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Pac-10: Washington State defense stuffs the conference-leading offense

©Associated Press
November 10, 2002

PULLMAN, Wash. -- The difference between the top scoring teams in the Pac-10 came down to Washington State's defense.

The Cougars reined in the league's top rusher, Onterrio Smith; Jason Gesser threw four touchdowns; and Jermaine Green ran for a career-high 180 yards in Washington State's 32-21 victory over Oregon on Saturday.

"The defense played unbelievably. They never gave Onterrio Smith a break," WSU coach Mike Price said. "They pressured the quarterback all the time."

The Cougars moved within one victory of clinching a trip to the Rose Bowl. And with No. 1 Oklahoma's loss, Washington State might climb from fifth in the BCS.

Green easily outperformed Oregon's banged-up star tailback, who led the conference with nearly 127 yards a game despite missing the previous game, a win 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 carried 25 times for 64 yards.

Oregon went into the game as the No. 1 scoring offense in the league, averaging 37.9, followed by Washington State with 34.6.

Washington State beat the Ducks for the first time since 1997 and the first time in Martin Stadium since '96.

Jason Fife threw a 16-yard touchdown to Jason Willis, but it was the Ducks defense that provided the rest of the points, returning a fumble and an interception for touchdowns. Fife finished 16-of-35 for 192 yards and an interception.

Gesser threw touchdowns of 3 and 4 yards to Mike Bush and hit Devard Darling for scores covering 8 and 46 yards. Bush caught nine passes for 107 yards, and Darling added 133 yards on seven catches. Darling transferred from FSU to Oregon after his twin brother, Devaughn, a 'Noles linebacker, died after a workout before last season.

The Cougars outgained Oregon on the ground 190-60 thanks to Green, who had 113 yards in the first half.

USC 49, STANFORD 17: It looked like Carson Palmer had another brilliant day, but he sure didn't think so.

Palmer threw four touchdown passes to break a school career record and lead visiting Southern California to a 49-17 victory over Stanford.

The senior quarterback wasn't satisfied, though, because he wanted to score even more.

"I'm mad, I'm frustrated, and I'm angry. The whole offense is," Palmer said. "We should have scored every time we had the ball."

The Trojans scored on seven of 12 possessions when he was in the game.

Still, the win keeps USC's slim conference championship hopes alive and has the Trojans in great position heading into the stretch run. One more victory by first-place Washington State or one loss by USC would eliminate the Trojans from winning the conference.

Palmer threw two passes for touchdowns to Keary Colbert, one to Mike Williams and another to Alex Holmes to give Palmer 61 career TD passes, breaking the mark of 58 set by Bucs QB Rob Johnson. Palmer has thrown 13 in his past three games.

Palmer picked apart the Pac-10's second-worst defense, completing 22 of 32 for 317 yards, with eight completions to Williams for 94 yards. Williams broke the Pac-10 freshman record for receptions with 58, eclipsing the mark of 55 set by Washington's Reggie Williams last season.

CALIFORNIA 55, ARIZONA ST. 38: Kyle Boller matched his career high with five touchdown passes to lead visiting California.

Arizona State lost despite 477 yards passing from Andrew Walter.

Joe Igber rushed for a season-high 144 yards and caught a 17-yard pass for a touchdown in a game that featured six lead changes.

The Sun Devils were doomed by three fumbles deep in their territory, an interception returned 85 yards for a touchdown and a blocked punt that was returned for a score. California scored the game's final 20 after Arizona State took a 38-35 lead on Hakim Hill's 2-yard touchdown run with 2:36 left in the third.

WASHINGTON 41, OREGON ST. 29: Cody Pickett threw for 262 yards to become host Washington's career passing leader, and Derrick Johnson had two of the Huskies' five interceptions. Rich Alexis had a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs, John Anderson kicked field goals of 23 and 52 yards and Washington avoided the school's first four-game losing streak since 1974. Johnson returned one interceptions 42 yards for a touchdown, and Chris Massey took another 25 yards into the end zone.

UCLA 37, ARIZONA 7: Freshman Tyler Ebell became the second UCLA player to gain 100 rushing in six straight games. Ebell, who has seen extended playing time in those six games, had 124 yards on 22 carries and scored on runs of 22 and 19 yards. Gaston Green holds the UCLA record with seven straight 100-yard games in 1986. Drew Olson threw a 33-yard scoring pass to Craig Bragg, and Nate Fikse kicked three field goals, including a career-best 51-yarder, to help the visiting Bruins win their third straight.

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