7:00 PM ET, September 17, 2005
7:00 PM ET, September 17, 2005
SEATTLE (AP) -- Washington State fully expected to be 3-0 at this point, but the team knows that an inconsistent performance like Saturday's against Division I-AA Grambling State won't do when Pac-10 Conference play begins.
Jerome Harrison had his sixth consecutive 100-yard rushing game, running for 104 in the first half, as Washington State defeated the Tigers 48-7, improving to 3-0 for the first time since 2001.
"We just weren't sharp, I didn't think," Washington State coach Bill Doba said. "Not that I'm unhappy with the win, but we've got to play better than that in the Pac-10 to survive."
Alex Brink threw three touchdown passes, but the performance by Washington State's offense was not as crisp as last week, when the Cougars racked up 534 total yards at Nevada.
The Cougars finished with 446 yards in their first game against a I-AA team since beating Montana State in 2002, but there were lulls in the first half.
"I think the first half was sloppy. It wasn't my best," Brink said. "As a team, we know the competition is going to get better."
Harrison rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns, and freshman DeMaundray Woolridge added 105 yards. Harrison eclipsed 100 yards in Washington State's last three games of 2004 and the first two this year. The Cougars are 5-1 over that stretch.
Washington State has scored 141 points in its first three games, the most since 1908 when the Cougars scored 150 in wins over Eastern Washington (73-0), the Spokane YMCA (33-0) and the Bremerton Navy (44-0).
"I think from the first to the third game, we've made improvements offensively, which is the most important thing," Brink said.
While Harrison found running room, Washington State's defense was stout against the run, holding Grambling (1-1) to just 11 yards rushing.
Grambling quarterback Bruce Eugene rarely had time to throw the ball. The Cougars recorded seven sacks, with consistent pressure on the Tigers' sixth-year quarterback.
"I think right now we have a decent pass rush, but I don't know if it's going to be good enough," Washington State defensive coordinator Robb Akey said. "Our first three opponents, we've been able to beat the fronts we're going against and pressure the quarterback."
The Tigers had an opportunity to put the Cougars on their heels early. On Washington State's first offensive play, Brink fumbled and Joshua Bester recovered at the Cougars 18.
Grambling drove to the Cougars' 3, but stalled. Shawn Millson then missed a 26-yard field goal attempt wide left.
Washington State responded, taking the ensuing drive 80 yards in just 2:08, with Harrison scoring his first 1-yard TD.
On the Tigers next offensive play, Terrion Rogers was hit by Mkristo Bruce and fumbled at the Grambling 8. The Cougars' Eric Frampton recovered the fumble and two plays later Harrison scored from the 1.
"Against a team like Washington State you can't make a lot of mistakes," Grambling coach Melvin Spears said. "We had some times that we could have scored some points and minimized some of the mistakes that we had."
Brink threw an 18-yard touchdown to Jason Hill in the second quarter, one play after Grambling punter Tim Manuel dropped the snap. Brink added a 7-yard TD pass to tight end Troy Bienemann midway through the third quarter, to put the Cougars up 34-0, and Brink and Hill connected on a 56-yard score early in the fourth quarter.
Hill finished with 10 catches for 143 yards, and Brink was 19-of-29 for 262 yards. The teams combined for 22 penalties.
Hill said some of the Cougars' struggles early came from not seeing any Tigers game film during the week.
"It was tough to prepare for this game without having all the film that we're so used to," Hill said. "It was tough, but a lot of the mistakes we made were mental."
The Tigers moved the ball through the air at times, as Eugene finished 14-of-30 for 197 yards.
Grambling finally scored late in the third. On fourth-and-goal at the 11, Eugene passed to Henry Tolbert, who caught the ball while lying on his back after Washington State safety DeWayne Patterson tipped the pass.
Playing what has become a yearly game in Seattle, the Cougars improved to 3-1 at Qwest Field. Washington State is scheduled to play Baylor in Seattle next year.
Grambling opened the season with a 44-0 win over Alabama A&M last week. The Tigers were playing a Division I-A team for the first time since a 29-0 loss to San Jose State in 2003.