Cougars kick up their heels against Bruins
Seattle Times staff reporter
PASADENA, Calif. — Playing in one of the nation's most famous football palaces, the Cougars performed like princes from the Palouse.
Alex Brink threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns Saturday to lead Washington State past UCLA 37-15 in the Rose Bowl before 53,058 spectators.
Jason Hill caught five passes for 115 yards and one touchdown and Brandon Gibson caught eight for 92 yards and two TDs, his first scores of the season.
DeMaundray Woolridge contributed two fourth-quarter touchdown runs and the Cougars' defense shut out the Bruins in the second half.
The victory improved the Cougars to 6-3, 4-2 in the Pac-10, and makes them bowl-eligible.
"We've got our swagger back," said junior wide receiver Michael Bumpus, who was pressed into duty as a punter against the Bruins. "This is the first year I've been here where we expect to come out and win every game."
The margin of victory stunned both coaches.
"That wasn't anything close to the game I was expecting," said UCLA coach Karl Dorrell, whose team almost upset Notre Dame last week.
"I was surprised," said WSU coach Bill Doba.
The defeat dropped UCLA to 4-4, 2-3 and snapped the Bruins' 10-game home victory streak. It also was their third consecutive loss.
A subplot in the game was the Cougars' punting and kicking.
WSU punter Darryl Blunt felt ill during warmups and was taken to a hospital. He returned to the Cougars' bench in the third quarter in sweatpants and his jersey.
Kicker Loren Langley did the punting in the first half, but injured a thigh on a kickoff in the second quarter. Bumpus punted in the second half and Langley was replaced in the second half by walk-on kicker Romeen Abdollmohammodi, who hit a 31-yard field goal in the final minute of the third quarter for a 23-15 lead.
Woolridge provided the final two touchdowns with a 4-yard run with 11:49 to play in the game and the final score on a 15-yard run with 49 seconds left.
The Cougars had trailed 15-14 at halftime, but went ahead 20-15 with 4:25 left in the third quarter on a 17-yard TD pass from Brink to Gibson.
Gibson made a key defensive play in the fourth quarter when the teams exchanged interceptions. Tyron Brackenridge stepped in front of Derrick Williams when the Bruins had advanced to the 17. Then Eric McNeal intercepted a Brink pass, but Hill forced the fumble and Gibson recovered it.
The Cougars entered the game banged up and left with more injuries.
Particularly worrisome is the injury to star defensive end Mkristo Bruce, who was unable to play in the fourth quarter because of a sprained right knee that has gotten progressively worse all season. Starting running back Dwight Tardy and backup Derrell Hutsona, who provides a change of pace in running styles, didn't finish the game because of ankle sprains.
UCLA quarterback Patrick Cowan, son of former Washington Huskies quarterback Tim Cowan, completed 17 of 37 passes for 252 yards and one touchdown. Like Brink, he was intercepted twice.
The Bruins got field goals of 37, 28 and 38 yards in the first half from Justin Medlock, the nation's leading kicker, and a 36-yard touchdown pass to Junior Taylor to build their 15-14 lead.
The Cougars' second-quarter touchdowns came on drives of 90 and 98 yards. Brink, who threw for 275 yards in the first half, hit Gibson with a 6-yarder and Hill with a 17-yarder.
It was Hill's 32nd career TD, which is tied for second on the Pac-10 career list. It was his seventh TD catch this season.
On both long drives, tight end Cody Boyd contributed big plays in his first game since suffering a high ankle sprain at Oregon State on Oct. 7.
Boyd, the 6-foot-8 senior from Ferndale who grabbed the onside kick to secure WSU's 31-29 upset over UCLA in 2004, had a 20-yard reception on the first TD march and a 22-yarder on the second TD drive. He finished with four catches for 69 yards.
The other WSU tight end, Jed Collins, who was the star in the win last week over Oregon, caught four passes for 85 yards, including one of 58 yards.
In the opening half, Langley missed field goals of 37 and 43 yards for WSU.
The victory provided a measure of redemption for the Cougars, who led the Bruins 38-21 last year entering the fourth quarter in Pullman only to lose 44-41 in overtime.
This time, the lead didn't slip away.
Craig Smith: 206-464-8279 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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