CORVALLIS, Ore. – On a dreary day fit for a funeral, the Washington State Cougars buried volumes of pain, frustration and anger Saturday at Reser Stadium.
The Cougars ended a lengthy list of losing streaks by thoroughly outplaying Oregon State in a 31-14 romp on a gray, misty afternoon in the Willamette Valley.
“It was like a fat monkey was lifted off my back,” running back Chantz Staden said with a football-sized grin.
“It just feels excellent,” middle linebacker C.J. Mizell said. “It’s awesome. It’s like on top of the world.”
The Cougars snapped losing streaks of eight overall, 16 in the Pacific-10 Conference and 19 away from Pullman. They hadn’t won a Pac-10 game since beating Washington, 16-13 in double overtime, in the 2008 Apple Cup.
After playing for 11 consecutive weeks, the Cougars (2-9, 1-7 Pac-10) get two weeks to rest up and prepare for Washington (3-6, 2-4) in this year’s Apple Cup on Dec. 4 in Pullman.
“To go 11 straight weeks like we’ve done, you get banged up,” coach Paul Wulff said. “Then to go on the road and play that hard and physical like we did is a tribute to their character.”
The Cougars won their first conference game in almost two years by dominating line play.
The Cougars racked up a season-high 221 rushing yards and limited the Beavers to 261 total yards – a season best for a WSU defense that came into the weekend ranked last in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“The defensive line stepped up and did their job,” Mizell said. “We got pressure on that quarterback all (game).”
The much-maligned offensive line of WSU also drew praise from coaches and players alike. Quarterback Jeff Tuel led a balanced running attack with 18 carries and 79 yards, and he completed 10 of 15 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown.
“I call him ‘the white Vick,’ ” joked Mizell, referring to Tuel’s ability to run and pass like speedy and elusive Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who is black. “When Tuel’s on his game, our offense is awesome.”
Running backs James Montgomery, Logwone Mitz and Staden combined for 126 yards rushing. All three scored a touchdown before a chilled audience of 45,389 people – many of whom left at halftime.
“The running backs ran really hard,” Tuel said. “The O-line had a great push.”
After a scoreless first quarter, the Cougars scored the only 14 points of the second period. WSU tacked on another touchdown in the third quarter to lead 21-0 before Oregon State (4-5, 3-3) got on the board later in the period.
“This one is going to burn for a while,” Oregon State linebacker Keith Pankey said.
The Cougars held Oregon State’s star tailback, Jacquizz Rodgers, to 93 yards on 15 carries, with no touchdowns. In the previous two years, Rodgers ran for a total of 333 yards and three touchdowns in blowout wins over Washington State.
Rodgers angrily screamed at his linemen after he was stuffed on one running play.
“I love to win,” Rodgers said. “I wish everybody felt that way.”