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Steady Knuff’s Highlight-Reel Day Can’t Save WSU

With eight catches for 102 yards and a touchdown, Washington State senior tight end David Knuff stood out as one of the few positives during an otherwise forgettable afternoon for the Cougars.

“It was a big game for Dave,” WSU coach Mike Price said. “There’s no particular reason why we went to him - it wasn’t like we were designing it.

“It was just kind of how they defensed some of our plays and he was the guy that we were going to. He made some tremendous catches.”

Knuff caught a 14-yard scoring pass in the first quarter, and set up WSU’s second touchdown by hauling in consecutive 23-yarders over the middle.

When Knuff wasn’t making big catches, he was setting up teammates.

With Stanford holding a 21-14 third-quarter lead and the Cougars facing second-and-15 from their own 25-yard line, Knuff turned a disastrous play into a first down.

As the 6-foot-3, 240-pounder was being tackled for no gain, he alertly lateraled to slotback Kevin McKenze, who picked up 23 yards. The play was part of a 14-play drive that consumed 6:08 and ended with a field goal.

And while the reception contributed to a career day for Knuff - he entered the game with just 12 catches all season - the tight end was in no mood to celebrate.

“It’s a horrible day,” he said, voice cracking. “We lost to Stanford. It’s one that we needed to have and we didn’t get it.”

Bowl hopes flickering, but alive

The Cougars will go to a bowl if they defeat Washington next week and the following happens:

California beats Stanford, keeping the Cardinal from getting the requisite six wins.

Arizona State beats Arizona, keeping the Wildcats from winning six.

USC loses to Notre Dame or UCLA, preventing the Trojans from having a winning record (another bowl requirement).

Oregon State beats Oregon, preventing the Sun or Aloha bowls from selecting the Ducks in spite of WSU’s superior conference record.

Banking on Banks

Punter Jeff Banks completed the first pass of his WSU career, finding Chad Carpenter for a first down on fourth-and-12 from the Stanford 37.

“It was actually set up against their fake prevent,” Price said. “They get in a defense that we thought we could run this play against when they think you’re going to fake it.

“So it’s kind of like a double Catch-22, you know what I mean?

“They’re set up playing the fake, and then you fake it - we did it because of the way their alignment was.”

Nansen weighs in

Johnny Nansen wasted little time in making an impact in his first start since suffering a broken jaw in practice Oct. 15.

The senior strong-side linebacker read a first-quarter screen perfectly, leveling Stanford fullback Jon Ritchie for a 2-yard loss. Nansen made a similar play early in the fourth quarter, dropping Damon Dunn for a 1-yard loss.

“I’m finally feeling better,” said Nansen, who dropped from 235 pounds to 215 while his jaw was wired shut. “My knee’s healthy. I think the 20 pounds that I lost is helping me a lot.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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