Cougs have Cardinal seeing red
Seattle Times staff reporter
STANFORD, Calif. — The big question in Washington State circles when the football season started was whether the Cougars could stop anybody.
Saturday in remodeled Stanford Stadium, the steadily improving defense answered that with an emphatic "Yes" as the Cougars rolled past winless Stanford 36-10.
Mkristo Bruce had a school-record five sacks and three teammates also had sacks, and Stanford was limited to 195 yards total offense, the lowest total allowed by Washington State all season.
In winning their Pac-10 opener and improving to 3-1, the Cougars got their first nine points from their defense and didn't allow the Cardinal to cross midfield until the second half.
Stanford, which is so injury-riddled that its wide receivers were walk-ons and freshmen, dropped to 0-4 for the first time since 1987.
On offense, WSU quarterback Alex Brink completed 21 of 33 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns and scored on a sneak. The Cougars lacerated the nation's worst rush defense for 240 yards, with Dwight Tardy leading with 97 yards on 17 carries.
The Cougars only led 2-0 after the first quarter despite outlandish statistical advantages: Yards, 180 to 2; plays run, 34 to 3; first downs, 11 to 0; and passes completed, 9 to 0.
The drive-killers were fumbles by Brink at the 1-yard line and Tardy at the 11.
Bruce said he and his defensive cohorts got restless on the sideline in the first quarter.
"You want your offense out there but then we were like, 'This is boring. We don't want to stay here.' "
The safety came after Brink's fumble when Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards tripped in the end zone.
"My foot got stepped on right out of gate," Edwards said. "That's the way the season has gone for us."
Edwards said, "We dug ourselves and the defense a hole by putting Washington State on the field for basically 15 minutes [actually 13:21] of the first quarter. You can't win football games that way."
Edwards, who had done John Elway imitations in beating the Cougars the previous two years in Pullman, had modest stats Saturday. He completed 14 of 23 passes for 159 yards with one TD and one interception.
Sophomore defensive end Mike Graise put the Cougars up 9-0 with a 33-yard interception return in the second quarter.
Graise said a tackle was trying to cut-block him and he thinks Edwards thought he was falling when the pass was thrown.
"I just pushed him [the tackle] down and he threw the ball," said Graise, who said he was "determined to score" to avoid ribbing by teammates if he got tackled by the quarterback.
The Cougars went up 15-0 in the second quarter after Jason Hill blocked a punt and Graise fell on it at the 13.
"Some young freshman tried to do more than he was supposed to do and didn't do what he was supposed to do," said Stanford coach Walt Harris of the blocked punt.
After Brink scrambled 11 yards for a first down at the 2, he passed to tight end Jed Collins for the junior's first TD catch.
The Cougars got their final TD of the first half, for a 22-0 lead, on a sneak by Brink that completed a 69-yard drive.
Stanford took the second-half kickoff and scored on a 34-yard field goal by Aaron Zagory.
After Cougars running back DeMaundray Woolridge fumbled away the ball at the 17, the Cardinal was on the threshold of scoring again, but freshman running back Toby Gerhart had the ball stripped by Husain Abdullah and Don Turner fell on it for WSU at the 3.
Brink then drove the Cougars 97 yards and hit Hill with a 7-yard TD pass for a 29-3 lead.
Both teams scored TDs in the final quarter.
Edwards hit walk-on wide receiver Kelton Lynn with a 25-yard pass and the Cougars responded with a 1-yard plunge by Tardy to cap a 62-yard drive.
By then, most of the crowd — announced only as 37,498 tickets sold — had headed home.
The Cougars finished with 468 yards, second highest of the season. But postgame talk was more about the defense and Bruce's five sacks.
As Brink said of Bruce's day, "That was an unreal performance."
Craig Smith: 206-464-8279 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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