Seen & Heard 12/9

WASHINGTON STATE and Oklahoma have met on the gridiron just two times, but a trend (aside from the fact WSU is 0-2 in the series), stands out as we gird for the teams' Rose Bowl showdown: The Cougars have yet to score a single point on the Sooners.

It's true. If Jason Gesser can get the Cougs in the endzone or Drew Dunning splits the uprights on January 1 it'll mark the first time a WSU team has scored against their foe from Norman.

In 1967, future Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens led the Sooners to a 21-0 victory and in 1938 Babe Hollingbery's squad dropped a 28-0 decision to Boomer's Boys in the season finale. Both games were played at Oklahoma.

Apparently not wanting to mess with history, the early line from oddsmakers pegs the Sooners as six-point favorites in the Rose Bowl.

Given the fact the Cougars are averaging more than 30 points per game this year, and haven't been shut out in something like two decades, look for that goose egg to go by the wayside on the first day of 2003. Alas, though, it won't be easy. Oklahoma sports one of the nastiest defenses in the land, surrendering just 15 points per game. The Sooners are 11-2 and ranked No. 8 in the nation in no small part because of their attacking, aggressive D. The Cougars are 10-2 and ranked No. 7.

The Sooners have played in 35 bowls over the years, but this will be their first-ever trip to Pasadena, courtesy of the BCS machinations. They earned their unprecedented trek West by thumping Colorado 29-7 on Saturday in the Big 12 Championship game. QB Nate Hybl fired two TD passes and all-world running back Quentin Griffin ran for 188 yards, upping his season total to 1,799 (6.8 per carry).

The Rose Bowl is no stranger to Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. He played in the Grandaddy of Them All for Iowa in 1982 and was back in 1985 as a Hawkeye assistant coach.

Kickoff in Pasadena, in case you're wondering, is set for 2 pm Pacific time.

The four losses the Sooners and Cougars have between them this year are against a fairly solid group of clubs. WSU to No. 1 Ohio State and Sun Bowl-bound Washington, Oklahoma to Texas A & M and bowl-bound Oklahoma State.

Gesser won more than the hearts of the college football world with his gritty performance against UCLA. He also won the Pac-10 passing efficiency crown for the second time in three years. His 150.1 rating edged him past fellow Pac-10 Co-Offensive Player of the Year Carson Palmer (148.3). Gesser's rating puts him at No. 6 nationally.

Junior cornerback Jason David's triumphant return to the field on national TV at UCLA after missing three games due to a broken cheekbone probably assured him big-time consideration for next year's various pre-season All-America teams. His interception of Bruin QB Drew Olsen was David's seventh INT of the year. He won the Pac-10 air theft crown --- following on the heels of former Cougar Lamont Thompson last season --- and was tied for fifth nationally.

Junior back Jermaine Green, who's long-distance TD runs against both USC and UCLA this season will forever cement him in Cougar lore, finished No. 5 in the Pac-10 in rushing with 784 yards. But he tied OSU's Steven Jackson, the conference's top rusher with 1,656 yards, for first in yards per carry. The two of them cranked out an average of 5.5 hashes every time they touched the ball. And guess who was No. 3 on list? WSU's own John Tippins. Mr. Ol' Reliable averaged 4.9 yards per carry en route to a 556-yard regular-season campaign.

Dunning, with two field goals and six extra points against UCLA, tallied 111 points for the year to become WSU's single-season scoring record-holder. The previous mark was 104 points set by running back Steve Broussard in 1989. Dunning's scoring total ranked him No. 5 nationally this season, just five points behind Georgia's "Bud" Bennett.

With his first quarter TD catch against UCLA, Cougar grab-master Devard Darling entered the WSU record books. That was his 11th receiving TD of the year, tying him with 1997 Fab Five stars Chris Jackson and Kevin McKenzie for the single-season record.

It did my heart good to see senior special teams phenom Curtis Nettles flying around the field at UCLA last week. His kickoff fumble recovery against the Bruins put a nice touch on a season that was marred by injury. A year ago, you may remember, he earned honorable mention all-conference recognition for his spectacular play on special teams.

Offensive guard Derrick Roche will wrap up one whale of career on January 1. He's started 38 games for the Cougs, earning first-team all-conference honors twice and, last week, first-team All-America plaudits from the American Football Coaches Association. But I've got a hunch one of Roche's young proteges is the hoss we all may be talking about when we're in the old folks' home: Tackle Calvin Armstrong. A third-team freshman All-American last year, Armstrong joined Roche on the all-Pac-10 first unit this season. And he's just a sophomore. That means the 6-foot-8, 315-pounder from Centralia could do something only one other Cougar hoss, Steve Ostermann of the early 1970s, has done: Earn first-team all-Pac-10 honors three successive years.

Don't you just love Cougar junior safety Erik Coleman? The Pride of Spokane hits like a truck and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He scored his third TD of the season Saturday against UCLA when he tipped a pass and then sprinted to the end zone with it for the Cougars' final score. Mind you, Erik played both the Husky and Bruin games with a very tender shoulder. He's WSU's leading tackler with 76 stops on the season.

And speaking of great defensive efforts, Cougar senior linebacker Mawuli Davis had six tackles against the Bruins -- four of them were for losses -- and tackle Jeremey Williams, making hay with the double teams on battery-mate Rien Long, posted five stops and put huge pressure on the UCLA quarterbacks. Their efforts were one big reason why the Cougars held the Bruins to just 53 rushing yards --- the fifth consecutive game the Crimson D has limited its foe to 60 yards or less.

Drew Dunning may not have repeated this year as a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, but his "passing" efforts against UCLA no doubt make him a slam dunk winner for the coveted Garo Yepremian Award recognizing the player who most definitely should stick to their day job.

Dunning's feeble misfire on what otherwise was a sure-fire TD toss to wide open John Tippins wasn't the only kicking gaffe by the Cougars on Saturday. That inexplicable onsides kick that Adam Holiday tried to execute just before halftime was supposed to be a squib kick ---- as in a knuckle ball into Bruin territory so some time would burn off the clock. Holiday somehow thought "onsides" rather than squib. Based on Mike Price's reaction afterward, it seems a safe bet to assume Holiday will be a better listener on his next trip to Pasadena.

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