Aug 31, 2002
SEATTLE - Jonathan Smith had two short touchdown runs and Will Derting returned one of his three interceptions for a school-record 98-yard score as 12th-ranked Washington State opened with a 31-7 victory over Nevada on Saturday.
Jason Gesser, whose Heisman campaign began in July with a poster put up on the side of grain elevator in Dusty, Wash., recovered from a slow start to complete 17 of 29 passes for 242 yards and a touchdown.
Zack Threadgill was 17-of-30 for 155 yards for Nevada, but he was intercepted three times - all by Derting, who's an outside linebacker.
Derting's third interception was the big one, and it came as Nevada was threatening to score. The Wolf Pack had advanced to the Cougars' 10-yard line with 6:45 left when Derting stepped in front of Threadgill's pass at the 2. Derting rumbled down the left sideline for the touchdown.
Nevada, a 27-point underdog, used a variety of formations and kept the ball for nearly 12 minutes in the first quarter. The Wolf Pack took a 7-0 lead on a 7-yard run by Chance Kretschmer.
Gesser threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Jerome Riley in the second quarter to tie it at 7-all. Riley finished with five catches for 117 yards.
Smith provided the go-ahead score to put the Cougars up 14-7 just before the half. The seven play, 67-yard drive was helped by Nevada penalties for pass interference and roughing the passer.
Smith, a junior transfer who practiced sparingly because of an injury, had 10 carries for 50 yards. Both his touchdowns were from 2 yards out.
Kretschmer, last season's NCAA rushing leader with 1,732 yards, ran 26 times for 67 yards.
Each team netted 108 rushing yards, while Washington State had a 261-174 edge in passing. The game was slowed by penalties, with the Wolf Pack being penalized 67 yards on eight flags, while Washington State was called nine times for 80 yards.
Nevada held a nearly 2-1 advantage in time of possession.
It was the first meeting of the teams and the first time WSU played someone other than Washington in Seattle since a matchup with USC in the old Kingdome in 1976.
A crowd of 63,588 turned out at Seahawks Stadium, and Washington State officials billed it as the largest pro-Cougars crowd to watch the team.
By JOHN K. WILEY
Associated Press Writer