ON A NIGHT WHEN popular opinion presumed Washington State would empty its bench early, Robb Akey had his undermanned Idaho Vandals full of fight and helped light up the Martin Stadium scoreboard for 73 combined points. For the Cougs, Alex Brink and Michael Bumpus moved higher on the records lists. And WSU's ongoing kicking woes may have been settled by a 155-pound freshman from Corvallis.
The 90th Battle of the Palouse –- and the final one for at least a few seasons -– was never really in doubt. Indeed, Cougar punter Darryl Blount only stepped on the field twice. Nonetheless, the game was entertaining, sloppy at times and mostly intense.
There were big hits. Long passes. Interceptions. Forced fumbles. And trash talking, led by Vandals Max Komar and Stanley Franks.
The final score was Washington State 45, Idaho 28.
Idaho, a 26-point underdog, split the suspect WSU secondary for a long TD on the first series of the night and didn’t surrender the lead until two minutes were gone in the second quarter.
"It's a win. It's a win. There are no ugly wins," a marginally disappointed WSU head coach Bill Doba told the WSU Radio Network. "For some reason I don't feel like we won ... we were just sloppy at times ... We're still feeling our way defensively."
At times, yes.
In the end, though, the Cougars’ tale was all about records.
Brink completed 26 of 36 passes for 307 yards, 4 TDs and 1 interception. In the process, he moved by Jack Thompson on the school’s career passing yards list and eclipsed Ryan Leaf for career touchdown passes. In both categories, Brink now trails only Jason Gesser.
Brink did pass Gesser in one category on Saturday, becoming WSU's career leader in pass completions with 624.
Before giving way to Gary Rogers late in fourth quarter, Brink connected with seven different receivers. Chief among them was Michael Bumpus (8 catches for 118 yards and 2 TDs) and Brandon Gibson (7, 81, 1).
Bumpus now has 147 career catches. He needs two receptions to bypass Jason Hill for second on WSU’s all-time list and 30 to supersede the 45-year-old record held by Hugh Campbell.
On the ground, Dwight Tardy eclipsed 100 yards for the first time this season, racking up 108 hashes and 2 TDs on 22 carries.
Placekicking, where the Cougs have struggled for much of the last three seasons, was a source of intrigue on this picturesque Palouse night.
Romeen Abdollmohammadi, the starter since late last year, started the game but struggled with kickoffs and missed one of two field goal tries and was replaced by freshman Wade Penner. The youngster from Corvallis, Oregon, made his collegiate debut in the first half and was an instant improvement on kickoffs. He later nailed a PAT.
Meanwhile, long-time starter Loren Langley made his first appearance of the season in the fourth quarter, missing a 24-yard field goal try that may have been foiled by a poor snap.
"I thought Wade did a nice job," Doba said, noting that Penner has an "even, sweet swing. "You know, Penner might be the guy. He gets more height on the ball and gives our cover guys a chance to get down there."
Doba also noted that Penner is a cool customer, having kicked the winning field goal in the waning seconds last season in the Oregon high school championship game.
The Cougs, now 2-1 on the year, travel to No. 1-ranked USC next Saturday evening. The Trojans improved to 2-0 Saturday, beating Nebraska 49-31.
Stay tuned later for more Cougar-Vandal coverage.