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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Difference makers: WSU safety Kapena Gushiken dominant, but No. 13 Cougars suffer first loss

Safety Kapena Gushiken Gushiken kicked off his successful day in the first quarter when he laid out a UCLA receiver in the flat, forcing the Bruins into a third-and-long. On that play, he came on a blitz and took down UCLA QB Dante Moore, forcing the hosts to punt. Late in the second quarter, he made a play right before halftime that gave Washington State fans hope for a comeback win. He stopped short of his blitz, noticed Moore was about to uncork a quick throw, then jumped and picked it off. Moore was no match in the open field for Gushiken, who returned it 88 yards the other way into the end zone. Gushiken totaled three tackles, plus one pass breakup outside of his interceptions.

OC Ben Arbuckle

All game, WSU had trouble with UCLA’s pass rush, particularly its blitz. That’s a huge reason Ward spent so long without a rhythm, trying to wiggle out of pass rushes that his offensive line could not stop. That’s where Arbuckle came in. Late in the third quarter, shortly after Ward took a targeting penalty that moved WSU to the UCLA 9, Arbuckle diagrammed a play to beat the Bruins’ corner blitz: Ward took a shotgun snap, recognized the blitz, then lofted a soft pass into the arms of Watson, who cruised into the end zone. That gave WSU a 17-12 lead. That was also the Cougars’ first offensive TD. If nothing else, it demonstrated the in-game savvy of Arbuckle, who recognized his team’s offensive line was having a hard time. Arbuckle wasn’t perfect. On one first-half sequence, he called three straight running plays, a curious decision considering how efficient Ward has been this season. Most of the Cougars’ offensive woes attributed to their offensive line’s struggles, though, and with one call, Arbuckle solved that problem – at least for a moment.

UCLA defendersThe Bruins’ defense, one of the best in the country, lived up to its billing – and then some. It’s one thing they handed Ward his first two interceptions of the season. It’s another that they made things difficult for Ward even before he had a chance to throw the ball. By the end, the Bruins had controlled the game. Edge rusher Laiatu Latu made one sack, forced one fumble, and finished with three QB hurries. Lineman Gabriel Murphy got into the backfield for 2½ tackles for loss. WSU’s offensive line never found an answer for the pressure, which disrupted Ward all game.

Gushiken supplied the play of his life late in the second quarter. He came on a blitz, but when he realized Moore was gearing up for a quick lob pass, Gushiken leaped up – and intercepted it. He outran Moore the other way, racing 88 yards into the end zone, handing the Cougars the lead right before halftime. That swung the game in an enormous way. To that point, the Cougars were struggling on offense, and Ward couldn’t establish a rhythm. Their rushing game couldn’t make a difference, either. The visitors needed something positive to take into the locker room. Gushiken provided just that.