Lots of story lines in Coug win over Ducks

PULLMAN -- The story lines here today were as numerous as the smiles pouring out of Martin Stadium after Washington State's 34-23 victory over No. 14-ranked Oregon. There was junior tight end-fullback Jed Collins, the Cougars' Everyman Superman, bulldozing for first downs, blocking for others, catching big passes and scoring two TDs.

There was the Cougar defense, losing its two starting tackles to injury soon after the opening whistle, rallying to stifle the seventh-most prolific offense in the nation.

There were missed first-half opportunities -– a commodity long considered in these parts to be an omen of eventual last-minute heartbreak -– that the Cougars refused to let drag them down.

There was quarterback Alex Brink. The monkey alleged to be on his back -– that he couldn't deliver a marquee victory -– is not only off but probably hitch-hiking somewhere between Othello and Vantage. Brink completed a remarkable 20 of 23 passes --- 87 percent -- for 179 yards, 2 TDs and one interception.

There was the WSU running game. Maligned the last two weeks, Cougar rushers -- paced by Dwight Tardy's 135 -- broke free in the second half, outgaining the celebrated Oregon ground attack by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

Above all, perhaps, is that the Cougars did what they failed to do against these Ducks the last two years: They finished.

THE COUGARS jumped to a 13-3 halftime lead on the strength of Collins and Jason Hill TD receptions, and then put 14 points worth of buckshot into the Ducks' tailfeathers early in the third quarter to extend the lead to 27-3. Collins scored one of those TDs –- a one-yard run set up by his 33-yard reception from Brink on the previous play. The Cougar defense scored the second of those TDs 26 seconds later when cornerback Tyron Brackenridge picked off Duck quarterback Dennis Dixon and rambled to 26 yards to paydirt.

The Ducks, who entered the game ranked seventh nationally in total offense, didn't score their first TD of the game until the fourth quarter. It came via defense, when Brink was sacked deep in his own territory trying to pass. Oregon recovered the ball in the endzone, narrowing the score to 27-9. Oregon also scored late in the fourth quarter score to draw within 11 points. The Ducks, now 5-2, could get no closer.

WSU sophomore linebacker Cory Evans, playing considerable in the Cougs' 3-4 defensive alignment, knocked down a UO fourth-down desperation pass on the next possession. Tardy then capped a 5-play 68-yard drive -- powered by 46-yard Trady run -- following another Collins bulldozer block into the end zone to push the lead to 18 with time running out. Oregon added a meaningless touchdown with 34 seconds remaining, setting the winning margin at 11 points.

After Washington State recovered the onsides kick, Brink took a knee and crimson clad fans began to swarm the field.

WASHINGTON STATE, now 5-3 on the season with a televised trip to 4-3 UCLA next Saturday, did everything they failed to do in the maddening loss to Cal a week ago. They were highly productive on third-down conversions, at one time 6-of-10, before finishing at 7-of-13. In the redzone, which had been a living hell all month, the Cougs produced on 4-of-6 -- all touchdowns.

WSU is now one win shy of bowl eligibility with four left on the schedule.

NOTABLE NOTES:
Eric Frampton had a monster game. The senior strong safety finished with 16 tackles, (9 solo and including 1 tackle for loss), while d-end Mkristo Bruce logged eight off the edge. FS Husain Abdullah had seven sticks and LB Scott Davis added another six. Lance Broadus picked up the lone WSU sack while the Cougs tallied four tackles for loss.

• Tardy rushed for 145 yards on 20 carries, a career high for the redshirt frosh.

Michael Bumpus, who entered the game No. 1 in the Pac-10 and t-13 in the nation in pass receptions, just keeps rolling along. The sure handed junior was clutch against the Ducks, leading Cougar receivers with 8 catches and 74 yards. Bump now has 52 catches on the season for 496 yards.

• The injury outlook of Cougar defensive tackles Aaron Johnson (elbow) and Ropati Pitoitua (knee) was unclear at press time but the preliminary diagnosis was decidedly dim. Bill Doba said at halftime that AJ may have broken his elbow, later saying it was a bone chip. Both left the game in the first quarter.

• The Cougs saw a couple other starters head to the sidelines as well, making the win even more impressive, but also casting a shadow in looking ahead to UCLA. Right guard Andy Roof departed with a heel injury in the opening quarter, and Brackenridge strained a hamstring in the second half. Their status for next Saturday was not immediately known. Brackenridge said after the game he expected to play against UCLA.

• Jason Hill's second quarter TD reception was the 31st of his career – one behind the Pac-10 record.


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