Cougars Clinch Rose Bowl Berth With Win Over UCLA
By JOHN NADEL
AP Sports Writer
PASADENA, Calif. - Jason Gesser and the Washington State Cougars earneda Rose Bowl berth in spite of themselves.
Gesser, wearing braces on his sprained right knee and ankle, passed for 247yards and two touchdowns as the Cougars beat UCLA 48-27 Saturday to get to theRose Bowl for just the third time.
WSU won despite botching a fake field goal and an onside kick, and getting afield goal blocked. One poorly thrown pass by Gesser was intercepted by BenEmanuel and returned for a touchdown, and another one was picked off by Emanuelin the UCLA end zone.
But the offense did its part, and the Cougars' speedy defense and specialteams proved too much for the Bruins.
WSU (10-2, 7-1 Pac-10), which played in the Rose Bowl following the 1931 and1997 seasons, probably will face the Big 12 champion on New Year's Day. Thefinal BCS standings and bowl pairings will be announced Sunday.
Had UCLA prevailed, it would have meant a Rose Bowl berth for crosstownrival Southern California. Even the presence of hundreds of fans wearing USCcolors among the Rose Bowl crowd of 56,335 didn't help the Bruins.
The Trojans (10-2, 7-1), who lost 30-27 in overtime at Washington State onOct. 5, probably will receive an invitation to the Sugar Bowl.
UCLA (7-5, 4-4) will play a lower-tier bowl.
Gesser's status was in question after he was injured in the fourth quarterof what turned out to be a 29-26 triple-overtime loss to Washington on Nov. 23.
He wasn't at his best Saturday, completing 15 of 24 passes with the twointerceptions, but his performance was enough. He pointed to a small group ofcheering WSU fans while leaving the game with six minutes left. Those fansbegan a 'Rose Bowl, Rose Bowl' chant in the final three minutes.
UCLA freshman Drew Olson completed 13 of 27 passes for 163 yards and twotouchdowns with two interception and was sacked four times. Tyler Ebell,another freshman who gained over 100 yards in six straight games earlier thisseason, was held to 10 yards on nine carries.
The Cougars clinched the victory when Erik Coleman returned an interception25 yards for a touchdown with 10:20 remaining to complete the scoring.Emanuel's end-zone interception came on the previous play.
The Cougars went ahead for good by scoring 17 points in little over sevenminutes for a 24-14 lead with 8ï¿½ minutes left before halftime.
Gesser threw an 8-yard pass to Devard Darling to cap a 94-yard drive and a22-yarder to Jerome Riley two plays after Marcus Trufant's 37-yard punt return.
Matt Clark fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Curtis Nettles recovered, settingup Drew Dunning's 30-yard field goal.
WSU had another scoring opportunity after Jason David's 30-yard interceptionreturn to the UCLA 13, but Dunning's pass to a wide-open John Tippins on thefake field goal was underthrown.
Jermaine Green, who gained 112 yards on 13 carries, ran 80 yards for atouchdown on a third-and-10 play with 48 seconds left before halftime, but theCougars then tried an onside kick that didn't go nearly the required 10 yards.
The Bruins took advantage on the next play, scoring on a 40-yard pass fromOlson to Junior Taylor to make it 31-21.
WSU coach Mike Price said in a television interview at halftime that theonside kick was the result of 'severe miscommunication' between the coachingstaff and kickoff man Adam Holiday.
Tippins scored on a 1-yard run to make it 38-21 two plays after AdamBraidwood blocked a punt, giving WSU the ball at the UCLA 15.
Olson threw a 27-yard pass to Mike Seidman to cap a 70-yard driving, butNate Fikse missed the extra point.
Ricky Manning blocked Dunning's 31-yard field goal attempt early in thethird quarter, but Dunning kicked a 37-yarder on the first play of the fourthperiod to make it 41-27.
The Cougars took a 7-0 lead on the game's second play when wide receiverCollin Henderson caught a lateral from Gesser in the right flat and threw a66-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Mike Bush.
The Bruins tied it on a 41-yard interception return by Emanuel, and took a14-7 lead on their version of the wide-receiver pass play - a 55-yarder fromJon Dubravac to Manuel White.