"It was a little easier than I thought it was going to be." That's what Bill Doba had to say after the game, and it pretty much sums it up.
It took the Cougs a series or two to get going, but once they got rolling they never looked back. WSU dismantled Nevada 55-21 in a game where the score does not reflect the dominance of the Cougar win. The Cougs led Nevada 27-0 at the half. Nevada was able to score on their first possession of the second half, but then the Cougs rattled off 21 straight points before inserting the backups with four minutes left to go in the third quarter and the score 48-7.
The Cougars controlled this game and methodically worked both the offense and defense, but the day had plenty of big plays. Early on, the game was tight and the Cougs looked a little flustered offensively and defensively by the looks the Wolf Pack presented. With no score on the board and Nevada with the ball, a pass bounced off a Wolf Pack receiver and into the waiting hands of Eric Frampton. Frampton made the most of his first Cougar interception, taking it back 37 yards to the house for the first score of the game.
Frampton's score broke the ice for WSU. The Cougar defense stiffened right up and the Cougar offense found the groove. Nevada would neither score nor threaten until the second half when they were able to find the endzone on their first possession. After that, the defense took all the bullets out of the Nevada "pistol" offense. Nevada could not do anything until the Cougar depth players were in the game.
After Frampton's score, WSU took the next possession for a touchdown, with Alex Brink connecting from 18 yards out with Troy Bienemann wide open in the endzone. Brink would finish the day 15 for 23 for 202 yards and 3 touchdowns before having a seat in the third quarter. Josh Swogger took over and led the Cougs to another touchdown – calling an audible at the line then lofting a nice ball to Brandon Gibson that Gibson took 44 yards for his first Cougar touchdown. Swoggs finished up 4 of 9 for 85 yards and the touchdown, and also led a Cougar two minute drill for a WSU field goal right before the half.
This was a game where pretty much all aspects of the team played well. Sure, the second and third unit defenses struggled late in the game and allowed 14 Nevada points. Other than that, it was all Cougars. It was important for the Cougar offensive line to show strong after looking spotty against Idaho, and the line looked great. Brink had plenty of time to set up and throw and when pressure did come Brink showed impressive poise and calm in the pocket, including hitting Jason Hill deep in the back of the endzone from 22 yards.
Hill would finish with two touchdowns on the day and had a very strong game. In fact, all the Cougar receiving targets looked good. Bienemann brought in 4 catches for 58 yards and his touchdown, and Chris Jordan looked good as well. Trandon Harvey was strong also, and seemed to catch everything thrown his way.
Once the Cougar line and coaches figured out what Nevada presented up front defensively, the floodgates opened. WSU racked up 247 yards rushing. Both Jerome Harrison and DeMaundray Woolridge gained over 100 yards. Woolridge – carrying the load for the second unit offense and showing a lot of flash - finished statistically better than The Ghost, with 133 yards and his first Cougar touchdown on 15 carries, but Harrison was again very impressive with 121 yards on 18 carries.
How well did the offense do? The Cougars racked up 534 total yards, two running backs went over 100 yards, and not only Swogger but Gary Rogers got quality snaps.
Defensively, it was key for the Cougar linemen to mount pressure on the quarterback – something they failed to do consistently against Idaho. Mission accomplished. The interior linemen got some good strong push inside with both Fevaea'i Ahmu and Bryan Olson looking good alongside Aaron Johnson. Outside, Mkristo Bruce and Adam Braidwood played very strong – collapsing the pocket, getting after the quarterback, and bringing down the Nevada ballcarriers. Braidwood had a very strong game. Braidwood shared sacks with both Olson and Ahmu, caused a fumble, and just seemed to be all over the field.
Special teams shone once again with the clear highlight being Michael Bumpus. Bumpus was very impressive on his punt returns with his most impressive coming in the third quarter. Taking a deep punt on the one-hop at the Cougar 13, Bumpus took it upfield, evaded some tacklers and was gone. His 87 yard touchdown set the record as the longest in Cougar history.
Loren Langley kicked strong again, drilling all his PAT attempts as well as going two for two on field goal attempts. Langley was replaced on PAT duties in the second half to allow Graham Siderius to handle the PATs in front of his hometown fans.
All in all, an outstanding win for WSU.
CougZone Player of the Game – Alex Brink: Bumpus is probably a close runner-up for his impressive punt returns including his record setting score, but Brink looked very, very good. Brink showed plenty of poise, control, smarts, and accuracy on his way to three touchdowns and no picks on the day.