The good, bad and ugly: A lookback at Washington State’s history against the Big 12 Conference

December 25, 2018

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Historically speaking, the Big 12 has meant big trouble for Washington State’s football team.

Although Washington State and Iowa State don’t have any apparent history, Friday’s Alamo Bowl (6 p.m., ESPN) will mark the 28th time the Cougars have gone toe-to-toe with a member of the current Big 12 Conference.

It’s been 80 years since WSU’s first meeting the with the Big 12 – a 21-0 loss to Oklahoma to open the 1938 season – and eight since its last meeting – a 65-17 loss to Oklahoma State in the 2010 opener. All-time, the Cougars have seven wins and 20 losses in games against the conference, having played every Big 12 member but West Virginia, Kansas State and Iowa State.

As the Cougars (10-2, 7-2) gear up to play the Cyclones (8-4, 6-3) in the Alamo Bowl, we take a look at five memorable WSU games – for good or for bad – against the Big 12.

So, starting with the good…

1. 2003, 28-20 win vs. Texas (Holiday Bowl)

Washington State played two bowl games against Big 12 teams in the same calendar year. The Cougars were pummeled in one of those (keep reading), but got their mulligan 363 days later when a Holiday Bowl pairing with Texas was announced.

Mack Brown’s young quarterback, Vince Young, had yet to capture the nation’s attention with his historic end-zone plunge versus USC, and after struggling early in the game, Young was replaced for by backup Chance Mock. But the Cougars mostly bottled up UT’s second-stringer, too, holding him to 20-of-49 passing for 196 yards.

Trailing 10-7 at halftime, WSU’s comeback was spurred by a massive third quarter that saw the Cougars outscore the Longhorns 19-0. The fireworks opened with a 54-yard touchdown pass from Matt Kegel to Sammy More and continued when the Cougars pulled off an improbable trick play.

Kegel lined up behind center, but the QB ran in motion to the right sideline, leaving only running back Jonathan Smith in the backfield. Smith mishandled the snap, but scooped it up and sped into the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown. With a 21-point second half, the Cougars stormed to their third 10-win season in as many years.

2. 2003, 34-14 loss vs. Oklahoma (Rose Bowl)

The Cougars never played Mike Leach head-to-head, but in the program’s fourth and most recent appearance in the Rose Bowl, they ran into a quarterback who, for one season, was groomed by the former Oklahoma offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.

Three years after working with Leach in Norman, Nate Hybl put on a passing show in Norman in front of more than 86,000 fans in Pasadena. The game’s most valuable player completed 19-of-29 passes for 240 yards and threw a pair of touchdowns. Supplemented by running back Antonio Perkins’ 144 rushing yards, Hybl and the Sooners had 20 points on the board before Jason Gesser’s Cougars could get on the board.

WSU put up 14 points in the fourth quarter, but the offensive spurt was too late and OU finished off the 89th Rose Bowl with style points when Sammy Moore caught a kickoff with 1:15 left in the fourth quarter and weaved through the field for an 89-yard touchdown.

3. 1972, 18-17 win vs. Kansas

When the Pac-12 was the Pac-8 and the Big 12 was the Big 8, Jim Sweeney’s Cougars met up with Don Fambrough’s Jayhawks in the 1972 season opener. It was the third game in as many years between those two – the Jayhawks won each of the first two – and the third of eight straight Wazzu-KU meetings. The Cougars only won two of those eight, but scored 18 in both victories.

In ’72, they were led by quarterback Ty Paine and a pair of running backs – Ken Grandberry and Steve Hamilton – that would combine to rush for 1,550 yards and 14 touchdowns on the season. Former WSU athletic director, Bill Moos, was playing on the offensive line when the Cougars dialed up a comeback for the ages after facing a 17-0 deficit entering the fourth quarter.

4. 2006, 17-15 win vs. Baylor

At Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, then known as Qwest Field, Washington State quarterback Alex Brink misfired much of the second half, completing just 8-of-16 passes while throwing an interception to give the Baylor Bears a 9-7 halftime lead. Home fans showered the junior signal-caller and chanted for his backup, Gary Rogers, but Brink showed the ultimate resolve in the second half, finding success with both his arm and his hands.

The QB completed 13-of-16 passes after halftime and caught a 4-yard touchdown from running back Dwight Tardy in the third quarter to put the Cougars in front, 14-9. Baylor’s offense accumulated just 68 yards in the second half, but the defense picked up the slack and scored on a 40-yard fumble recovery.

But Brink led the WSU offense back the other way in the final minute to set up a chip shot field goal for kicker Loren Langley, who drove the game-winner through the uprights from 17 yards out.

5. 2010, 65-17 loss vs. Oklahoma State

In the midst of their two-win 2010 season, the Cougars traveled to Stillwater to face Mike Gundy’s Cowboys, who’d finish the season 11-2 with a win over Arizona in the Alamo Bowl. It was an ideal way to start the season for first-year OSU offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, a Leach disciple who’s now the head coach at West Virginia.

The Cowboys scored 17 points in the first quarter and had 38 by halftime, eventually totaling 544 yards of offense. The game’s MVP was OSU running back Kendall Hunter, who was a constant headache for WSU’s defense as he rushed 21 times for 257 yards and four touchdowns, while Brandon Weeden completed 22-of-30 passes for 218 yards and three touchdowns.

Two games later, the Cowboys would hang 65 points on Tulsa.

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