CORVALLIS – After having two field goals blocked in their last two games, the Cougars finally created some of their own special teams luck during Saturday’s game against Oregon State.
Then got unlucky again.
Washington State scored its second touchdown of the first quarter by way of blocked punt to take a 14-0 lead over the Beavers just 2 1/2 minutes into Saturday’s contest, and about a minute after Gardner Minshew put the Cougars out in front with a 6-yard touchdown to Renard Bell.
WSU receiver Kainoa Wilson flew through the middle of Oregon State’s line untouched and stuffed the punt from the Beaver’s Luke Loecher. When the ball squirted into the end zone, Rush linebacker Tristan Brock acted quickly to pounce on the loose object for a 5-yard touchdown.
“Really good job, (special teams) coach (Matt) Brock and his group,” WSU coach Mike Leach said after the game. “Then Kainoa Wilson, great to see him and he’s got the knack for blocking punts and certainly did on that play.”
Wilson, a slot receiver, hasn’t figured heavily into WSU’s offensive plans this season but he’s a regular contributor on a handful of the Cougars’ special teams units and he’s already recorded one special teams tackle and a fumble recovery this season.
“I thought that really gave us a great start, which in the end was probably pretty crucial this game.”
The Cougars hadn’t blocked a punt since Dylan Hanser did it in 2015 at UCLA and hadn’t returned a punt block for a touchdown in 15 years. During a 2003 game against Oregon at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, receiver Jason Hill got his hands on a Ducks punt and safety Jeremy Bohannon recovered for a 4-yard Cougars TD.
Wilson said the Cougars had spied something the Beavers were doing with their protection schemes while watching game tape earlier in the week.
“We saw a weakness of them in film and we capitalized on that,” said Wilson, a redshirt junior from Hawaii. “We practiced that all week and we knew it was going to be there and I was just blessed that it happened. … We saw a weakness in their protection and I knew if I just shot the gap hard and fast, I had a chance.”
“Coach Brock, he put up a good gameplan this week and shout out to the other 10 guys that were out there, too, with me. Shout out to (Tristan) Brock for recovering it.”
Not long after that, though, the Cougars were back on the other end of a momentum-swinging special teams play. WSU safety Jalen Thompson mishandled a pooch punt from OSU quarterback Conor Blount when it appeared the Cougars’ defense would be able to get off the field.
Instead, the fumble gave OSU the ball back on the 7-yard line and led directly to a Beaver touchdown. Jermar Jefferson thundered into the end zone on the very next play for his second touchdown of the night to tie the game at 14-apiece.
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