Cougars Cruise Past Sun Devils For Conference Lead

Nov 2, 2002

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PULLMAN, Wash. - After Jason Gesser broke another one of Jack Thompson's records, he planned to give an autographed game ball to 'The Throwin' Samoan.'

Gesser threw for three touchdowns and broke Thompson's school mark for career yards passing as No. 8 Washington State took over sole possession of first place in the Pac-10 Conference with a 44-22 win over 16th-ranked Arizona State on Saturday.

'It means the world to me,' Gesser said. 'He has taken me under his wing. For me ever to be compared with him is phenomenal.'

Gesser was 18-of-32 for 250 yards and was intercepted twice. A 5-yard pass to Jerome Riley with 11:25 left in the fourth quarter gave Gesser 7,823 career yards passing, breaking the mark of 7,818 Thompson set from 1975-78.

Gesser also set a Washington State career record for touchdown passes with 62, surpassing Ryan Leaf - who threw 60 from 1995-97. Gesser broke Thompson's school record for total offense last weekend against Arizona.

Jermaine Green scored on runs of 13 and 10 yards as Washington State (8-1, 5-0) became the front-runner for the Rose Bowl. Riley caught two TD passes.

Arizona State star defensive end Terrell Suggs got most of the pre-game publicity, but it was Rien Long who dominated - with three of Washington State's eight sacks.

'Terrell is a tremendous pass rusher,' Long said. 'But I guess we got a little shunned. I guess it was a little motivation.'

Devard Darling caught two passes for 57 yards in the Cougars' win.

Suggs finished with one sack. The Cougars kept him away from Gesser, who entered needing 228 yards to break Thompson's school record for career yards passing.

Gesser was 18-of-32 for 250 yards and was intercepted twice.

'There couldn't be a better person to break Jack Thompson's records than Jason Gesser,' Cougars coach Mike Price said. 'He's a true winner and he represents all of us.'

Arizona State guard Drew Hodgdon admired Long's skills.

'He's probably one of the better defensive tackles I've faced this year. He's quick and he uses his leverage well,' Hodgdon said.

Sun Devils quarterback Andrew Walter completed 31 of 51 passes for 328 yards, finding Mike Pinkard for scoring passes of 35 and 23 yards, but the Cougars stopped Arizona State twice on downs inside the 3-yard line.

'We just gave them too many chances, and they took advantage of them,' Walter said.

Arizona State (7-3, 4-1) was held to 37 yards rushing, while the Cougars ran for 135 yards.

Riley caught eight passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Shaun McDonald, Arizona State's cconference-leading receiver, was held to 78 yards on seven catches.

'Turnovers hurt us a lot,' McDonald said. 'You can't give the No. 8 team in the country turnovers, especially when they've got Jason Gesser and their receivers.'

The Cougars scored on their first possession, a 31-yard TD pass from Gesser to Riley, who also hauled in a 39-yard scoring pass from Gesser. Washington State built a 17-0 lead in the first quarter after Drew Dunning hit a 31-yard field goal set up by Hakim Hill's fumble.

Gesser also threw a 1-yard TD pass to Troy Bienemann.

Mike Barth hit field goals of 36 and 22 yards for the Sun Devils, who also got a safety when Gesser recovered his own fumble in the end zone after punter Tim Parker pinned the Cougars on their own 1.

Dunning also hit a 47-yard field goal at the end of the first half to put Washington State up 27-6. Dunning missed attempts from 43 and 35 yards.

The Cougars capitalized on Sun Devils turnovers, scoring 17 points off two fumbles and two interceptions.

'You can't play a game of this magnitude and make the mistakes we made,' Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter said, noting the Sun Devils' failure to score inside the 20 was costly.

'That's the whole game right there,' he said. 'Forget everything else, there is no other stat of the game. We didn't make the plays and they did.' Suggs leads the NCAA with 18� sacks. He needs just one to break the Pac-10's single-season record of 19. The league began keeping track of sacks in 1982.

The Cougars defense showed no ill effects of a locker room fight Tuesday that resulted in the suspension of linebacker Ira Davis for breaking cornerback Jason David's right cheekbone.

Davis was indefinitely suspended and David will miss six-to-eight weeks.

Price said he was pleased with the way his team responded.

'I think it is just a credit to our team and the maturity of our team. We hit it head-on, told them what happened, told them what we were going to do,' he said. 'I think they are disciplined. We are going to be fine.'

Associated Press Writer

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