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November 15, 2008

Cougs Pitchforked In Tempe




Just when it looked like there might be some light at the end of the tunnel for the beleaguered Washington State University Cougar football team, it was dark once again as the Cougars suffered their third shutout of the season and lost to Arizona State, 31-0, in Tempe. The loss was the Cougars' third shutout so far this season - the most shutouts they have suffered in a season since 1955, when they were shut out in four games of the 10 they played that year.

Defensively, however, the Wazzu continued to improve as they only allowed 31 points - the least they have allowed a Division I opponent since the 28 points they gave up to UCLA last month. The defense served notice on the first two plays of the Sun Devils' first offensive possession with back-to-back sacks by Toby Turpin and Matt Mullennix on the first play and Louis Bland on the second play. But despite a big gain by receiver Brandon Gibson on a 40-yard third down conversion play, the Cougars were unable to score in the first quarter as Wade Penner missed a 42-yard field goal attempt wide right. Gibson, however, has become Wazzu's all-time leader in receiving yardage, surpassing Jason Hill.

The first quarter ended in a scoreless tie - only the second time Wazzu has shut out a Division I opponent in a quarter, joining the first quarter against the Bruins - but that changed in the second quarter as ASU scored on a field goal and then a touchdown later in the quarter to take a 10-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. Despite, allowing those scores, the 10-point deficit was the closest halftime deficit against a Division I opponent all year [beating the 11-point deficit at the half against Oregon State] but it came at a price as the Cougars lost starting quarterback Kevin Lopina late in the quarter to a concussion. Lopina never returned to the game and freshman quarterback J.T. Levenseller took the remaining snaps of the game behind center.

One of the reasons the Cougars were able to stay so close to the Sun Devils in the first half was a lack of turnovers, but that changed in third quarter as Levenseller tossed an interception for the first Cougar turnover of the game. By the time the quarter was done, ASU had added two more touchdowns and led 24-0 going into the final frame.

On an attempted fourth-down conversion near midfield, Levenseller fumbled and the Sun Devils ran it in for a touchdown for the final points of the game. Levenseller injured his non-throwing wrist on the play but was able to complete the game.

Although the defense was only responsible for 24 of those points, the total of 31 points moves the Cougars to 533 points allowed so far this season - only 33 points removed from the NCAA Division I record of 566 points set by Eastern Michigan in 2002 - with two games remaining on the schedule.



Wazzu plays rival Washington on Saturday, November 22 at Martin Stadium in Pullman.




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