Sports

Yellow Hankies Rain On WSU

Tis the third game of football and the Cougars gave to thee: five false starts, three offsides, two holding calls and a P-I on the DB.

But wait, there’s more: one illegal block, one illegal procedure, one kickoff out of bounds, one hold on an interception return, one illegal use of hands and yet another pass interference penalty.

Washington State’s only forgivable offense may have come on the final play of Saturday’s 35-22 victory over Illinois, when the 19th-ranked Cougars intentionally took a delay-of-game penalty while letting the clock run down.

It was the 18th and final penalty assessed against the Cougars, whose transgressions cost them 124 yards.

Even though WSU didn’t break any records - the 1990 Cougars once committed 20 penalties, while the ‘93 team amassed 173 penalty yards in a single game - coach Mike Price was furious nonetheless.

“Way too many penalties,” the coach fumed.

For some, Saturday’s fiasco inspired memories of last year’s 38-34 win against Temple, in which WSU was assessed 14 penalties. Others recalled last year’s 17-penalty debacle in a 24-3 win against Oregon State.

The Cougars were heavy road favorites in those games, just as they were against Illinois, raising questions as to whether they can maintain their focus against lesser opponents. (They get another chance this week, when Boise State visits Pullman.)

Coaches and players offered several theories on Saturday’s problems. The false starts and offsides may have had more to do with Illinois than anything, some suggested.

“A couple times when they shifted their defense they said, ‘Down,’ and that’s one of our cadences and our guys would jump,” Price said. “But it’s still lack of intensity and discipline and focus, and we need to improve on that.”

WSU defensive tackle Leon Bender agreed, but he also credited Illinois quarterback Mark Hoekstra for drawing the Cougars offsides.

“Maybe it was a lack of focus, or maybe it was we came out, Kevin (McKenzie) scored the touchdown in like 4 seconds and we just thought it was going to be that way the whole time,” Bender said.

“But one thing I can say is that they threw off our rhythm on defense because his cadence, it wasn’t like, ‘Down, set, go.’

“It was, ‘Hut-hut, hut, hut,’ then we had to hold our water and I think that’s really what made a lot of us jump offsides.”

Perhaps the Cougars should have expected trouble as early as Friday morning, when they stepped on board their Western Pacific charter. The Boeing 727 was emblazoned with artwork from the slapstick television cartoon “The Simpson’s.”

Said receiver Nian Taylor: “It had Bart and Marge, all of them.”

D’oh!

On the bright side …

Despite the 18 penalties and four WSU turnovers, the Cougars could point to several impressive statistics:

Quarterback Ryan Leaf completed a season-high 58 percent of his passes for 302 yards and four touchdowns. It was the third straight game Leaf has surpassed 300 yards.

The offense amassed 500 net yards.

Four different receivers caught scoring passes - Shawn McWashington, Chris Jackson, Nian Taylor and McKenzie.

The defense batted down 10 passes, compared with two for the Illini.

Bender and defensive linemates Shane Doyle, Gary Holmes and Dorian Boose combined to make 19 tackles. Seventeen of those were unassisted.

Bender was especially dominant, proving unblockable at times. He practically stopped one series by himself: On consecutive plays, Bender leveled Hoekstra to force an incompletion and then stopped workhorse running back Robert Holcombe for no gain.

Holcombe the real deal

WSU knew that the Illinois offense was dependent on Holcombe. Even so, the Cougars couldn’t keep the Illini’s all-time rushing leader from gaining 163 yards on 32 carries.

“You put him in Nebraska’s offense, he’d be like a Heisman Trophy candidate,” Bender raved. “He’s a great back.”

Added Holmes: “Out of all the backs I’ve ever played against, he’s the most respectable. He likes to run and he hits. He’ll hit you before you hit him. He runs HARD. He likes to run in the middle.”

Searching for answers

Led by Leaf, WSU’s offense operated flawlessly for long stretches during the Cougars’ season-opening wins over UCLA and USC.

