Huskies bounce back to down WSU

Cody Pickett rebounded from a tough performance last week in Corvallis to carve up the experienced Cougar secondary as he completed 25 of 38 passes for 371 yards and a touchdown to lead the Huskies to a 26-14 victory over Washington State. The win will likely earn the Huskies a bid to the Holiday Bowl.

Pickett connected with tight end Jerramy Stevens for a 7-yard touchdown and threw no interceptions. Washington State had three costly turnovers inside the red zone and was not able to overcome those errors.

"It was a great week of football for us," said Husky Coach Rick Neuheisel after the win. "It was a bit of a gut check for players and coaches alike after last week."

Washington State looked as if they would get on the board first. From the Cougar 35, the Husky secondary became confused and Cougar tight end Mark Baldwin was wide open for a 25-yard reception. A 13-yard reception by Jerome Riley and a personal foul on WSU's Kai Ellis for unnecessary roughness put the ball on the Husky five-yard line. That may have been the turning point of the game.

Cougar running back David Minnich tried the Husky middle four times. After the first three netted four yards, he took a handoff on fourth and one and went airborne over his offensive linemen. Washington linebacker Ben Mahdavi leapt at the same time and met Minnich in mid-flight, bringing the Cougar to earth short of the goal line. Washington took over on their own one-yard and the complexion of the entire game had changed.

"That goal line stand was huge," said Neuheisel.

Washington turned right around and marched 99 yards in 10 plays to draw first blood. The second play of the drive could've been disaster as Pickett forced one to Williams that cornerback Jason David came within an eyelash of picking the ball and waltzing into the endzone but the ball whistled just out of his reach to Williams for a 20-yard pickup. Pickett turned to Williams again for a 12-yard reception on a slant in front of David. David would draw a pass interference penalty on Williams that would move the ball to the Cougar 27. Once again Pickett went to the 6-4 Williams, who got in front of Marcus Trufant and made a touch catch at the one-yard line. Rich Alexis ran it over the goal line on the next play to stake the Huskies to a 7-0 first quarter lead.

Washington State's special teams came through in the second quarter. Following a D.D. Acholonu sack of Pickett, Derek McLaughlin's punt was blocked by Jeremy Bohannon, who came through the right side of the Husky line past Marquis Cooper. The ball squirted forward to the 25-yard line and WSU was in business.

A UW defensive holding penalty moved the ball to the Husky 15-yard line. One play later Gesser found Mike Bush and threaded a perfect pass through tight coverage by Wondame Davis to tie the score at 7-7.

Billy Newman would get the ball back for the Cougars when Pickett threw behind Arnold and the senior safety made the interception at the WSU 40, but the Husky defense forced them into a three and out.

Washington's next drive stalled at midfield and once again McLaughlin's punt was blocked, this time by Acholonu who ran by Omare Lowe's block enough to deflect the boot. WSU not able to do anything with the ball and Washington went to work with 1:35 remaining in the half.

Pickett connections to Williams for 15 and 16 yards sandwiched around a perfectly executed screen pass to Hurst that went for 23 yards had the Huskies in great shape at the WSU 42. Jerramy Stevens made a nice catch over the middle to move the ball to the WSU 15, where the drive stalled. John Anderson connected from 29-yards out to push the Huskies back into the lead with 0:09 seconds left.

Jason David then made a crucial mistake, taking the ensuing kickoff six yards deep in his own endzone and decided to run it out. He was met by Zach Tuiasosopo and coughed the ball up. Aaron Butler fell on the ball at the Cougar 18 with one second remaining. John Anderson came on to put it through the uprights from 35-yards out to send the teams into the locker room with the score Washington 13, WSU 7. The Cougars were visibly shaken by the field goal as they ran up the tunnel.

Reggie Williams had one of the best first halves of any UW receiver in history, catching 9 passes for 186 yards. Pickett was 14 of 24 for 245 yards at the break.

