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Cougars land in Rose Bowl

©Associated Press
December 8, 2002

PASADENA, Calif. -- An elated Jason Gesser stood before several hundred cheering Washington State fans Saturday, smiling and waving a single rose.

"I'm feeling no pain right now," the Cougars quarterback said moments after leading his team to a 48-27 victory over UCLA and a berth in the Rose Bowl game on New Year's Day.

Gesser, wearing braces on his sprained right knee and ankle, completed 15 of 24 passes for 247 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

WSU won despite botching a fake field goal and an onside kick, and getting a field-goal attempt blocked. One poorly thrown pass by Gesser was intercepted by Ben Emanuel and returned for a touchdown, and another was picked off by Emanuel in the UCLA end zone.

WSU coach Mike Price said the onside kick was the result of "severe miscommunication" between the coaching staff and kicker Adam Holiday.

But the offense did its part, and the speedy defense and special teams proved too much for the Bruins.

WSU, which played in the Rose Bowl after the 1931 and 1997 seasons, probably will face the Big 12 champion on New Year's Day. The final BCS standings and bowl pairings will be announced today.

Had UCLA prevailed, it would have meant a Rose Bowl berth for crosstown rival Southern California. Even the presence of hundreds of fans wearing USC colors among the Rose Bowl crowd of 56,335 didn't help the Bruins.

The Trojans, who lost 30-27 in overtime at Washington State on Oct. 5, probably will receive an invitation to the Sugar Bowl.

UCLA will play a lower-tier bowl, likely Las Vegas.

UCLA freshman quarterback Drew Olson was 13-of-27 for 163 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions and was sacked four times. Tyler Ebell, another freshman who gained more than 100 yards in six straight games this season, was held to 10 yards on nine carries.

The Cougars clinched the victory when Erik Coleman returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown with 10:20 remaining to complete the scoring. Emanuel's end zone interception came on the previous play.

MAC championship

MARSHALL 49, TOLEDO 45: Byron Leftwich got up from a hit that sparked a fight to throw two late touchdowns, including a 40-yarder with 49 seconds left to give the host Thundering Herd its fifth Mid-American Conference championship in six years.

Leftwich went 32-of-42 for 404 yards and four TDs to overshadow the four rushing touchdowns by Toledo redshirt freshman Trinity Dawson, who finished with a career-high 130 yards.

The game was marred by a third-quarter fight that started when Leftwich took a late hit from linebacker David Gardner after an interception.

Marshall lineman Steve Peretta went after Gardner, and Toledo lineman Lantz Jeudy retaliated against Peretta.

Several Toledo players rushed onto the field and players from both teams exchanged shoves before order was restored. Gardner was called for a personal foul. Peretta and Jeudy were ejected.

Marshall atoned for a loss at Toledo in last year's championship game in which the Rockets overcame a 23-0 deficit to win 41-36.

"Last year, after we lost, we all had a sick feeling," Leftwich said. "This year, we couldn't let them come in here and make us feel like that again."

The 94 combined points broke the title-game record of 77 set last year.

Division I-AA playoffs

GA. SOUTHERN 31, MAINE 7: Chaz Williams had his 10th straight 100-yard rushing game and had two touchdowns for the host Eagles, who advanced to meet Western Kentucky in the semifinals.

Jermaine Austin added 143 yards rushing, including a 7-yard TD, for the Eagles (11-2).

Maine (11-3), which shared the Atlantic 10 championship with Northeastern, averaged 280 pounds across its offensive line, but the Black Bears were no match for the speed of Georgia Southern's option attack.

VILLANOVA 24, FORDHAM 10: Brett Gordon went 26-for-30 for 219 yards and two touchdowns, leading the host Wildcats to their first playoff semifinal berth. He completed seven passes for 36 yards on a 14-play, 66-yard third-quarter march, capped by Terry Butler's 4-yard TD run with 38 seconds left. The touchdown gave Villanova a 17-3 lead. The Wildcats play McNeese State, a 24-20 winner over Montana.

W. KENTUCKY 31, W. ILLINOIS 28: Peter Martinez kicked a 25-yard field goal with 40 seconds left to complete a 17-point fourth-quarter rally for the visiting Hilltoppers.

After Martinez's field goal, Western Illinois got the ball back and threw a desperation pass that Lawrence Matthews caught on the 2 on the final play. Western Kentucky, however, was called for pass interference on the play. After the 15-yard penalty, Western Illinois got one last play from the Western Kentucky 43, but Mike Scifres missed a field goal from 61 yards.

Afterward, players from both teams were involved in a fight. A Western Illinois player broke his tooth and a Western Kentucky offensive lineman had a cut on his nose. A WKU manager also had a cut near his right eye.

Police reported no arrests; one person was treated and released at a hospital, but there were no details.

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