Nov. 9, 2002
PULLMAN, Wash. - Jason Gesser threw four touchdown passes and Jermaine Green ran for a career-high 180 yards as No. 5 Washington State took command of the Pac-10 race with a 32-21 victory over No. 15 Oregon on Saturday.
The Cougars (9-1, 6-0 Pac-10) moved within a victory of clinching a trip the Rose Bowl. And with No. 1 Oklahoma's loss, Washington State might climb up from fifth in the Bowl Championship Series rankings, which determine who plays for the national title.
Green easily outperformed Oregon's banged-up star tailback, Onterrio Smith, who was leading the conference at nearly 127 yards a game despite missing last week's victory over Stanford with a sore left knee.
A year after he ran for a school-record 285 yards and three touchdowns in Oregon's 24-17 victory over the Cougars, Smith was able to carry the ball just twice for 6 yards.
Washington State beat the Ducks (7-3, 3-3) for the first time since 1996. The unusual schedule had Oregon playing in Pullman for the third straight time in the series.
Jason Fife threw a 16-yard scoring pass to Jason Willis, but it was the Ducks' defense that provided the rest of the team's points, returning a fumble and an interception for TDs. Fife finished 16 of 35 for 192 yards and an interception.
Bush caught nine passes for 107 yards and Darling added 133 yards on seven catches.
The Cougars outgained Oregon on the ground 190-60, thanks to Green, who had 113 in the first half, including a 59-yard run at the start of the second quarter to set up a field goal.
Washington State led 17-14 at the half, with Drew Dunning providing the margin with a 45-yard field goal into the wind.
The Cougars trailed 21-17 after Kevin Mitchell intercepted Gesser's pass and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown to open the third quarter. Dunning's 35-yarder pulled the Cougars to 21-20 as time expired in the period.
Gesser's 4-yard TD pass to Bush capped a 96-yard drive with 8:56 left in the game, putting the Cougars ahead to stay. Gesser added insurance on his 46-yard TD pass to Darling. The possession was set up when Marcus Trufant intercepted Fife's pass at the Washington State 33.
WSU scored first on an 8 yard touchdown pass from Gesser to Darling after Oregon was flagged for interference as Trufant tried to field a punt at the Ducks 32.
Two series later, Oregon got on the board when cornerback Steven Moore stripped the ball from Gesser's hand and ran 12 yards to the end zone.
Fife hit Willis for a 16-yard scoring pass to complete a 92-yard drive midway through the second quarter, giving the Ducks a 14-10 lead.
Washington State came back to score on the next series, an 80-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard TD pass from Gesser to Bush.
The Cougars have next week off before playing Washington at home and UCLA in Los Angeles Dec. 7. Oregon is at Washington next weekend before heading to Oregon State Nov. 23.
By JOHN K. WILEY
Associated Press Writer