The second half began as a nightmare for the visitors from Pullman. Washington State began their first possession on their own four-yard line when Curtis Nettles fielded Skursi's kick and stepped out of bounds on his own five yard line. Two plays later Minnich was hit by Jamaun Willis and Greg Carothers and put the ball on the ground just before his knee touched down. Wondame Davis scooped it up and returned it to the Cougar two. Willie Hurst followed offensive guard Aaron Butler into the end zone on the very next play. Anderson's extra point was no good but the Huskies had a comfortable lead at 19-7.

The Cougars drove right down the field and looked to answer. Gesser used his legs to pick up a key third down to move the ball to midfield. He then threw a perfect pass to Nakoa McElrath, their first connection of the game, good for 34 yards. Four plays later WSU was on the Husky six with a first and goal. Gesser play-faked and rolled to his right where Larry Tripplett was waiting for him. The Cougar quarterback stopped in his tracks and while he was stationary, Greg Carothers crushed him and knocked the ball flying. Ben Mahdavi recovered and returned it to the Cougar 21 to kill the drive.

Washington tailback Rich Alexis was stripped of the ball by James Price and the Cougars recovered at the Husky 40, looking to close the gap near the end of the third quarter. A personal foul penalty on Rod Green for a helmet to helmet blow on Jason Gesser had the Cougars in business at the Husky 17. A Gesser to Riley completion gave the Cougars a first and goal on the five. Once again the Husky defense came up huge. After Lowe sacked Gesser for a two-yard loss, WSU was flagged for a false start. Facing second and goal on the 13, Gesser lateralled to Minnich who was looking to throw the ball to wide receiver Nakoa McElrath. Husky linebacker Anthony Kelley came up to smother Minnich. The Cougar still attempted to throw an ill-advised pass despite having Kelley draped all over him. Cornerback Roc Alexander easily intercepted the wounded duck and yet another Cougar drive was snuffed.

It marked the third turnover of the game in the red zone for Washington State, losing a fumble, an interception, and once on downs. It would prove to be too big of a hole to climb out of.

Washington would put the nail in the Cougar's coffin, going on an 88-yard touchdown march that took 12 plays and consumed almost five minutes. Riding the legs of Willie Hurst, Washington methodically moved the ball up field until Pickett pump faked WSU corner Jason David to freeze him and then hit Todd Elstrom on a stop and go route. The ball was the prettiest ball thrown all season by Pickett and went for 39 yards. Just when it looked like WSU would stop the Huskies on the seven-yard line, Pickett correctly read linebacker blitz and hit tight end Jerramy Stevens for a touchdown to put the Huskies on top 26-7 with 10:23 remaining.

The Cougars would finally answer the 19 unanswered Husky points when Gesser found McElrath for a four-yard touchdown with 3:58 remaining.

The ensuing onside kick was recovered by Charles Frederick and the Cougars never saw the ball again.

Hurry it up: Washington drew a penalty before the game had even began. Right after the coin toss the Huskies were flagged with a personal foul penalty. Apparently the pre-game show by the bands ran 31/2 minutes long, thus making the player introductions for the Husky seniors run late. The officials approached Neuheisel about stopping the introductions but the Husky coach would have none of it. "You've got to be kidding me?" said Neuheisel when approached by the officials. "I told them that if they had to call it, do it, but that we were going to continue with the introductions." As a result, WSU kicked off from their 45-yard line to begin the game.

Feelin' Lowe: When Jason Gesser tried to connect with Jeremy Thielbar on a pass, Husky corner Omare Lowe drilled him so hard that he crumpled to the turf, got up to run off the field, and then crumpled back to the turf before reaching the Cougar sideline.

Holiday . . . Celebrate: No, not the Madonna tune. But the bowl game. Holiday bowl reps were in the Husky locker room after the game, but wouldn't come forward and invite the Huskies just yet. "With the BCS, anything can happen, but we will get to choose the Pac-10 #2 team," said the reps. Right now that looks to be Washington since they've defeated both Stanford and Washington State. Top Stories