Finally! Washington State celebrates Pac-10 win

Washington State buried a lot of ugly history Saturday, but to
quarterback Jeff Tuel, it did not feel like the end of something
bad, but the beginning of something special.

”It’s huge for us, for my class and the class below me,” said
the sophomore from Fresno, Calif., who was both coldly efficient
and devastatingly athletic in the Cougars’ surprise 31-14
demolition of Oregon State on a gloomy day at Reser Stadium.

The Cougars (2-9, 1-7 Pacific-10), who have been conference
doormats for the past three seasons, shucked off a 16-game Pac-10
losing streak that stretched back to the 2008 Apple Cup. They won
on the road for the first time in nearly three years, and earned
their first win over a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent this
season.

That Washington State, a 23 1/2-point underdog, stood victorious
is a noteworthy event in itself. But how the Cougars won was
equally impressive. They were tougher, faster and more resilient
than the Beavers.

Tuel stood tallest in the victory. He completed 10 of 15 passes
for 157 yards and a touchdown. But it was his running that left the
Beavers searching for answers. Tuel had 18 carries for 76 yards and
would have nearly hit the century mark if not for four sacks.

”(Offensive coordinator Todd) Sturdy gave me the green light to
run a little more, so I was just taking what they gave me,” said
Tuel, ”If stuff wasn’t open, I looked down, saw places to run and
just took them.”

Tuel set up the first two Cougars touchdowns with his
running.

”Jeff’s going to make plays regardless, whatever the coaches
tell him to do,” center Zack Williams said. ”He’s just a
playmaker.”

When the Beavers finally scored, on a 25-yard pass from
quarterback Ryan Katz to Markus Wheaton, the Cougars calmly
responded with a clock-chewing, 16-play, 8:20 drive capped by an
Andrew Furney 37-yard field goal.

Oregon State (4-5, 3-3) played maybe its worst game in several
years, and is now in serious danger of missing a bowl game for the
first time in five seasons.

The Beavers have lost three of their last four conference games.
They need to win two of their final three games to be eligible for
the postseason. That will be no easy task, as their opponents are
No. 20 USC, No. 7 Stanford and top-ranked Oregon.

”There are guys in this locker room lacking the killer
instinct,” said Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers, whose
93 yards rushing was slightly less than his season average. Rodgers
added: ”We better do something quick, man, or we’re going to have
an early break.”

Though the Cougars, 4-31 in coach Paul Wulff’s three years
entering the game, had continued to collect losses lately, they had
showed promise in recent performances against Oregon, Stanford and
California.

Washington State’s timing is less than ideal. A quirk of
scheduling had the Cougars playing 11 straight weeks to start the
season. Now, instead of capitalizing on the momentum they have
picked up, they have to cool their heals for two off weeks before
hosting Washington Dec. 4 in the Apple Cup.

But the Cougars are looking ahead to a brighter future,
confident that they have turned a page.

”It’s the beginning,” Tuel said. ”It’s a start.”