Nov 10, 2001
By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer
TEMPE, Ariz. - In a game that featured five quarterbacks and a fumble that wasn't, 11th-ranked Washington State kept its Pac-10 championship hopes alive.
Raonall Smith returned a disputed fumble 27 yards for a touchdown and running back Dave Minnich threw for another score Saturday as the Cougars beat Arizona State 28-16.
Washington State (9-1 overall) remained tied with No. 7 Oregon for first place in the Pac-10 at 6-1. Oregon holds the tiebreaker because of its victory over the Cougars.
Both starting quarterbacks went down with injuries. Washington State's Jason Gesser left in the third quarter with a slight concussion but coach Mike Price said he expected his starter to be ready to face Washington in next weekend's Apple Cup game in Seattle. Jeff Krohn didn't play in the second half for Arizona State because of a sore right shoulder.
"Nine-and-one, it couldn't be a better scenario," Price said. "Unfortunately, Washington got beat this weekend, but it will still be for the Pac-10 title for us."
Arizona State (1-5, 4-5) trailed 14-9 when Andrew Walter, who replaced Krohn to start the second half, scrambled for a short gain and was tackled by Smith.
The ball popped loose, Smith picked it up and ran untouched for the score to make it 21-9 with 4:26 left in the third quarter. Television replays clearly showed that Walter's knees hit the ground well before the ball came loose, and the angry crowd pelted the field with plastic water bottles and other debris.
"I'm on the other side of the field at ground level. Everyone of you had a better view of it than I did," Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter told reporters. "We get the benefit of replay, and you guys saw the replay."
Asked if he thought it was a fumble, Price smiled and said, "Of course it was. What else would you expect me to say?"
Smith said he had no idea if Walter was down or not.
"I didn't hear a whistle, so I scooped it up and took it in for the score," he said.
Third-string quarterback Matt Cooper directed Arizona State's final scoring drive, which ended when Delvon Flowers ran for a score on fourth-and-goal at the 2 with 9:42 to play. That cut the lead to 21-16.
The Cougars responded when Minnich, who didn't play last week and had sat out three of four games after arthroscopic knee surgery, took a handoff and lobbed a 21-yard pass to a wide-open Collin Henderson to make it 28-16 with 6:58 remaining. Minnich has two completions this season, both for touchdowns.
Minnich apologized for the wobbly toss.
"That pass was horrible," he said. "The first touchdown pass I threw, that was a bullet. Now I throw this ball I know some duck hunters were out looking for. But I just wanted to get Collin the ball because I saw that he was open out there."
Matt Kegel, who replaced Gesser in the third quarter, connected with Mike Bush on a 55-yard pass play to set up the score.
Gesser, who left with 6:16 left in the third quarter, threw first-half touchdown passes of 72 and 32 yards to Jerome Riley as the Cougars took a 14-7 lead at the break.
Riley caught six passes for 158 yards as Washington State snapped a string of four straight losses to the Sun Devils. Gesser completed 11 of 18 passes for 208 yards and was intercepted once.
Flowers gained 137 yards in 31 carries.
Krohn, who went out with concussionlike symptoms early in last weekend's loss at Oregon, threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Shaun McDonald to tie the game at 7 in the first quarter.
This time, Krohn was sidelined by an injured right shoulder.
"I couldn't put anything on the ball when I was trying to warm up for the second half," he said. "They tried to tape it up but I still couldn't and there was no way I could really go."
McDonald caught five passes for 169 yards.
Walter's first pass of the second half was a 53-yard completion to McDonald to the Washington State 12. But on fourth-and-1 from the 3, Flowers was tackled for a 2-yard loss.
On the next play, Gesser called an audible and in the ensuing mixup, slipped in the end zone for a safety that cut the lead to 14-9 with 8:54 to go in the third.
The Sun Devils have not beaten a ranked team since a 44-31 victory over Rose Bowl-bound Washington State in 1997, the Cougars' only regular-season loss that year.
Lamont Thompson of Washington State set a Pac-10 record with his 22nd career interception on the game's opening series. Thompson picked off four in last week's win over UCLA.