GETTING OFF ON <br> THE WRONG FOOT

PULLMAN -– Last week, in studying USC game film, Cougar coaches thought they found a chink in the national champions' armor. And not just any chink -– one with the potential, right from the get go, to super-charge the already juiced Dads Day throng at Martin Stadium. An onsides kick to start the game. Who'd have thunk it?

It sounds like something out of the early Jim Walden playbook.

Like those early Walden years, desperate times sometimes require desperate measures. For the free-falling Cougars, a 24-point underdog to the No. 1 team in the nation, such a ploy could reap immense dividends if pulled off.

The Trojan chink was a player on their kickoff return unit who has nervous hands and a habit of stepping backward just before the kicker's foot strikes the ball.

That's where the onsides kick was supposed to go.

But as it has in so many ways this season, the Cougars' youth proved their undoing. This time around it was freshman kicker Loren Langley whose inexperience got the better of him.

"We had worked on that onside kick all week long, it was effective. Then we just missed the ball when we tried kicking it in the game," Doba said.

The ball traveled all of two yards – eight shy of the requisite 10 needed to make it fair game for the guys in crimson shirts.

"That was my fault," Doba insisted. "We tried to take a chance early. We thought their tackle was leaving early. Loren Langley was onside kicking it great all week."

Somebody somewhere in the ABC television audience must have had visions of Lucy and Charlie Brown flash before their eyes. A fraction one way or another and it might have been a whiff.

And just like that, USC had the ball on the Cougar 37 yard line. About 100 ticks of the clock later the rout was on, as Reggie Bush scampered in from 19-yards out.

Pete Carroll, sounding suspiciously like he was trying to cover up what amounts to the tiniest of holes in a team that is 28-1 since losing here in 2002, said the onsides kick didn't catch the Trojans off guard at all.

"We really anticipated something was going to happen because they have done a lot of creative kicks kicking off and we thought that something was up."

Unbelievably, things got worse for WSU. On USC's kickoff after that first score, the Cougars' return men had what they like to call in the movies "a failure to communicate." The ball sailed between them and no one picked it up. Unlike an untouched punt, an untouched kickoff is treated like a fumble. And before you could say meltdown, USC was on the Cougar 21, soon to go up 14-0 on Lendale White's one-yard run.

Three minutes into the game, the Cougars had yet to take an offensive snap and already trailed by two TDs.

"God bless the band and all of those fans for staying. Last year even the band left when we were beating Oregon so badly," Doba said with a smile.

The Cougars livened things up in the third quarter when they scored twice in a span of 10 seconds. Michael Bumpus caught a 24-yard pass from Alex Brink and then Pat Bennett intercepted a tipped USC pass and took it 28 yards to the house.

"We now have something to build on. Our team is very supportive of everyone, we just need to bounce back," Bumpus said. He finished the game with six catches for 68 yards and the touchdown.

Brink was 17-of-40 for 165 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

With three games left this season WSU (3-4) needs to win out to become bowl eligible. "We need three wins for a bowl game, but we will take it one game at a time," said Doba. "We've hit a bump in the road and now it's up to us to comeback."

WSU plays road games at UCLA and Arizona State before hosting Washington in the Apple Cup to finish the regular season.

NO STRANGER TO THE ENDZONE: If Pat Bennett looked comfortable carrying that interception of Sam Cassellto the endzone, it was no illusion. During a remarkable prep career, he rushed for 5,420 yards and 65 TDs. He also took an INT to the house a year ago, rumbling 39 yards with an Andrew Walters misfire, in WSU's win over Arizona State.

TACKLING TITLE HEATS UP: With a career-high 14 tackles today, Will Derting surpassed linebacking mate Scott Davis as the Cougars' leading tackler this season. Derting has 70, Davis 65. Derting led early in the year and Davis has held onto a narrow lead for the last several weeks. Safety Jeremy Bohannon was the Cougars' second-leading tackler today with a career-high 13 total stops.

COUGS NEVER SAY DIE: "I'm proud of our kids. They battled," Doba said about the fact the Cougars won the second half 12-7. "We had some young guys that never gave up. They competed, got better, and battled them one play at a time."

FORGETTABLE FIRSTS: This marked the first time WSU has been held under 200 yards of total offense since the Colorado game in 1996. And USC's 35-point first half output was the most against Washington State since Stanford put up 38 in 1999.

HEISMAN HIGHLIIGHTS: Reggie Bush's 57-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter was the first punt return for a touchdown against WSU since the 2003 Rose Bowl when Oklahoma's Antonio Perkins took a punt back 51 yards. Bush has now scored TDs in four different ways in his career -- rushing, receiving, kickoff return and today, a punt return. He has also thrown a TD pass.

JUST AS ADVERTISED: USC's two All-American-candidate defensive tackles, Mike Patterson and Shaun Cody, were as dominating as feared. The Cougars netted -9 yards rushing. "We tried to run the ball, but it is hard to run when the defensive tackle is in the backfield," said Doba.

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