Tuesday morning meanderings

PULLMAN -- It was only fitting that <b>Rien Long</b> was the last one off the field Saturday. The giant defensive tackle from Anacortes is a blue collar kind of guy. A first to arrive, last to leave kind of guy. And, we learned, a guy who loves to inflict pain on quarterbacks.

In a wild game of thrills, chills, gaffes and big plays, the big man stood out in a crowd. Sure, Jermaine Green's incredible 75-yard TD run will be remembered for the ages, as will Jason Gesser's 53-yard bomb to Sammy Moore and Drew Dunning's overtime field goal.

But none of it would have happened or would have mattered were it not for Long's five tackles for loss -- including a sack of Carlson Palmer in overtime and a munching of Huggy Bear's kid, Justin Fargas, one play later.

As if never wanting to let go of the finest moment in his young career -- not to mention the thunderous fan outpouring -- Long lingered on Martin Stadium's FieldTurf long after the finale and soaked it up.

Twenty minutes later he captured it all succinctly: "It definitely wasn't the prettiest win we've had. It wasn't the most consistent. But we came through when it counted," he said.

No truer words were said. And no one came through any bigger than Long.

True to his trade, though, his key sack of Palmer in overtime wasn't his favorite play of the game. It wasn't bone-jarring enough, he said.

He liked a play earlier in the game when he unloaded on Troy's senior QB just after he'd released a pass. "That's the best feeling, when you make a hit and you know you just hurt ‘em. They let out a little grunt."

Aw, the poetry of the grid game. Ya just gotta love it.

With his handywork against USC, Long now has 25 tackles on the season. But get this -- nearly half of them (11.5) are tackles for loss, and more than half of those (6.5) are sacks. Can you say All-American?

HOW'S THIS FOR putting the enormity of the Cougar offense's performance last Saturday into proper perspective. The Los Angeles Times noted on Sunday that USC had the second-half lead twice --- and those leads, combined, lasted a mere 2 minutes and 55 seconds. Now that's production. In all, the Cougars racked up 516 yards of O against the nation's No. 1-ranked defense, and 201 of those hashes came on the ground.

Clearly, the unsung hosses of the offensive line deserve a heaping helpin' of praise for the victory. They gave Gesser immaculate protection --- he was sacked only once --- and created seams for the running backs. None, perhaps, were any bigger than the 9 yards worth of holes they opened for John Tippins in overtime that set up Dunning's winning trey from 35 yards out.

Trojan DE Kenechi Udeze said afterward that the Cougar line was damn near imprentatable and, moreover, they didn't seem to tire. Added Jermaine Green: "We gotta thank those guys up front. The probably just played the best game of the season there. They opened up holes. They didn't let anybody get a good sack on Jason. They came out ready to play."

So hat's off to Derrick Roche, Tyler Hunt, Billy Knotts, Sam Lightbody and Calvin Armstrong. Speaking of Armstrong, did you get a load of that devastating block he delivered just as Green was turning upfield for what turned out to be his electrifying 75-yard run to paydirt? Block and run were a thing of beauty.

SHOUT OF THE DAY: The Cougars went up 24-14 at the start of the fourth quarter when Gesser hit tight end Troy Bienemann for a rumbling 36-yard gain to the USC one that set up Gesser's two-yard TD pass to Devard Darling. Said Bienemann about his big play: "I heard Coach Price from the sideline yelling at Jason: ‘Look at the tight end!' On film we knew some of those plays were gonna be there so Jason put it out there and I just did my job and caught the ball." It was Bienemann's second catch of the day. Remarkably, both catches also marked the first two by a Cougar TE this season. Watching Bienemman rumble with his two catches was reminiscent of watching tight ends of the crimson past, a la Pat Beach. Fittingly, one of the people in the stands watching the Cougars Saturday was former Cougar TE Clarence "Butch" Williams, one of only five Cougars of all-time to earn first-team all-conference honors three straight years.

GAME PLAN OF THE DAY: Kudos to offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller & Co. for putting together a sweet plan of Gesser quick drops and screen passes, mixed with some reverses and deep balls. It kept the Trojans playing honest all game long. "We spread them, we made them go left and right, we put a couple new reverses in that they hadn't seen before," said Price.

THE 12TH MAN DELIVERS: Coach Price said last week that a loud crowd could prove the difference against USC. By all accounts, it was the most electric fan performance at Martin Stadium since the fabled 1982 and 1992 wins over Washington. Said WSU DE Isaac Brown: "The fans, they came through for us. The energy they brought to the game, they brought it to us on defense."

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: After suffering through the Cougars' goal-line efficiency woes last year in the Apple Cup, Sun Bowl and now again this past week against USC, the question begs: When is Coach Price going to scrap that pack-em-together package?

OUTRAGES OF THE WEEK: First, that this Saturday's Cougar-Stanford game in Palo Alto isn't televised live. Second, that the Cougars only climbed to No. 13 in this week's Top 25 poll coaches poll. The Cougs are No. 12 in both the AP poll and the BCS rankings.

THE STAT MAN COMETH: Middle linebacker Mawuli Davis has only been a starter for three games, but already he's climbed into a tie for third on WSU's total tackles list. He had nine each the last two weeks, giving him 34 for the season. DB Virgil Williams also has 34, with cornerback Marcus Trufant at 37 and safety Erik Coleman at 44.

DUNNING DA MAN: Drew Dunning's heroics Saturday earned him Pac-10 special teams player of the week honors.

THE EARLY LINE: Oddsmakers have installed the 5-1 Cougars as 6 1/2 point favorites at Stanford.

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