Cougars Cruise Past Cardinal
STANFORD, Calif. - Jason Gesser's bruised ribs were as safe as Washington State's winning streak during an easy victory at Stanford.
Gesser passed for 297 yards and threw two of his three touchdown passes to Jonathan Smith as the No. 12 Cougars beat the Cardinal 36-11 Saturday in their biggest win over their Pac-10 Conference rivals in more than four decades.
Jerome Riley had nine receptions for 173 yards and a score as the Cougars (6-1, 3-0) rolled on to their bye week with their fourth straight victory. After completing 17 of 23 passes despite his constantly sore ribs, Gesser sat out most of the fourth quarter to get a head start on some recuperation time.
'I got hit maybe two times all day, and one of them was a late hit,' said Gesser, who's one TD pass shy of tying Ryan Leaf's school record of 59. 'The true character of our team showed today. We had guys who were hurt, and this was a quiet crowd. We had to make our own noise.'
'The true character of our team showed today. We had guys who were hurt, and this was a quiet crowd. We had to make our own noise.'
Jermaine Green rushed for a 42-yard TD less than four minutes into the game, bowling over Cardinal safety Colin Branch in an appropriate image for Washington State's overwhelming performance.
The Cougars led 23-0 at halftime, and the Cardinal (1-4, 0-2) never threatened in a sparsely attended game at Stanford Stadium. It was Washington State's best performance against Stanford since a 30-0 victory in 1961.
'There wasn't much emotion early on, but we still came out ready to play,' Washington State coach Mike Price said. 'It was kind of dull out there, but we got off to a great start. That's what we wanted to do: go out there and break their will.'
Jason David had two interceptions for the Cougars, whose defense was markedly improved after allowing 93 points in their last three games. Washington State shut down Stanford's aggressive passing offense, and the punt-coverage team got the school's first safety in nearly two years.
Behind an offensive line missing three starters and substituting two freshmen, Gesser couldn't get the ball to star receivers Devard Darling and Mike Bush with any regularity - but the Cougars' lesser-known wideouts filled the void.
Smith, a junior college transfer who had seven catches in his first five games, scored his first two touchdowns for Washington State. Riley, a part-time starter who had just 17 catches, was impressive all afternoon.
'The middle was wide open out there,' Riley said. 'They were trying to double-team Bush and Devard, but we've got three receivers who can go to the next level.'
Kenneth Tolon rushed for 89 yards and a late TD as Stanford lost its third straight under first-year coach Buddy Teevens, whose only victory came four weeks ago against San Jose State.
The Cardinal, who are off to their worst start since 1998, trailed 36-3 before Tolon's 1-yard TD run with 5:50 left.
'We're not questioning the play-calling or the scheme,' senior receiver Luke Powell said. 'We're questioning ourselves. Why are we doing stupid things? Why is it not working?'
While Gesser and the nation's eighth-ranked passing offense picked apart the Cardinal's inexperienced defensive backs, starting quarterback Chris Lewis sat out a series in the first half as Stanford struggled to move the ball.
Freshman Kyle Matter, who has played well in relief of Lewis this season, had no more success until the closing minutes, when he led an 80-yard scoring drive.
'It's a big frustration,' Lewis said. 'We kind of feel like nothing's working. It seems like every time we get a drive, we get a setback. Our defense is playing hard, but we have to start putting some points on the board. This is getting ridiculous.'
To make matters worse, Stanford took 11 penalties - several resulting from apparent frustration.
'There was a lot of smacking on both sides,' said Washington State defensive lineman Rien Long, who was involved in a skirmish. 'I think they were frustrated, but you can't really tell because they're a dirty team. ... They've got their ways of doing things that aren't quite legal.'
When Jeremy Bohannon tackled Stanford punter Eric Johnson in the end zone early in the second quarter, Washington State took a 23-0 lead that the Cougars held through halftime.
Stanford finally scored on a 28-yard field goal by Michael Sgroi midway through the third quarter.
With the San Francisco Giants' playoff game going on at the same time, a crowd of 30,750 filled the 85,500-seat stadium. Baseball updates were given on the public address system, with news of Barry Bonds' three-run homer drawing as many cheers as anything Stanford did in the first half.
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer