Turning over the same Leaf

PULLMAN -- There was a Leaf quarterbacking at Martin Stadium Saturday. No, not Cougar legend Ryan Leaf. Rather, younger brother Brady Leaf shared quarterbacking duties for the Ducks with Dennis Dixon. Big brother Ryan watched from the Cougar sidelines, wearing Cougar gear but also cheering for his younger sibling. "It's really hard," Ryan said of his split loyalties. "I bleed crimson and gray. It's really, really hard."

"I'm a Coug through and through, but I'm proud of (Brady)," continued Leaf.

After Brady threw a touchdown pass in the third quarter, Bob Robertson commented that a Leaf threw a touchdown pass again in Martin Stadium –- but not Ryan.

Ryan laughed when told about that.

"Yeah, it's been a while since the fans heard that, huh?" he said.

Ryan, who earned his degree in Psychology and Communication last spring, has been traveling and enjoying life.

Ryan Leaf found his loyalties divided Saturday night between the Cougars and brother and Oregon QB Brady Leaf

"This is my first time back since last year," he said. "I try to get back once a year. I've never seen a game from the seats. I couldn't, because I have too many memories here."

So what's it like watching your younger brother drop back and face a mad rush from the defense?

"It's different," Ryan said. "I was never nervous before a game. Now I am for these guys, especially Brady."

For Brady, winning in Martin Stadium was a dream come true.

"It's great to get a win out here," Brady said. "I've come to a lot of games here and dreamed about playing in this stadium since I was a little kid."

Brady also mentioned his big brother had some words for him after the game.

"He told me congratulations and that he was proud of me," Brady recalled. "He said that I played well."

Despite another heartbreaking loss, coach Bill Doba and defensive coordinator Robb Akey gave kudos to their Cougs.

"I couldn't be prouder of these guys, after what we'd been through," Doba said. "They played a lot better on defense tonight. The kids competed. They tied it up, but couldn't force it to the end."

Akey also liked how his defense looked for the most part, and especially in the first half.

"There were a lot of things our kids handled well tonight," Akey said. "But there were a couple of series where bad stuff happened again."

One of the leaders on the Cougs, defensive end Mkristo Bruce, said yet another close loss was simply hard to take.

"It just hurts," Bruce said. "It hurts. It's worse than getting blown out."

Quarterback Alex Brink said the focus now has to be to send off the seniors with a second straight Apple Cup win next weekend in Seattle.

"It would mean a lot for me," Brink said. "But it would mean even more for the seniors."

Though the spectre of a seventh straight loss loomed large afterwards, some of the WSU seniors provided bright moments.

Middle linebacker Will Derting started and played in limited duty, his first game action since being injured back on Oct. 1 at Oregon State.

"It felt great," Bruce said of Derting being on the field. "There's nothing like watching 51 out there. We don't want to hurt his chances of getting into the NFL."

As expected -- which on it's own says a whole lot as to jusy how far the running game has come at Washington State -- Jerome Harrison broke the WSU single-season rushing record, set by Rueben Mayes in 1984. Harrison gained 89 yards in the first half to break the record. He finished the game with 143 yards, and has 1,693 on the season with one game left to play. The old record was 1,637. Shortly after the second half started, play was stopped so Harrison could be honored.

Harrison's 143 yards also meant he has rushed for 100+ yards in 13 straight games, the most in Pac-10 history.

Coach Bill Doba said in the locker room after the game that Troy Bienemann may have played his last game as a Cougar. The senior tight end sprained his knee on a sterling -- yet customary for him -- leap and grab for a touchdown in the second half.

If it was indeed Bienemann's last game in the crimson and gray....the player, fan and Cougfan.com favorite went out making one hell of a play.

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