Deja vu all over again in Strawberry Canyon

BERKELEY – Different stadium. Different opponent. And the prelude to Washington State's patented late-game meltdown was decidedly different. This time the Cougs were the team storming back from a big first-half deficit. In fact, when Chris Jordan made a spectacular endzone catch of a 16-yard Alex Brink pass to put WSU up 38-28 with 10 minutes left in the game, it looked like fate was finally shining on these snake-bit Cougars. But this was the fourth quarter.

Were it a Harry Potter novel, you wouldn't be allowed to utter the phrase. The fourth quarter. Better to be dubbed the period that shall not be named.

Cougars vs. Bears
POST-GAME REVIEW
STAT OF THE DAY:
The Bears held a nearly 13-minute advantage in time of possession.

COUGAR MVP:
Say what you will about the second quarter, but quarterback Alex Brink's second half of play was outstanding. He finished the day with 5 TD passes and 423 passing yards

GAME TURNER:
California picked off Brink twice within 90 seconds to close out the second quarter, returning one for a TD and bringing back the other to the WSU 3 to set up the TD that put Cal up 28-10.

LEADING WSU TACKLERS:
Scott Davis 11, Husain Abdullah 9, Wally Dada 8, Greg Trent 7, Alex Teems 7

NEXT UP:
The Cougars (3-4) travel to No.1 USC (7-0) next Saturday for a 12:30 pm game to be televised on ABC. The Trojans routed Washington today.


If you didn't care about wins or losses, you'd have to confess that the Cougars are one of the most entertaining shows in the nation. For the fourth straight week, the game wasn't decided until the waning moments. For the third time in four weeks the scoreboard went into overdrive and the record-keepers too.

Heartbreaking.

The word is becoming a staple of the Cougar lexicon.

California 42, WSU 38.

The Bears, held scoreless since the second quarter, hit paydirt twice in the final 5 minutes, 18 seconds, to put their bowl hopes back on track. The Cougars, who face USC next week, are now a month away from simply putting an end to a season from hell.

For the second time in the last month they racked up more than 600 yards of total offense --- and lost.

Yet in the third quarter, this looked like a team about to reclaim its destiny. Hill, playing across the bay from his home town, connected with Brink for three consecutive TDs in that period. They weren't just on fire. They were waking the echoes of the Pac-10's greatest toss-and-catch tandems.

Indeed, after a horrendous second quarter that put them behind 28-10 at the half, Washington State came out blazing. Brink, dreadful in the first half (4 of 17 with one TD pass to Brandon Gibson, but two INTs that produced 14 Cal points within 90 seconds) rewarded Bill Doba's faith. He scorched the Golden Bears with 14 of 22 accuracy over the final 30 minutes with four TDs. In all, he passed for 423 yards --- 260 of them via Hill.

The offense's sudden proficiency seemed to supercharge the normally porous defense. Mkristo Bruce was his blasting, sacking self. Wally Dada forced and then recovered a fumble to foil a Cal drive in the red zone. Husain Abdullah, aided by an Eric Frampton tip, picked off a Joey Ayoob pass early in the fourth to set up Jordan's TD. This was Cougar defense the way it used to be played --- opportunistic, game-breaking.

Cal had eight possessions in the second half. The first six of them ended like this: punt, fumble, punt, punt, interception, punt.

But, as in the previous three losses, the Cougars couldn't close the deal --- on either side of the ball. They've become Bobby Ayala in shoulder pads. This like Greg Norman at the Master's, but week after week.

Doba, justifiably, sounded bewitched and bothered in his post-game interview on the Cougar Radio Network.

"We battled back hard, but it's the same old story. I'm frustrated, you're frustrated, the fans are frustrated … I don't know what the hell we can do," he said. "We need a first down and we don't get it. We need a play on defense and don't get it."

NOTABLE NOTES:

Jason Hill has now scored in nine straight games. His three TD catches against the Bear moved him past Cougar legend Hugh Campbell (1960-62) to the top of WSU's career TD receptions list with 23.

Cougar senior running backs Jerome Harrison rushed for 162 yards, marking the 10th straight game he's eclipsed the 100-yard mark.

Brink's 5 TD passes ties him for second on WSU's single-game list with with Ryan Leaf, Drew Bledsoe, Timm Rosenbach and Jack Thompson. No. 1, with six TD passes in a single game, is Jason Gesser vs. Arizona in 2000.

With Husain Abdullah's two interceptions against the Bears, the Cougars have 80 over the last four seasons --- tops in Division I-A.

While half the Cougar Nation, plus FSN analyst Billy Ray Smith, expected Josh Swogger to start the second half after Brink's rough start, Doba said at game's end that a change at QB was never contemplated by the coaching staff.

Cougfan Top Stories