Day of redemption for Bumpus, Hill

SEATTLE -- It was only a two-point win over an unranked team, but for the Washington State Cougars their annual battle in Seattle – a 17-15 victory over Baylor – produced a huge benefit: a cleansing of their football souls. By scoring the winning points with 9 seconds to play at Quest Field on Saturday, the Cougars showed 41,358 fans that they really can finish a game positively.

That's a stark contrast to their 2005 season when they surrendered three fourth-quarter leads and lost their final five games by four or fewer points.

Against Baylor, it appeared the Cougars were going to add another chapter to their "can't finish" legacy when Bear cornerback Anthony Arline scooped up a Michael Bumpus fumble and ran 40 yards to a touchdown that gave the Big 12 Conference team a 15-14 lead with 5 minutes 24 seconds remaining.

But instead of folding, WSU unfolded. Led by junior quarterback Alex Brink and featuring a key catch-and-run play by Bumpus, the Cougs drove 81 yards to a 17-yard, fourth-down field goal kicked by Loren Langley with 9 seconds left.

"We finally finished,'' coach Bill Doba said after his Cougars had completed the nonconference phase of their schedule with a 2-1 record. "We've been preaching (finishing) all offseason and all spring and all preseason. And we made some plays when we had to."

Particularly in the second half, when the Cougar defense caught up to Baylor's throw-it-around-at-recess offense and gave WSU a chance to win.

"I really credit our defense," Doba said. "They did a great job. That offense (Baylor's) is tough to stop. They spread it out all over and throw the football. I thought our coaches had a great plan."

In the first half, Baylor (1-2) gained 178 yards and had nine first downs. In the second half the Bears were limited to 68 yards and two first downs. For the game, they had 246 yards passing and minus-10 yards rushing.

"We were trying to do little cute moves," defensive end Mkristo Bruce said. "(Then) we just attacked them. And that worked out for us rather than trying to run around them.

"It was so exciting. You get out there and it's Seahawks stadium. This is a dream for a lot of us. We were trying to do too much instead of just playing our game."

For Bruce, it was a game he won't forget because he got the first pass interception of his career. Coming midway through the second quarter, the pick ended a Baylor scoring threat at the Cougar 17.

"I'm a day dreamer," Bruce said. "I dream all day. Linemen dream about taking one to the house. I was so happy to get my hands on it that I just curled up and took it to the ground. It was exciting."

It also was the start of WSU's first scoring series, a broken-in-two march sustained by a fumbled punt return by Baylor and capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass from No. 2 quarterback Gary Rogers to Jason Hill. That cut Baylor's lead to 9-7 at halftime.

The Cougars relied on a trick play to go ahead with 7:25 to play in the third quarter. On second down from the Baylor 4, Brink threw a pass into the right flat that was caught by running back Dwight Tardy, who then tossed the ball across the field to Brink. The quarterback reached the end zone untouched, Langley kicked the extra point and the Cougars were on top, 14-9.

It stayed that way until Arline's fumble return put Baylor ahead, 15-14.

The play began with Bumpus catching a Brink pass and running nine yards for what appeared would be a Cougar first down at the WSU 40. But he fumbled as the result of a big hit by Baylor linebacker Nick Moore. Arline took off with the ball and the old "can't finish" label again loomed for the Cougars.

For the Cougars' top receivers, Bumpus and Hill, it was a game of redemption.

During Bumpus's 25-yard reception on WSU's final series he somehow eluded a Baylor defender and gave the Cougars a first down on the Bear 14. Six plays later, Langley kicked the game-winning field goal.

"It's great," Bumpus said about the feeling of redemption. "It's like the world is lifted off your shoulders. I thought everyone was cursing me out right then. It feels good."

For Hill, who caught six passes for 72 yards, his game at first was marred by a dropped pass from Brink that would have resulted in a touchdown in the second quarter.

"My eyes got big,'' Hill said. "I definitely saw the end zone before I was there."

Hill made up for it by catching the the 13-yard pass from Rogers that resulted in a Cougar touchdown later in the period.

Hill said he and Bumpus gave each other encouragement after their miscues.

"When I dropped a touchdown pass he (Bumpus) told me to come back and make a play and I came back and scored a touchdown,'' Hill said. "So I told him the same thing he told me."

For Brink, who completed 21 of 32 passes for 251 yards, the comeback win also provided him with feelings of redemption.

"It's huge,'' Brink said. "Obviously we didn't come out and play our best. But we pulled out the win. We had a big drive, which is something that will give us some momentum going into the Pac-10."

Also for Brink, it was another day in the life of a quarterback – he was occasionally booed when things weren't going well and watched when the backup quarterback, Rogers, threw a touchdown pass for the second time this season.

"When you play this position it's pretty clear that not everybody is going to be your best friend and love you,'' Brink said. "It is what it is. And that's OK. I choose to play this position. And I take the responsibility that goes along with it. There's going to be plenty of people cheering for the other guy and I hope sometimes they're cheering for me. So you just have to block it out and get strong and go out and play ball."

Brink and the Cougars next will play ball Saturday when they will begin their Pac-10 schedule at Stanford.

The Cougars two tacklers on the day were Tyron Brackenridge with eight and Eric Frampton with seven. Frampton also forced a fumble and intercepted a pass.

Brink's touchdown reception was the first by a WSU quarterback since Drew Bledsoe caught his own two-yard touchdown pass at Arizona on Oct. 27, 1990. Dwight Tardy's touchdown pass to Brink was the first by a WSU player who was not a quarterback since wide receiver Collin Henderson threw a 66-yard TD pass to Mike Bush at UCLA on Dec. 7, 2002.

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