Thursday, January 2, 2003

Rose: Oklahoma 34, Washington St. 14

By Owen Canfield
The Associated Press

PASADENA, Calif. - This Rose Bowl was one to remember for the Sooners. And it was one Mike Price would sooner forget.

Price chose to coach seventh-ranked Washington State in the bowl game after accepting the Alabama coaching job two weeks ago. But No. 8 Oklahoma gave him rude send-off, winning 34-14 Wednesday.

"It's not the way we wanted to end it, by any means," said Price, leaving after 14 years on the job. "It's a disappointing way to finish."

Washington State (10-3) was held to a season-low 243 yards - just 4 on the ground - and didn't score until the final six minutes, by which time Oklahoma had a 27-0 lead.

Jason Gesser, the Cougars' star quarterback, was 17-of-34 for 239 yards and two interceptions, and was sacked six times.

"It doesn't surprise me," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "I answered questions all week about can we cover the pass. Our history proves that. You don't win as much as we have the last three years without being able to do that."

Oklahoma (12-2) was burned by deep passes in its two losses, but Gesser became another topflight quarterback handcuffed by the Sooners. They had previously throttled Seneca Wallace of Iowa State, Kliff Kingsbury of Texas Tech and Chris Simms of Texas.

While the defense was controlling Washington State, Nate Hybl was solid at quarterback and Quentin Griffin had his 10th straight 100-yard game.

Hybl, like Griffin playing his final game, was 19-of-29 for 240 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He was voted the game's MVP.

"I'm proud of him, mostly because of the person he is, the character he exhibits and the way he handles himself on the field," Stoops said. "He's been solid for us all year and we've been fortunate to have him."

Griffin, who had 1,740 yards during the regular season, had 144 yards on 30 carries and scored the Sooners' final touchdown on a 19-yard run.

The Sooners outgained Washington State by a 2-to-1 margin in the first half but had just a 3-0 lead before scoring twice in the final 1:51.

The first touchdown came on a 12-yard pass from Hybl to Antwone Savage. Hybl also had completions of 30 and 19 yards in the 65-yard drive.

The Cougars were forced to punt on their next possession and Antonio Perkins returned the kick 51 yards for a touchdown that made it 17-0. Perkins was due - he had two other big returns wiped out by penalties in the first quarter.

After being shut out in the first half for the first time this season, the Cougars put together a nice drive to open the third quarter. They moved from their 8 to the Oklahoma 41 before Gesser was intercepted on a tipped ball. Oklahoma turned that into a field goal and a 20-0 lead.

Washington State moved to the Oklahoma 34 early in the fourth quarter but turned it over on downs, failing to convert a fourth-and-1 play. The Sooners then drove 66 yards in 11 plays, with Hybl hitting Curtis Fagan on a 9-yard scoring pass to make it 27-0 with 8:02 to play.

"I was looking to prove some people wrong," said Hybl, often the target of criticism in Oklahoma despite his 20-3 record as starter the past two seasons. "It's fairy tale-ish. It hasn't sunk in yet."

The Cougars came in averaging just under 35 points but didn't score until Gesser's 37-yard pass Jerome Riley with 6:08 remaining, avoiding their first shutout since 1984.

After Oklahoma's final touchdown, Sammy Moore scored on an 89-yard kickoff return for the Cougars.

The Sooners were playing in their 36th bowl game but their first Rose Bowl. They got invited after the Orange Bowl picked Iowa and Southern California for its game. That left the Rose Bowl without a Pac-10-Big 10 matchup for the first time since 1947, not counting last year when this game was the site of the BCS national championship game between Miami and Nebraska.

Price will get to see the Sooners again shortly. His second game as the Crimson Tide's coach will be against Oklahoma.

He was asked whether his decision to stick around may have played a part in the Cougars' performance.

"I'm sure I'll get my fair share of the blame for that, which is OK. I just wanted to do everything I could to help the team win," Price said.

Offensive guard Billy Knott said Price's situation had no bearing.

"I don't buy it, not at all," he said. "We lost because we didn't play the way we needed to play. They did it today, they played better."

The crowd of 86,848 on a sunny, 70-degree day was the smallest at this game since 1944, when 68,000 watched USC beat Washington 29-0.

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