Cougs-Devils Lockerroom Report

PULLMAN -- He moved six catches closer to the WSU career record for receptions, and climbed into second on the school's all-time punt return list. But for Michael Bumpus, the Cougs' narrow loss to No. 18 Arizona State will be a game to forget. In a nailbiter featuring more twists than a bag of Rold Golds, the star senior was in the middle of a play that proved devastating to the Cougs' upset bid.

How, exactly, it came to be remained unclear in the lockerroom at game's end.

The Cougs were leading 10-7 and poised to add more after the Devils were flagged 15 yards for roughing WSU punter Reid Forrest, giving the Cougs the ball at the ASU 33. On the ensuing play, Devil cornerback Justin Tyron became the beneficiary of a proverbial failure to communicate, intercepting an Alex Brink pass and waltzing 69 yards, unmolested, to paydirt.

Bumpus ran a hitch-and-go on the play. Brink threw a pass intended for the hitch, but not the go.

As for explanation, WSU quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach said he wouldn't comment on specific plays until after watching the game tape.

Brink, who completed 27 of 50 passes for 369 yards and two TDs, spoke only in general terms about the Devils' defense: "ASU plays a lot of man-to-man defense, really kind of in your face pressure type stuff, and it really threw off our timing. They were getting in our receivers' faces, making it hard. You can't run routes as smooth as you'd like when they play tough man to man like that. We had to make an adjustment there in the second quarter."

The interception was the most glaring, but by no means, the Cougs' only costly mistake on the day. They committed a whopping 11 penalties for 90 yards.

"Too many penalties, and some crucial penalties," head coach Bill Doba said. "We haven't had that problem. We've been pretty good penalty-wise. There were a couple 15-yarders that we don't need to have.

"You have to adjust to this [officials] crew. This crew calls it tighter than most."

The sentiments were widespread. Brink added, "We shot ourselves in the foot too often."

Added tight end Jed Collins, "We killed ourselves. I had one, I know a couple of the other guys had one. You can't start off a drive with a penalty. Our coaches say they are drive killers and today that proved to be true.

"When we didn't have penalties, we did have successful drives."

Indeed, the Cougs piled up 451 total yards and 21 first downs. They outgained the Devils by 155 yards.

THE MOST DEBATED PLAY of the day happened in the second quarter when Brandon Gibson hauled in a long pass from Brink in the endzone for what looked to be a certain TD. Officials ruled the pass incomplete, saying Gibson didn't have control. An instant replay review upheld the call and the Cougars settled for a field goal to take the early 3-0 lead.

"The ref said I bobbled it, or something like that," a frustrated Gibson said. "I caught it clean, I thought, two feet in bounds, and I landed and it came out. I'm thinking touchdown the whole way, I wasn't worried about it. You know, the refs see it different I guess."

Replays appeared to confirm Gibson's assessment, with a clean catch and a knee coming down in the endzone before he fell out of bounds and lost the ball.

THE COUGAR DEFENSE turned in a performance fans had not seen in years. The squad registered seven sacks. Sophomore linebacker Andy Mattingly, starting the first game of his carerr in place of injured Kendrick Dunn, awoke the echoes of Will Derting.

Mattingly finished with 13 tackles -- five of them tackles for loss and four of those sacks. In all, the Cougar D made 14 stops in the backfield, totaling 70 lost yards. Mattingly's five tackles for loss tied the school record for a single-game. His four sacks tie him with four other Cougars for second on the WSU single-game list.

"Coaches had a good game plan," Mattingly said. "They knew we had to get pressure on [Carpenter], and we had a good game plan. We knew exactly what we were going to do."

Mattingly, who would barely take any credit for his performance, instead directing it to the game plan the coaches produced, said he was confused during the week on the schemes the defense would use against ASU.

"Finally last night we were watching film, and the defense all got together, and it clicked," Mattingly said.

The defensive game plan called for the team to get as much pressure on Sun Devil quarterback Rudy Carpenter as they could. This Arizona State offense is a traditional pass-happy offense, and not the new spread offenses many teams now use.

"I think there was like two plays were I did not blitz," Mattingly said. "That was fun. I think that helped out a lot."

Another Cougar defender making his first-ever start was safety Xavier Hicks, starting in place of injured Alfonso Jackson. Hicks didn't disappoint, totaling 17 tackles and blocking a PAT.

* The Cougars' touchdown drive that put them up 17-14 halfway through the third quarter featured three key pass plays and none of the receivers was named Gibson, Bumpus, Dillon or Collins. Freshman Jeshua Anderson teamed with Brink for a 17-yard gain on the first snap of the series. Three plays later, little-used senior Finas Rabb drew a pass interference call that brought the ball to the ASU 16. Two plays later, Brink found JC transfer Devin Frischknecht in the end zone. It was Frischknecht's sixth catch as a Cougar and first Divsion I TD. He asked the ref if he could keep the ball.

* The Cougars came into the contest surrendering an average of 457 yards per game. ASU gained 161 yards less than that. This game also marked the first this season that the Cougs didn't surrender a TD or field goal on the opponent's first series.

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