ducks' front seven got stingy and turned a first-and-goal into fourth-and-goal, Harrison flew to the rescue, going airborne to put the Cougars up 21-14.

"That was the first time I've ever jumped over a pile to score a touchdown," said Harrison, a prep star in Kalamazoo, Mich., before racking up nearly 2,000 yards at Pasadena City College between 2002-03. "I prefer to stay on the ground. Luckily someone was there to catch me. I always watched Walter Payton do that and thought it looked cool, but didn't like the idea of coming down like he did."

And in the fourth quarter, after Oregon narrowed the Cougars' lead to 35-28, Harrison took the handoff on the Cougars' next offensive play and turned the momentum crimson again by racing 43 yards to the Oregon 22. Three plays later he helped Swogger avoid a third-down sack and big loss when he caught a two-yard dump pass that brought the ball to the Duck 19. That allowed Loren Langley to drill a 34-yard field goal that put the Cougars up 38-28.

Despite the big day, Harrison wasn't satisfied.

"My performance today was not good enough for a win," he said. "Maybe if I had gotten 217 yards on the ground, instead of 117, we may have won. I take the blame for this loss."

That's the only time the entire day Harrison dropped the ball.

PROPS FOR THE HOSSES
The Cougar offensive line didn't surrender a single sack against the Ducks and has allowed just one over the last three games.

TELLING STAT(S) OF THE DAY
Numbers don't always tell the whole story, but they sure help put the pieces together. Here are three that tell you why the Ducks won: 1) They ran 102 offensive plays to WSU's 62; 2) They made 9 of 20 third-down conversions and 3 of 3 on fourth down; and 3) They scored TDs on six of their seven trips inside the red zone.

QUOTES FROM THE LOCKER ROOM:

DE Mkristo Bruce

On the Oregon offense... "I would run right by Clemens. He was elusive. That shovel play was effective for them today. On the shovel you want to sack the QB, but you just have to stay home, and we didn't do that.  

 

WR Chris Jordan

On the play of the defense... "We still believe in our defense, they have saved our butt all season long." 

 

WR Michael Bumpus

On the play of the defense... "The defense has had our back all season long." 

 

RB Jerome Harrison

On the play of the defense... "As the offense, we need to be there for the defense. They have backed us up all year long."

 

DE Mkristo Bruce

On the play of the offense...Our offense came out and we didn't come through for them. Our roles were sort of reversed. The defense simply didn't do the little things."  

 
LB Scott Davis
On Oregon's shovel pass... "We planned for it a little bit, but we didn't think
it would be that effective."

 

WR Michael Bumpus

On the punt return for his first collegiate touchdown... "I wasn't keeping track of how many missed tackles on that punt return. I just saw a hole and took it up the sideline." 

  

SS Hamza Abdullah

On the defensive performance... "We didn't come to play today. The offense (and special teams) put up 38 points for us today. We have the mentality to go start to finish. We simply were not challenging the Oregon offense at all. Today our defense flat-out didn't show up."

 

LB Scott Davis

On where the Cougs go from here... "We just need to watch film tomorrow and come back strong next week. A Pac-10 Co-Championship is a goal of ours." 

 

Head coach Bill Doba  

On giving credit to Oregon... "I think Oregon played a great ball game.  They could have folded up their tent when we were up fourteen on them but they kept battling back.  They had a heck of an offensive game plan.  That little shovel pass they had worked on... That worked against us.  They threw the ball in there and made plays when they had to."

 

On crucial mistakes... "That fumble killed us on the kickoff return.  We gave them the ball right back tend the defense was just on the field too long."

 

On putting up 38 points on the scoreboard and losing... "I thought 38 points would be enough to win any game for us but we just didn't play well enough defensively."

 

On getting to the quarterback... "When you give the quarterback that much time to throw they are going to pick you apart.  We had our chances.  We got that fumble and we did some good things.  So did they and they just played better than we did.  We just didn't play well enough on defense."

 

On the final drive... "I thought we'd get the ball and take it down the field and at least get a field goal.  Tie it up and take it into overtime but it just didn't happen.  We dropped a couple of passes."

 

On hurting up front on the defensive line... "We miss Ropati Pitoitua and Steve Cook isn't a hundred percent.  We had some young kids on the defensive line and we just didn't bring the pressure.  You just can't give that much time to throw the ball."


Chris Wolpert and Paul Counts contributed to this report.

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