That wasn’t the case against Illinois, when Leaf threw three interceptions and often appeared to force passes into coverage. He also lost a fumble.

According to WSU, the reasons were varied. Primarily, the Cougars were caught off-guard when Illinois came out in a modified defense.

“We thought they were going to play a four-man front and they ended up playing a five-man front, six-man front,” offensive lineman Jason McEndoo said. “They were playing a 46 defense, which USC played last week. We didn’t anticipate them playing that and it kind of threw us for a loop.”

As a result, Leaf was often hurried into poor decisions.

With Illinois disrupting things on the interior, the Cougars were forced to make adjustments. Instead of running tailback Michael Black up the middle, as WSU would have preferred, the Cougars attacked the Illini on the perimeter.

“That was a good job on their part scouting, but we were able to compensate for it late in the second half,” Leaf said. “Sweeps and counters and stuff like that just opened the passing lanes up for me.”

Quotable

“We were so much more focused and just fired up for the UCLA and USC games. Then you turn around and play an Illinois team that’s struggling and you kind of let your guard down.” - Leaf.

Leaf, when asked to describe his 30-yard TD pass to Taylor: “Um, trips right, 355 z-wheel. ‘Z’ was open. ‘A’ was open. ‘X’ was open. I threw it to the guy in the end zone.”

