Brink burns Aztecs, breaks records

SEATTLE -- Led by Alex Brink and featuring a cadre of sure-handed receivers, the Washington State football team proved conclusively Saturday that it is far superior to a rival picked to finish eighth in the Mountain West Conference. Brink completed 38 passes out of 47 attempts for 469 yards and five touchdowns as the Cougars defeated San Diego State, 45-17, at Qwest Field.

An appreciative crowd of 46,290 watched what turned into a lopsided outcome after an early 10-10 tie.

The Cougars took command in the second and third quarters by running off 28 unanswered points that were good for a 38-10 lead. Brink's fifth touchdown pass – 31 yards to Brandon Gibson – added frosting midway through the fourth period.

"I thought that offensively we played a great game,'' WSU coach Bill Doba said. "Alex Brink did awesome. We made some great catches."

San Diego State coach Chuck Long echoed Doba.

"Hats off to Alex Brink and his receivers," Long said. "He threw the heck out of the football. It was really a clinic out there."

Brink's 469 passing yards was the third highest total in WSU history. His five touchdown passes tied a career high. For all that, he praised his offensive line, for providing so much protection that he never was sacked, and his receivers, who had several outstanding catches.

Senior Michael Bumpus had 10 catches for 118 yards, senior Charles Dillon had eight catches for 100 yards, junior Brandon Gibson had seven catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns, senior tight end Jed Collins was five for 36 and one touchdown and backup tight end Ben Woodward had two for 30 and one touchdown.

Brink said it was exceptional catches made by Dillon, Bumpus and Gibson during the Cougars' first offensive series that led to the quarterback's quality game.

"It took me awhile to get my rhythm,'' Brink said. "But Charles' catch was big. Bump had one. Brandon had one. Those obviously got me started off real fast."

As part of the mutual admiration society that is the Cougars' passing game, Bumpus was quick to praise Brink.

"This is the best game I've seen him play since I've been here,'' Bumpus said. "His audibiles were great, he checked out of the right things. He spread the ball around. Two tight ends caught touchdowns. It was very efficient."

By catching the first touchdown pass of his brief career, freshman Jeshua Anderson became a full-fledged contributing member of the stellar receiving corps.

"It's pretty amazing,'' Anderson said of being part of such a distinguished group. "They make these catches every day, day in and day out. I just try to do my best and try to match up with … everybody. I don't want to let anybody down."

Bumpus said he knew Anderson's scoring play was touchdown bound as soon as it was called.

"I'm really excited for him,'' Bumpus said. "He's probably the fastest guy I've ever seen. As soon as they called that play I didn't have to run my route. I knew he was going to catch the ball and run right by them."

On a day when passing was the focal point for both teams – SDSU quarterback Kevin O'Connell completed 28 of 44 pass attempts for 273 yards and one touchdown – what was a sound running game – 185 yards -- for the Cougars was overshadowed. Individually, sophomore Dwight Tardy led the way with 99 yards on 16 carries.

Defensively, the Cougars are sure to be tested more down the road. But against the Aztecs they kept things under control after a shaky first quarter when they allowed 174 yards, a touchdown and a field goal. In the final three periods they allowed just 225 yards and one touchdown.

For cornerback Alfonso Jackson, a junior transfer who was part of a porous Cougar secondary in WSU's season-opening loss to Wisconsin, the game offered retribution in the form of a pass interception – his first and the first (and only) by WSU this season.

"I knew I was going to make plays,'' Jackson said. "I came in to make plays. That just helped the coach know I can make plays."

He said that after the Wisconsin game the secondary was determined to "execute, execute, execute.

"I think we did a way better job of doing our assignments correct and our alignments correct."

The Aztecs scored first by capping their first series with a 23-yard field goal kicked by Garrett Palmer.

The Cougars answered immediately by driving 67 yards in five plays to a touchdown scored by Gibson on a six-yard pass from Brink. The first of Romeen Abdollmohammadi's six extra-point kicks put WSU ahead, 7-3.

On the second play of SDSU's ensuing series, Brandon Bornes ran 59 yards around left end for a touchdown that re-captured the lead for the Aztecs, 10-7.

The Cougars countered with a 12-play, 72-yard drive to a 31-yard field goal kicked by Abdollmohammadi and at the end of the first quarter the score was tied at 10.

After that, the Cougars took over, scoring 14 unanswered points in the second quarter and 14 more in the third before the two teams battled to a 7-7 tie in the fourth.

While Brink was insulting the Aztec secondary, he was also assaulting the Cougar record book.

His performance today was the fourth 400-plus yard passing effort of his career—tops among all WSU signal-callers. In addition, his 38 completions was also a game best by WSU quarterbacks, passing the high-water mark of 37 set by Drew Bledsoe against Utah in the 1992 Copper Bowl.

Brink is now just 30 completions shy of the school career record of 611 held by Jason Gesser. Twenty more successful aerials will match Jack Thompson's second best mark of 601.

His five touchdown total tied the second best Cougar effort ever, matching Bledsoe (1991), Thompson (1976), Timm Rosenbach (1988), Ryan Leaf (1997) and himself (2005). Gesser holds the record, connecting on 6 TD strikes in a triple overtime effort against Arizona in 2000.

Brink's career passing yardage total of 7,735 moves him past Bledsoe and Leaf to the number three all-time spot, trailing only Gesser (8,830) and Thompson (7,818) and his 6 TD tosses this season brings his career mark to 56, behind Leaf's 59 and Gesser's 70 strikes.

And finally, his .808 completion percentage against SDSU is also the third best performance in Cougar annals. Ricky Turner (1983) and Wayne Berry (1953) share the second-best spot with .818 efforts. Brink hit on a school best .870 against Oregon last season. Managing Editor John C. Witter contributed to this report.

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