(A short preview of our final game story)
PULLMAN – Washington State’s defensive players could feel the end zone against their backs, lined up against Idaho with the Vandals looking at a 1st-and-goal from WSU’s 2-yard line in the final minute of the fourth quarter.
Idaho rushed. It lost a yard. It passed. The ball fell incomplete. Then it tested the middle of the Cougars’ defensive line. Two yards, to the 1. Then again up the middle on fourth down. Nothing, a ferocious goal line stand giving the ball back to WSU and sent the few remaining fans in Martin Stadium into a frenzy.
They yelled. They leapt. They rejoiced.
The Cougars won the game 42-0.
But that final series felt as meaningful as any for WSU this season, as it clinched its first shutout since a 25-0 victory over Idaho in a 2003 game at CenturyLink Field.
They wanted this one badly, and the desire to notch their first shutout in a decade was already burning.
And then …
“You know, what really got us going was coach (Mike) Leach,” said senior safety Deone Bucannon.
Accurate. Leach about lost his mind after a highly questionable roughing the passer penalty against linebacker Eric Oertel gave the Vandals a first down at WSU’s 5-yard line. Leach so fervently objected to the call that he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, a call that made the stadium louder and moved Idaho to the 2-yard line.
“He was fired up,” Bucannon said, “and if the coach is fired up, we better be fired up.”
“That was something special,” defensive lineman Xavier Cooper said of the final stop. “That really shows what type of football team we are. When it comes down to the goal line situations, we really showed up as a defense. That’s our personality. We’re going to come in here and fight for all four quarters.”
Leach had little to say about the penalty – either of them – but was pleased with the result. The Cougars had their second-string defense in the game for most of that final series, but a few first-stringers — such as Bucannon and linebacker Darryl Monroe — ended the game on the field.
“Without commenting on penalties and all, I felt like our guys deserved a shutout, should get it, and so they did,” Leach said. “So that turned out well.”