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.”