Beavers splash Cougs’ bowl dreams

PULLMAN – As miserable as the day was for those faithful few who showed up, it was worse for those playing.

In a game that began in a driving rain and ended with Washington State’s slim bowl hopes washed away, Oregon State pounded the Cougars 52-17 before an announced crowd of 22,660.

There were very few of that crowd still around when the Cougars trudged off Martin Stadium’s turf Saturday, saddled with a 4-7 overall record and a 2-6 Pac-10 mark and their worst home defeat since 2000, when the Huskies overwhelmed them 51-3.

Even worse for the seniors honored before the game, for the fourth consecutive season there won’t be a bowl game to end the year. Unless you want to count next week’s Apple Cup, which many of the Cougars were willing to do.

Looking forward was a way to forget about the shellacking that the Beavers had just inflicted.

“That one hurt, that one hurt a lot,” WSU head coach Bill Doba said. “I thought it would be a real close ball game. I didn’t know if we could score 17 points, but I surely didn’t think they would score 50.”

The Beavers, eighth in the conference in scoring coming in and playing without starting quarterback Sean Canfield, wouldn’t have been able to put 50-plus on the scoreboard without a huge assist from the Cougars in general and quarterback Alex Brink in particular.

Brink, the record-setting senior passer playing his final game in Pullman, had possibly the poorest game of his career, throwing six interceptions, including five in the first half when OSU built a 31-3 lead.

In all, WSU had eight turnovers. Surprisingly, that total is only tied for fourth in school history. The Cougars turned the ball over a record 10 times in a 1970 28-14 loss to Michigan State.

But that game didn’t mean as much as this one, with the Cougars still harboring hopes of winning out and reaching a bowl game for the first time since 2003, Doba’s first year as head coach.

“It’s frustrating on a lot of levels,” Brink said of the rain-soaked defeat. “It’s frustrating, mostly for our team because we had such a great opportunity coming into these last two games and this one was definitely a nightmare.”

The bad dream started early, when the Beavers (7-4, 5-3) took the opening kickoff and marched 76 yards to score.

What made it even worse was the Cougars had OSU pinned back with a third-and-15 at its 35. WSU brought a corner blitz but backup quarterback Lyle Moevao was able to connect with Darrell Catchings for a 20-yard gain, continuing the drive the ended on a Moevao 1-yard scoring sneak.

“We didn’t play well on that drive, we had a couple third-down assignment errors that could have gotten us off the field,” Doba said. “And then we just had too many turnovers. They just had a short field all night.”

WSU’s first possession ended on a failed fake punt at midfield, but the defense forced a punt right back. Then the turnovers came.

Chris Ivory fumbled. OSU scored on Yvenson Bernard’s 18-yard run. Brink was intercepted at the WSU 30. James Rodgers scored on a flanker reverse. It was 21-0 before anyone could get out of the rain. That has been the Beavers’ M.O., as they came into the game having outscored the opposition 92-9 in the first quarter and left it with a 113-9 edge.

Romeen Abdollmohammadi put WSU on the board with his eighth consecutive field goal from 40 yards out, but that was just a short respite.

Brink was intercepted again and OSU started at the Cougs’ 21. Alexis Serna kicked a 22-yard field goal. Another Brink pick put the ball on the WSU 18. Bernard scored from the 2. Two possessions later Brink was intercepted inside Oregon State territory, but that one didn’t hurt. Neither did the fifth interception, on the final play of the half.

“They had tremendous pressure on him,” Doba said in trying to explain the turnovers. “No. 90, (Victor Butler), he was in our face all night.”

As were the rest of the Beaver front, with Brink either sacked, knocked down or hurried at least a dozen times by one count. Of Brink’s 43 career interceptions, 13, or 30 percent, have come against OSU.

“A lot of blame should be laid on us,” said junior guard Dan Rowlands, “and not on Alex, because it’s our fault. We weren’t blocking well.”

The Beavers scored 21 second-half points without Bernard, their leading rusher, who tweaked a knee after gaining 74 yards.

“I wouldn’t imagine my last game at Martin Stadium, with the crowd, with it raining, just the way we lost,” senior Michael Bumpus said. “But that’s part of the game, that’s life. Everything’s not going to happen the way you want it to.”

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