"I think they should," Keith Gilbertson said when asked whether or not his players should take satisfaction in their effort. "I have to live with 1-10."
"I have never seen the trophy (until now)," said WSU free safety Hamza Abdullah. "The closest I had got to the trophy was on the video game (EA Sports NCAA 2005). We wanted it. That was one of the reasons we came to WSU and we got it."
The Huskies might argue that they gave it to them. Casey Paus, starting his fourth-straight game for the Huskies, was the recipient of some early turnovers by the Washington defensive and special teams units - including one on the opening kickoff - but could only convert Washington State's miscues into three points.
But ironically enough, the whole first quarter was played at a pace that belied the Huskies' normal scoring difficulties. They drove 46 yards for a Paus to Joe Toledo score after a 23-yard kickoff return by Kyle Trew on a WSU pooch kick. But for all the relative fireworks offensively, the Cougars ran roughshod over Washington's defense, outgaining them 165 to 61 in the first quarter and scoring twice.
The Cougars amassed 393 yards of total offense, to Washington's 248. Washington, in scoring 25 points, doubled it's normal scoring average. Brink had his finest game to date in taking over for an injured Josh Swogger, completing 15 of 24 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns. One of those touchdowns went to sophomore Jason Hill, who broke the WSU single-season record for touchdowns with 12. The previous record of 11 was held by Kevin McKenzie (1997), Chris Jackson (1997), and Devard Darling (2002).
WSU running back Jerome Harrison, who exploded onto the scene with a 247-yard, three-touchdown effort against UCLA three weeks ago, put another 100-plus yard game on the board. He carried the ball 29 times for 150 yards against the Huskies.
As has been the case all season for the Huskies, misery found company in their own end zone just when they least needed it to. They dodged a bullet when Graham Siderius missed a 34-yard field goal attempt. But WSU linebacker Scott Davis forced Paus to fumble in the end zone, where Will Derting picked up the loose pigskin for six. Just when the Dawgs needed something good to happen, the bad popped up in eerily predictable fashion.
After three interceptions - the last on a play that showed Sonny Shackelford running free by at least ten yards - as well as his fumble into the endzone, Gilbertson had seen enough of his starting quarterback. Backup Isaiah Stanback came in and guided the Huskies to a third-quarter score, fueled by a 42-yard pass to Craig Chambers.
For Stanback, who finished 5-8 for 100 yards and one touchdown, it was up to him to provide a spark. "I felt like we were getting momentum. That's what we needed," he said. "We hadn't have anything going on, so we needed some sort of momentum, and I felt it started to go our way."
The two would hook up later in the fourth quarter - on a 39-yard strike and a two-point conversion - to bring the game to three with 4:04 left in the game. "We had that route twice in the first half and once we had Sonny Shackelford in back seven or eight yards and we ended up throwing the ball way over on the other sideline," said Gilbertson. "We felt like we had that route a lot today and we should have hit one in the first half that would have made the game really interesting."
As if nothing else could go wrong for the Dawgs on this day, they also played for nearly the whole game without their starting running back. Kenny James went out with roughly six minutes to go in the first quarter with a rib injury and never returned, and Scott White never made the trip after missing Friday's practice."
James Sims, normally the starting fullback, was pressed into running back duty and performed admirably. He gained 85 yards on 23 carries. "James has done a nice job of hangning onto the ball and we've had such problems holding onto the ball the past three games," said Gilbertson. "I felt like we needed to give James a chance and he did a nice job getting the ball upfield."
And to add insult to the injuries that piled up this season like flapjacks at breakfast time, staring linebacker Scott White never even made the trip to Pullman. He missed Friday's practice, and was left home as a result.
"I really wasn't in the mood to listen to an excuse," said Gilbertson. "We have an itinerary on Thursday, we go over the itinerary in the meeting, it's the last thing we go through before we see them. There's no excuse, 69 other guys made it."
That makes the total of players that played at the same position for every single game this season a stunning four - Brad Vanneman (center), Evan Benjamin (OLB), Dashon Goldson (safety) and Sam Cunnningham (cornerback).
For their part, the Cougars were more than happy to take advantage of the Huskies' miscues. "Don't let anybody ever tell you that this game doesn't mean anything. It means a whole lot," said WSU Head Coach Bill Doba. "It's a great one to win. It's a springboard for the weight program and the off-season program and for spring ball."
Davis, who arguably had the play of the game for Washington State, summed it up nicely; "I'm so happy right now. It was like a bowl game. It was our bowl game and we won."
Gilbertson hopes the lessons learned on the west side of the mountains aren't forgotten too easily. "You can't go home for the summer. And when you miss a day of working out, someone else is working out that you're going to be playing against. Those kinds of messages have to be learned. They have to get bigger and stronger and more physical.
"One of my favorite sayings is that adversity doesn't build character, it reveals it. And I think this team has a lot of character. We were short-handed some - we were on our third punt-snapper tonight and our fourth guys at some positions.
"It's been just one of those years."