SCORING SUMMARY

WSU 7 0 7 21 - 35

Illinois 7 0 7 8 - 22

TEAM STATISTICS WSU Illinois

First downs 21 22

Rushes-yards 38-198 37-173

Passing 302 165

Return Yards 62 28

Comp-Att-Int 21-36-3 23-50-2

Punts 7-42.7 7-43.3

Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1

Penalties-Yards 18-126 7-42

Time of Poss. 28:56 31:04

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS WSU Rushing

Att Yds Avg TD Lng

Black 19 112 5.9 0 44

Gilmore 3 36 12.0 1 21

Hawkins 4 17 4.3 0 10

Meriwether 2 15 7.5 0 8

Tims 1 9 9.0 0 9

Leaf 9 9 1.0 0 14

Passing

C-A Yds Int TD Lng Leaf 21-36 302 3 4 80 Receiving

No Yds Avg TD Lng

McWshngtn 4 62 15.5 1 30

Jackson 4 46 11.5 1 14

Tims 3 34 11.3 0 15

Taylor 3 33 11.0 1 30

Black 3 11 3.7 0 13

McKenzie 2 92 46.0 1 80

Hawkins 1 25 25.0 0 25

Jefferson 1 -1 -1.0 0 -1

Tackles

Tac Ast Tot

Nelson 7 3 10 B.Moore 7 3 10

Gleason 3 6 9

Stewart 5 3 8

Bender 6 0 6

Doyle 4 1 5

Holmes 4 0 4

Gibbons 4 0 4

Boose 3 1 4

Moronkola 3 0 3

McKenzie 2 0 2

Jackson 2 0 2

Price 1 1 2

Salausa 1 1 2

Meier 0 2 2

K.Moore 1 0 1

Jackson 1 0 1

Thomas 1 0 1

Nance 0 1 1

Emmerson 0 1 1

Illinois Rushing Att Yds Avg TD Lng

Holcombe 32 163 5.1 1 48

Lavery 1 6 6.0 0 6

Hoekstra 4 4 1.0 1 4

Passing

C-A Yds Int TD Lng

Hoekstra 23-46 165 2 1 19

Lavery 0-4 0 0 0 0

Receiving

No Yds Avg TD Lng

Majoy 6 40 6.7 1 12

Willis 5 47 9.4 0 17

Cushing 3 30 10.0 0 19

Whitman 3 16 5.3 0 9

Ashfor 2 21 10.5 0 14

Garrett 2 6 3.0 0 4

Holcombe 2 5 2.5 0 3

Tackles

Tac Ast Tot

Weisse 7 0 7

Williams 3 4 7

Starghill 6 0 6

Benson 5 1 6

Clark 4 2 6

Guenther 4 2 6

McLaurin 4 2 6

Young 4 1 5

McGee 2 3 5

Francis 4 0 4

Thomas 2 2 4

Willis 2 1 3

James 1 2 3

Tesdall 1 1 2

Jackson 1 1 2

Sullivan 1 0 1

Craig 1 0 1

Johnson 1 0 1

Holcombe 1 0 1

Tabloff 1 0 1

Lauzen 0 1 1

Wakefield 0 0 0

HOW THEY SCORED

First quarter WSU 7, Illinois 0

Kevin McKenzie 80-yard pass from Ryan Leaf, Rian Lindell kick. 80 yards, one play, 16 seconds. Working from a five-receiver set, Leaf finds McKenzie over the middle on the game’s first play, taking advantage of an Illinois secondary that is without both starting safeties.

WSU 7, Illinois 7

Mark Hoekstra 2-yard run, Neil Rackers kick. 36 yards, seven plays, 2:48. Illinois takes over after Leaf is intercepted by safety Ivan Benson. Hoekstra completes 3 of 3 passes on drive. On second-and-goal from the 11, WSU cornerback Dee Moronkola is whistled for pass interference in the end zone, giving the Iliini first-and-goal from the 2.

Third quarter Illinois 14, WSU 7

Robert Holcombe 47-yard run, Rackers kick. 59 yards, five plays, 1:26. WSU is flagged for interfering with a fair catch on the half’s opening kickoff. After four straight passes, Holcombe breaks free around the left side.

Illinois 14, WSU 14

Chris Jackson 5-yard pass from Leaf, Lindell kick. 47 yards, nine plays, 3:59. DeJuan Gilmore picks up 12 yards out of a two-back set. Leaf gains 14 after he audibles to a sneak out of a four-receiver set. Jackson catches both of Leaf’s pass attempts on the drive, including a 13-yarder on second-and-11 from the Illinois 33.

Fourth quarter WSU 21, Illinois 14

Gilmore 21-yard run, Lindell kick. 65 yards, two plays, 25 seconds. WSU takes over at its own 34 when Illinois throws an incomplete pass on fourth-and-2. The drive starts with Michael Black gaining 44 yards, including about 40 after bunny-hopping linebacker Eric Guenther. Gilmore scores out of two-back set, with right guard Cory Withrow providing an escort.

WSU 28, Illinois 14

Nian Taylor 30-yard pass from Leaf, Lindell kick. 58 yards, six plays, 2:31. Shortly after a 32-yard gain by Black is erased by a penalty, Leaf calmly avoids a sack by hitting Black on a swing pass that nets 13 yards on second-and-12. Taylor scores on the next play.

WSU 35, Illinois 14

Shawn McWashington 30-yard pass from Leaf, Lindell kick. 55 yards, four plays, 51 seconds. WSU takes over near mid-field when Illinois fails to convert on fourth-and5. On the drive’s second play, Leaf finds running back Adam Hawkins for a 25-yard gain to the Illini 30.

WSU 35, Illinois 22

Rob Majoy 12-yard pass from Hoekstra, Matt Cushing pass from Hoekstra. 69 yards, 10 plays, 1:35. The Illini convert on third-and-8 and fourth-and-2.

Att. - 47,131

WSU schedule

Date Opponent/Result Site

Aug. 30 WSU 37, UCLA 34 Pullman

Sept. 13 WSU 28, USC 21 L.A.

Sept. 20 WSU, 35, Ill. 22 Champaign

Sept. 27 Boise St. Pullman

Oct. 4 Oregon Eugene

Oct. 18 California Pullman

Oct. 25 Arizona Pullman

Nov. 1 Arizona St. Tempe

Nov. 8 SW Louisiana Pullman

Nov. 15 Stanford Pullman

Nov. 22 Washington Seattle

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 color photos



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