Cougar D shines but heartbreak rules

PULLMAN -- Talk about a coming out party. Cougar sophomores Andy Mattingly and Xavier Hicks, each making their first-ever starts because of teammate injuries, put a jolt into the previously lackluster Washington State defense and helped the Cougs to a near-upset of No. 18 Arizona State. The Cougs lost, 23-20, but had a chance to tie it with seconds left on the clock.

Romeen Abdollmohammadi's 46-yard field goal try -- 9 yards longer than his career best -- sailed left and ASU, which had kicked a 37-yard field goal on the previous possession, remained undefeated at 6-0.

The Cougars fall to 2-4 overall and 0-3 in Pac-10 play. They head to Eugene next Saturday.

Mattingly tallied 13 tackles on the day -- five of them for loss. And of those five TFLs, four were sacks. His proficiency in hounding ASU's Rudy Carpenter ranks as one of the greatest, single-game defensive efforts in Cougar history.

In all, the Cougs registered 7 sacks on the day and 14 total TFLs.

Hicks, meanwhile, led all tacklers with 17 stops, and also blocked what turned out to be a critcal ASU extra point try.

Senior safety Husain Abdullah also had a big day. He posted 10 tackles -- two of them for loss -- and picked off a Carpenter pass to help set up an Abdollmohammadi field goal that put WSU up 3-0 at the start of the second quarter. The pick was Abdullah's ninth of his career, moving him up to No. 11 on the school's all-time list.

"I think we can take something positive out of it," said WSU head coach Bill Doba. "I think our defensive staff did a heck of a job coming up with a game plan, bringing pressure and I think the entire staff did a great job getting these guys back up after a couple of tough losses.

"We were two feet away from an overtime game with the No. 18 team in the nation, but it's not a win, and that's what I stressed to the guys. We got closer, I think we got better, I think we can take some positives things from this, but we need to win."

Cougar receiver Brandon Gibson couldn't say enough about the defense. "They were amazing. The whole defense worked its tail off today. They deserve a lot of credit."

Indeed. The Cougars came into the game ranked 103rd out of 119 Division IA teams in total defense and 119th in third-down conversions allowed.

On average, they were surrendering 457 yards per game. And ASU was scoring 39 points a game.

One of ASU's TDs was scored by its defense, so the Cougar D ended up surrendering just 16 points and 296 yards.

* Alex Brink became Washington State's all-time passing yardage leader with his 369-yard performance against Arizona State. Brink now has 8,923 yards for his career, passing Jason Gesser, who was on hand for the game. Brink went 9-for-13 for 82 yards on the drive that got him the record. On the day, he completed 27 of 50 passes.

* Hicks' block of the ASU extra point was the Cougars' first PAT block since Cody Boyd batted one down at New Mexico in 2003.

* Cougar freshman receiver Jeshua Anderson caught 3 passes for 98 yards, including a long gainer that set up Abdollmohammadi's field goal attempt in the waning seconds.

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