Cougs full of drama right to the very end

SEATTLE -- In a season that has offered more thrills and spills than a typical Hollywood action flick, it was only appropriate for 2005 to end in similarly dramatic fashion. But this time there was a slight, more uplifting twist. The Cougs wrote a happy closing Saturday afternoon in Husky Stadium, doing what has been done to them so often this season. They came from behind to win in the waning moments. And while one game does not a season make, this victory exorcised a lot of demons.

The stars in this one were legion. Perhaps none were more poignant than tight end Cody Boyd and receiver/return man Trandon Harvey. Each looked to be a prime goat if this one went south, but in the crucial fourth quarter they both stepped up to the challenge to make critical plays.

Sophomore quarterback Alex Brink, maligned by fans throughout the season for not being able to deliver in the crunch, had less than 2 minutes left to avoid the season's fifth three-point loss.

So in that situation, who would you expect to get the ball? Maybe Jerome Harrison, the nation's leading rusher who piled up another 207 yards Saturday to give him a whopping 1,900 for the season? Or perhaps star receiver Jason Hill, the nation's third-leading receiver?

In true Hollywood fashion, the starring man was a senior who has been maligned and criticized by many -– himself included -– the last couple of years. This same senior also fumbled a punt fumble that led to a tide-turning UW score.

Harrison: Greatest back in Cougar history.

And yet there was Brink, making the throw to Harvey. With 1:20 left, Harvey scored on a 39-yard bubble screen to give the Cougs the 26-22 win. The defense held strong on the ensuing possession to secure the Apple Cup win, WSU's second in a row and first in Seattle since Ryan Leaf led the Rose Bowl-bound Cougs to a 41-35 win.

Both endzones, full of crimson faithful, went wild as their team finally was the one pulling things out in the end.

"It's special," Harvey said of the game-winning score. "It's unbelievable. What a way for my last catch to be a touchdown like that. I looked at Greg (Prator) and said, ‘Greg, throw the block for me and I'm going to try to score.' Their defense wasn't set, so Brink was trying to hurry it up. "All I know is he threw the ball and everything just went blank as I was running. I just caught the ball and kept running. The only reason I stopped was because I was about to run into the band."

Prator, who scored on a 30-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, looked up just in time after laying his key block.

"I'm happy to make the play for Trandon," Prator said. "Catching a lot of balls has helped him. I rolled my guy. Then I looked up and was seeing (Harvey) run down the sidelines."

Harrison, who scored on a 19-yard run in the third quarter, was glad to see his fellow senior do well. "It means a lot to win over the Huskies. I'm even more excited that it was Trandon Harvey with the big play," Harrison said.

Head coach Bill Doba was succinct: "It's awesome," he said of Harvey's run to paydirt. "He's hung in there for five years and I think it's only fitting because over the last few weeks he's really stepped up. He's done a nice job and I think it's only fitting that he makes the catch."

Brink said the winning play was set up when he saw a situation worth taking advantage of.

"They weren't ready, so we hustled out," said Brink, who went 21 of 35 for 283 yards and two TDs with no interceptions. "Greg made a nice block, and Trandon made the play."


Harvey wasn't the only senior with a big day. Harrison extended his own Pac-10 record of consecutive games with 100+ yards of rushing to 14, and ran for 200+ yards for the fourth time this season. He had a ‘Ghost' t-shirt on afterward, with "national rushing champion" on the back.

The Apple Cup win doesn't "erase everything, especially when we could have beat some top-25 teams," Harrison said. "But it takes the bitter taste out of the mouth. It means a lot to the guys."

Also meaning a lot to the team was the performance of Will Derting, who played much of the game despite a knee that has sidelined him for most of the last six weeks.

"It kept feeling good," Derting said of his injured knee. "This morning, it felt really good. It pretty much felt good all day, so I just kept playing on it."

How big was the Apple Cup win? "It makes your whole season. I won't remember anything from my senior season, in games, unless it is from this one. We have had a lot of close games, a lot of games that haven't turned our way, and we finally got one. Everybody just went out there and had fun. We just went out there like a backyard game and just had fun."

Defensive coordinator Robb Akey noted there is a difference in the D when Derting is on the field.

"There's a swagger he brings," Akey said.

Frampton and Ahmu do the WA-twosey.


There seemed to be consensus afterward about what was different this game versus the five close losses this season.

"Finally," Doba said. "We've been hanging in all year and finally made the big play when we had to make a big play."

Echoed Akey: "We made the plays. I'm happy they could finish it on the field. The outside world's been real hard on them."

Brink, who became the first-ever WSU starting quarterback to notch back-to-back wins over UW, joked at first the difference on Saturday was "we won," before giving another answer.

"We just made those big plays when we needed to," he said.

Saturday showed just how important it is to read In his column last week, Paul Sorensen pointed that in the last 45 years, the Cougars have never won in Husky Stadium unless wearing gray pants.

So what color pants did the Cougs wear for the first time this season with the road whites? You guessed it: solid gray. No stripes. Just like the kind the 1997 Cougars wore when they clinched the Pac-10 title here.

For good measure, WSU also had the "Cougars" script back on the helmets for Saturday's game, as had been rumored last week. Moreover, WSU wore its silver home helmet rather than its usual crimson road headgear.


There were plenty of excited Cougs as the team headed to the locker room after the game. Along with yells like, "Now we've got a streak going," Mkistro Bruce had a particularly great line.

"The Cougars own the state," said the junior defensive end while hoisting the Apple Cup trophy, which was passed around the locker room after being presented to Doba by Gov. Christine Gregoire. "That's why it's called Washington STATE!"


Junior tight end Cody Boyd, starting in place of injured Troy Bienemann, was the Cougars' leading receiver with five catches for 65 yards -- most of them coming in the second half. In the first quarter he dropped what appeared to be a sure TD in the endzone, forcing the Cougars to take a field goal instead. His crucial catches late in the game made amends quite nicely.

Another tight end, fourth-teamer Ben Woodard, made the first catch of his career in the first half, nearly getting the Cougs a first down in the red zone. The second-year freshman was playing because Bienemann and third-teamer Jesse Taylor were both out.

Yet another guy who's name may stand out in the box score is senior kicker Graham Siderius. The "Reno Bambino" is a kickoff specialist who rarely gets a shot at PATs or field goals. But with placekicker Loren Langley struggling mightily (three missed field goals in the game), Siderius came on to kick the critical PAT after Harvey's TD. That point-after was critical, because a miss would have meant the Huskies only needed to get within field goal range to tie things up at the end. Siderius' kick was perfect, putting the Cougs ahead by four.


There were four leads changes in the game's final 31 minutes. That remarkable fact is even more remarkable when you consider how statistically dominant the Cougars were. They had 27 first downs to the Huskies' 12. They held a whopping 13-minute advantage in time of possesion, and they outgained the Dawgs 507 yards to 327.

Jerome Harrison's 1,900 yards for the season marks the 20th-best single-season performance listed in the NCAA record book and the fifth-best on conference history.

WSU finished the season at 4-7 and the UW at 2-8.

Sure, Cougfans are a superstitious lot, but one can't help but wonder how much the positive mojo of today's Ol' Crimson flag wavers helped in the Cougs' Apple Cup victory. Yes, the appearance of the Cougar flag on ESPN Gameday has become commonplace the past few years, but it was especially meaningful as Beth Crawford, the daughter of WSU coach Bill Doba, and her husband Ken (now a two-time Ol' Crimson waver) proudly flew the OC this morning.

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