Cougars snap 4-game skid

  • Saturday, November 11, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – The coach was more nervous than the young quarterback making his first college start.

Redshirt freshman Matt Kegel threw for 242 yards and a touchdown and made no major mistakes as Washington State beat Southern California 33-27 Saturday night in a match of the Pacific-10 Conference’s worst teams.

“I thought Matt played very well. He had zero turnovers,” Cougars coach Mike Price said. “He definitely rose to the occasion and was very calm throughout the game; calmer than I was.”

Kegel, the cousin of former Cougars quarterback Ryan Leaf, completed just 12 of 32 passes but connected on an 88-yard TD pass while filling in for Jason Gesser, who broke his leg last week against Oregon.

“Thankfully we were able to come out and score a few points when we needed them,” Kegel said. “This (USC) is a prestigious college, so it’s just great to get the win, especially for our seniors. We’ve had a lot of tough breaks this year, so it’s nice when it goes our way.”

The Cougars (4-6, 2-5) close out their season against rival Washington.

“All I can say is that the Huskies better look out, because we’re coming to get them next week,” Kegel said.

Washington State scored a pair of second-quarter touchdowns to go up 12-0 and were in front the rest of the way, building a 26-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.

The Trojans (4-6, 1-6), who lost for the sixth time in their last seven games, switched quarterbacks after being shut out in the first half. As they left the field at halftime, they were booed by many in the sparse crowd of 40,565 – their smallest for a home game since they drew 24,834 against Washington in 1987.

Mike Van Raaphorst, a fifth-year senior who has started 15 games, replaced Carson Palmer to open the second half and threw for three touchdowns, the last a 21-yarder to Keary Colbert as time expired.

Van Raaphorst also passed for TDs of 34 and 30 yards, but he was sacked five times and fumbled once. D.D. Acholonu returned that fumble 35 yards for a WSU touchdown.

USC coach Paul Hackett, who has stuck with Palmer this year despite the redshirt sophomore’s inconsistency, explained his decision to replace him.

“I felt our team needed a jolt. Mike has waited patiently,” Hackett said. “Carson had been out of synch throwing the ball down the field. I told him at halftime that we wouldn’t hesitate to go back to him in the fourth quarter.

“Carson handled himself in a very classy manner.”

Asked who might start next weekend against UCLA, Hackett said, “I’m going to take a look at the tape and regroup and we’ll make a decision early in the week.”

Van Raaphorst had not played in 13 games dating back to last year. He completed 17 of 28 for 234 yards, with no interceptions. Palmer was 12 of 26 for 145 yards, with one interception, before being benched.

The Cougars scored on a 25-yard run by Milton Wynn and Jeremy Thielbahr’s blocked punt return in the second quarter. The 88-yard scoring pass from Kegel to Marcus Williams made it 19-7 in the third quarter, then Acholonu’s fumble return gave the Cougars a 26-7 edge early in the fourth.

Zeke Moreno scored for the Trojans on a 56-yard fumble return with 9:05 remaining, then Van Raaphorst threw a 30-yard TD pass to Steve Stevenson with 4:28 remaining. But Dave Minnich gave the Cougars a 33-20 pad on a 2-yard run with 1:42 left.

James Price and Billy Newman were defensive standouts for the Cougars. Price had nine solo tackles and two assists, four tackles for loss and one of six WSU sacks. Newman was in on eight tackles, forced a fumble and had a sack.

“Defense is where we won the game,” Cougars coach Price said. “They were so solid, so tough and so aggressive.”

Washington State has now defeated USC twice in a row at the Coliseum for the first time ever. In 1997, the last meeting between the teams in Los Angeles, Leaf threw a late touchdown pass to beat the Trojans 28-21.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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