Nov. 9, 2001
By JOHN K. WILEY
Associated Press Writer
SPOKANE, Wash. - Tinkering with the highest-scoring offense in the Pacific-10 Conference with just two games remaining might sound drastic, but Washington State coach Mike Price says change is needed.
The No. 11 Cougars lead the conference in passing offense, with 310 yards, and scoring offense, averaging 38.3 points per game. Quarterback Jason Gesser leads the conference in individual passing (255 yards per game) and total offense (264).
Despite an 8-1 record (5-1 Pac-10) and a No. 9 place in this week's Bowl Championship Series rankings, Price expects more from his offense, which scored one touchdown in the Cougars' 20-14 victory over UCLA.
As the team prepares for road games against Arizona State and No. 8 Washington, Price wants the Cougars to concentrate on the things that got them this far.
"Our offense just needs to improve," Price said Monday. "It's not like I'm ready to slit my throat, but they've got to get better."
WSU's defense stole the show against the Bruins, with five interceptions and a fumble recovery that linebacker Al Genatone carried 73 yards for a touchdown. Drew Dunning kicked two field goals.
Free safety Lamont Thompson, the Pac-10 defensive player of the week, had four interceptions, setting a school record for picks in a single game. His 21st career interception tied him for the Pac-10 career record with Chuck Cecil, who played for Arizona from 1984-1987.
Against UCLA, Gesser threw three interceptions and was sacked three times. His 16 completions for 187 yards and a touchdown constituted his poorest outing this season.
"He threw a couple of bad balls that he hasn't done in the past," Price said, "and he needs to get rid of the ball quicker."
Nakoa McElrath, the conference's top receiver, dropped a potential touchdown pass.
"It's not just one guy," Price said. "I think everybody is trying to do too much."
In addition, Gesser was the team's leading rusher, carrying 14 times for 47 of the Cougars' 86 rushing yards.
"No one was clicking on offense," Price said Sunday. "Everyone is doing their own thing and that is wrong." He said he wants the offense to be run "the way it was meant to be executed."
One reason was evident on the sidelines.
Running back Dave Minnich, who averaged 118 yards per game before arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 10, did not suit up for the game. He is doubtful for the game against Arizona State.
The Cougars begin preparing Tuesday for the Sun Devils (4-4, 1-4), a team Price calls "dangerous."
"We have a legitimate chance for a BCS bowl game," Price said. "But we have a chance for nothing if we don't beat Arizona State Saturday."