Gesser, Cougars Seeking Improvement On Offense

Sept. 3, 2002

Jason Gesser and the Washington State offense hope to find their rhythm Saturday as they welcome Idaho to Martin Stadium.

Though the 12th-ranked Cougars easily defeated Nevada 31-7 in their season opener, coach Mike Price was not particularly pleased with the performance against a team which finished 114th in the nation last season in total defense.

'We weren't too impressive. We can do a lot better than that offensively,' Price said.

Gesser had 26 touchdown passes last season and is 16 shy of Ryan Leaf's school record of 59, but he had only one in Saturday's win. He overcame a slow start to complete 17 of 29 passes for 242 yards.

'It was a game of getting guys used to the flow again. I did not feel comfortable in the first quarter at all,' Gesser said. 'It wasn't a performance where I'd like to watch the tape. But it's always nice for the defense to back you up.'

Will Derting certainly backed him up, getting three interceptions and returning one 98 yards for a touchdown. Derting keyed a Cougars defense which limited Nevada to 282 total yards despite having possession nearly twice as long as Washington State's offense.

Gesser, the first three-time captain in the program's history, has a pair of talented wideouts in seniors Mike Bush and Jerome Riley.

Bush, the team leader last season with 46 catches, failed to get involved in the opener as he managed only one reception. Riley, however, caught Gesser's lone TD pass and finished with five receptions for 117 yards.

Another bright spot for the Cougars is they may have found an answer to an unsettled backfield. Jonathan Smith had 10 carries for 50 yards - nearly half the team's total on the ground - and scored two touchdowns.

While Washington State may look at this game as little more than a tune-up for next week's visit to No. 8 Ohio State, Idaho is beginning a brutal stretch of its schedule.

The Vandals (0-1) are facing three Pac-10 teams - all ranked among the top 15 - in four weeks. They visit Oregon next week and play at Washington on Sept. 28.

Idaho had enough trouble with its unheralded in-state rival last week, falling 38-21 to Boise State.

Junior Brian Lindgren, making just the fourth start of his career, threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns but also had two interceptions. Ron Gerstner rushed for 93 yards and a score, but the Vandals were done in by a defense which yielded 503 total yards.

This is the longest-running series in Idaho football history, though the Vandals trail the Cougars 65-17-3. Washington State won 36-7 last season.

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