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Oklahoma's Defense Smothers Washington State
December 31, 2002

PASADENA, Calif. - Oklahoma lived up to its vaunted defensive reputation against Washington State by not allowing the Cougars to hit any big plays in the Rose Bowl.

Making their first appearance in Pasadena, the No. 8 Sooners defeated the No. 7 Cougars 34-14 Wednesday.

Playing before a predominantly Washington State crowd, Oklahoma (12-2) shut out the Cougars until late in the game and nearly maintained its history of holding them scoreless. In the teams' previous matchups, the Sooners beat the Cougars 28-0 in 1938 and 21-0 in 1967.

"Defense played another one of those games," coach Bob Stoops said. "We're disappointed we didn't shut them out."

Until the Cougars scored in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma had kept its bowl opponents out of the end zone in 13 consecutive quarters.

"We slacked up in the fourth and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth," said Sooners linebacker Teddy Lehman, who had six tackles, including two for losses. "It makes you mad at the end of the game to slack up and give them points. That's not our style."

Washington State was never successful in spreading Oklahoma's defense or getting big plays out of quarterback Jason Gesser, whose only touchdown came on a 37-yard pass to Jerome Riley with 6:08 remaining in the game. By then, Oklahoma led 27-7.

"It's hard to do something on a defense that's already good when we keep making mistakes," Gesser said. "They came with a lot of different blitzes and we couldn't get a good flow going. We didn't play how we normally play."

Gesser was sacked six times and had two incompletions.

"It doesn't surprise me," Stoops said. "I've answered questions all week on can we cover the pass and our history proves that. Our guys got great pressure, covered well and executed well."

Cornerback Andre Woolfolk deflected the Cougars' 51-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter to help the Sooners record a first-half shutout, their seventh of the season. Washington State hadn't gone scoreless in the first half in 25 games.

Woolfolk's second interception of the season came as the Cougars neared the goal line in the second quarter. His other interception came in a 35-24 victory against Texas.

Washington State managed just one surprise against Oklahoma's defense when Sammy Moore returned a kickoff 89 yards for the game's final touchdown with 1:15 remaining.

"I'm sure I'll get my fair share of the blame and that's OK," said Mike Price, who coached his final game for Washington State after accepting the Alabama job. "We left the defense on the field too long in the first half and they got tired."

The Sooners forced three WSU turnovers that led to 10 points.

Also getting in Washington State's way were nine penalties for 52 yards.

"We panicked and the game got away from us," Cougars offensive lineman Derrick Roche said. "I said all along they were the best defense we'd face all year and they proved it. But we did everything we could to stop ourselves."

The Cougars came in averaging 437 yards of total offense; they were held to 243.

Washington State's leading rusher Jermaine Green was limited to 45 yards - 20 yards under his average.

Oklahoma's defense had allowed just 115 yards per game rushing. The Sooners were even stingier against the Cougars, who had 75 yards on the ground, but wound up with just four yards rushing because of sacks and other negative yardage.

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