Aug 31, 2002
SEATTLE - Will Derting's performance figures to make big news in his small hometown.
Derting returned one of his three interceptions for a school-record 98-yard score, and Jonathan Smith had two short touchdown runs as 12th-ranked Washington State opened the season with a 31-7 victory over Nevada on Saturday.
"I think Okanogan should have a Will Derting Day," Washington State coach Mike Price said of the outside linebacker's little town in rural Eastern Washington.
Derting, who sat out last season with a knee injury, came off the bench to torment Wolf Pack quarterback Zack Threadgill.
"The first one, I just saw the ball out of the corner of my eye," Derting said. "On the second and third, I watched the quarterback's eyes."
Derting's effort was one of the few bright spots Price saw in the Cougars' spotty play.
"We weren't too impressive. We can do a lot better than that offensively," Price said.
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.
"It was a game of getting guys used to the flow again. I did not feel comfortable in the first quarter at all," Gesser said. "It wasn't a performance where I'd like to watch the tape. But it's always nice for the defense to back you up."
Threadgill was 17-of-30 for 155 yards, but all three of his interceptions went to Derting.
Derting's third pick was the big one, and it came as Nevada was threatening to score. The Wolf Pack advanced to the Cougars' 10-yard line with 6:45 left when Derting stepped in front of Threadgill's pass at the 2. He rumbled down the left sideline for the touchdown.
After catching the third interception, Derting "was just running as hard as I could," cradling the ball as if it were a baby. "I didn't want to mess with the ball," he said.
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.
"Our secondary played well," Nevada coach Chris Tormey said. "I'm pleased with how our defense played against an offense like Washington State."
Gesser threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Jerome Riley in the second quarter to tie it at 7. 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 of 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 gained 108 yards rushing, 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, and Washington State was called nine times for 80 yards.
Nevada held nearly a 2-1 advantage in time of possession.
"We played well," Tormey said. "We have a lot of young players on defense and we did a decent job against a good offense."
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