Cougs get run over by Arizona

MKRISTO BRUCE

A 16 POINT FAVORITE against struggling Arizona, Washington State looked nothing like the team of recent weeks that spanked No. 15 Oregon and blew the doors off the Bruins. Flatter than day old Dr. Pepper Saturday, the Cougs were upset by Arizona 27-17 on a rainy afternoon in Martin Stadium. Adding injury to insult, WRs Jason Hill and Michael Bumpus might be out for the rest of the regular season.

Hill and Bumpus both suffered high ankle sprains in the first half and did not return.

"They're pretty tough," Doba told Bud Nameck on the Cougar Sports Radio Network. "I don't like to hear that they couldn't go back in the second half. I'm afraid they're probably hurt."

Later, Doba said the estimate was 2-3 weeks on both. Cody Boyd returned from his high ankle sprain in two weeks, but the injury can also take much longer and it won't be a surprise if the Cougs will be without the pair for the Apple Cup in two weeks.

The Cougars' third loss to a Pac-10 team also hurt their chance to lock in a bowl on Saturday. WSU (6-4) needs a win in one of their next two games to assure bowl eligibility.

Chris Jordan, a receiver who hadn't played since Week 3 against Baylor, was put into the rotation, adding three catches on 43 yards. Brandon Gibson was the Cougars' leading receiver with four catches for 111 yards and a touchdown, a 91-yard bomb that was the second longest touchdown pass school history.

But it was a day of fits and starts for the Cougars, and they could never find their rhythm.

Alex Brink was 18-for-33 for 264 yards and a touchdown. Dwight Tardy was the Cougars' leading rusher, collecting 38 yards on 10 carries.

The Cougars had 282 net yards to the Wildcats 278, but suffered five sacks and had no answer for 20 first-half points by Arizona, who held the ball nearly 10 minutes longer than Washington State.

Doba told Nameck that, without taking credit from Jordan and Gibson, Brink likely had a harder time adjusting to routes of the less-utilized receivers.

Wildcats sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama was 10-for-17, 153 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Running back Chris Henry had a team-high 94 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries, and junior receiver Anthony Johnson led Arizona with 78 yards on a one touchdown catch.

Washington State safeties Husain Abdullah and Eric Frampton each had nine tackles, as did linebacker Steve Dildine. But the Cougars couldn't get a sack, partially because Tuitama made only seven throws in the second half.

Arizona (4-5, 2-4) wasted no time against the nation's No. 25 team, needing only three plays to score on a 78-yard pass down the middle from Tuitama to Johnson. Nick Folk's extra point made it 7-0 with 14 minutes remaining in the first quarter.

"They threw the right play for the screwup," Doba told Nameck, referencing a missed secondary assignment. "Still, that's one play in the game. We had plenty of opportunities to come back … We just did not play well. We were 2-of-13, they were 9-of-18 on third down conversions."

The Cougars went three-and-out on their first series. On their second, Brink found Gibson on the left side for the 91-yard touchdown. Romeen Abdollmohammadi, who replaced kicker Loren Langley, tied the score with his first of two extra points.

Linebacker Steve Dildine then ignited the Washington State offense, intercepting Tuitama on the first play of Arizona's following drive. The Cougars marched to the Arizona 19-yard line in five plays, but the drive stalled and Abdollmohammadi booted a 37-yard field goal.

With Washington State coming off its sixth win, many Cougar faithful expected an easy game against the Wildcats. Earlier this week, however, coach Bill Doba warned against overlooking Arizona, noting that the defense was banged up, from the starters on down.

In the first half, Arizona showed why Doba issued the warning, forging a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive capped by Henry's 4-yard run straight up the middle. Following a Brink fumble, Arizona tacked on a 48-yard field goal to take a 17-10 lead.

Hill, Washington State's all time leader in TD receptions, had only two catches for 21 first half yards before leaving for good with the sprain. Bumpus left the game in the final minute of the first half after being drilled on a punt return.

"It's been that kind of a year for the Cougars, physically," Cougar play-by-play man Bob Robertson lamented.

With time running down in the first half, punter Darryl Blunt couldn't find the handle on a low snap and Arizona turned the miscue into another three points – this time from 37 yards out – to enter halftime with a 20-10 lead.

"They're just running the dang ball right up or fanny," Doba told Nameck at halftime. "They're moving the ball and we're not awake offensively."

True that. Washington State had only two first downs in the first half and only 111 net yards to Arizona's 185.

On the Cougars' first second-half series, Brink and the offense showed signs of life, completing six consecutive passes to the Arizona 35.

Washington State fumbled, but Arizona fumbled the return, and left guard Sean O'Connor pounced on the pigskin on the Wildcats 5-yard line. Jed Collins finished a 12-play, 80 yard touchdown drive, going airborne over the goal line pile to make it 20-17 following Abdollmohammadi's extra point.

Washington State gambled and tried to seize momentum on their next drive but Blunt couldn't convert a fake punt. Arizona responded with an 8-play drive, scoring on a 6-yard Henry run, again right down the middle of the Cougar defense. After an extra point, the Wildcats ended the third quarter with a 27-17 lead.

Washington State travels to Tempe, Ariz., next Saturday to play Arizona State, who lost big to Oregon State 44-10 earlier in the day.

"There was a good meeting in the game," Doba told Nameck. "The team said some good things… We can still finish 8-4 and get off to a bowl game.

"We'll be back next week."

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