No. 6 Cougars gear up for toughest part of schedule

Updated: October 19, 2003, 4:24 PM ET

STANFORD, Calif. -- Washington State used to looked forward to every game against Oregon State -- because those were the ones the Cougars knew they could win.

And the years the Beavers weren't on the schedule, well, it often meant one fewer victory.

"That's a different story now," Washington State coach Bill Doba said. "Someone asked me last week if I'd ever thought that Washington State and Oregon State could be playing for a berth in the Rose Bowl. There's still a long ways to go."

The Cougars (6-1, 3-0 Pac-10) are tied for sixth in the AP poll Sunday after their 24-14 win at Stanford. And now the toughest part of their schedule sets in: a home game against Oregon State, then a trip to Los Angeles to face fifth-ranked Southern California. They finish the season Nov. 22 at Washington in the Apple Cup, and Washington State has lost the last five in the cross-state rivalry.

The Beavers made the matchup a little bit less interesting when they lost at home against Washington 38-17 Saturday night.

Senior defensive end Jeremey Williams grew up in Spokane, Wash., and often spent Saturdays in the fall in Pullman watching Washington State teams that weren't nearly as good as the latest squads, which have started 3-0 in conference play for three straight seasons.

He remembers how bad both the Cougars and Oregon State sometimes were.

"It's a little different," Williams said. "Going to the games, Oregon State games were usually games Washington State played really well."

To stay unbeaten in the tough Pac-10, Washington State knows it has to compete better than it did Saturday against a Stanford team that played remarkably well for its homecoming game, just the second home game of the Cardinal's season.

The Cougars were penalized 16 times for 116 yards, had 10 punts and managed just 70 rushing yards in their second-lowest scoring output of the season. After a slow start, they became more aggressive, gaining 195 passing yards and 237 of their 401 total yards in the second half.

Washington State also showed off the ability to make big plays, which should concern opponents for the rest of the season. In the second half, they had five pass plays of 19 yards or longer to three receivers.

Quarterback Matt Kegel, who kept playing after his non-throwing shoulder popped out of its socket, finished with 331 yards passing. He seemed to get stronger after his injury, leading the Cougars to 11 points in the fourth quarter.

"We already know a lot about ourselves," Kegel said. "This team has great character and we make plays when we have to. We're going to show the nation next week we're for real. It's all on me and I'm going to get it done."

Even Drew Dunning, the nation's leading field-goal kicker, had his share of problems.

Holder Brett Johnson bobbled the snap on a field-goal try and attempted a wobbly pass into the end zone that was picked off by Stanford defensive end Will Svitek. Dunning also had an extra point blocked in the third quarter before booting a 37-yard field goal with 3:16 left in the game.

"We came out flat and the rest of the game was mediocre," Dunning said. "The defense definitely kept us in the game. I have all the confidence that we'll come out ready next week."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index