PULLMAN - The Washington State Cougars have won four games in three years, so they weren't about to get picky after being forced to rally in the fourth quarter to edge Montana State, 23-22.
“A win is a win,” sophomore safety Tyree Toomer said. “We’ll gain from it. We’ll gain confidence.”
WSU’s defense, ranked last in the nation a year ago, certainly stands to gain confidence from its fourth-quarter performance.
Linebackers Alex Hoffman-Ellis and C.J. Mizell intercepted deflected passes in the fourth quarter, when the Cougars outscored Montana State, 16-0. Hoffman-Ellis, who tipped a pass that was intercepted by Myron Beck, also recorded a fourth-down sack in the final quarter.
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Hoffman-Ellis struggled last week in a 65-17 loss at Oklahoma State.
“I was more aggressive this week,” Hoffman-Ellis said. “I just played bad (last week).”
Toomer switched from his usual No. 33 jersey to No. 15 in honor of good friend LeAndre Daniels, the WSU safety who was forced to give up football after suffering a neck fracture in fall camp.
Toomer, whose hit on quarterback Denarius McGhee led to Hoffman-Ellis’ interception, said he hopes to get permission to wear No. 15 for the rest of his career.
WSU’s rally from 15 points down in the fourth quarter was the Cougars’ biggest comeback in the fourth quarter since they erased a 21-point deficit at Stanford in 1984. WSU won that game, 49-42.
Senior offensive tackle Micah Hannam, who has started every game of his career, made his 39th straight start.
Hannam is sharing time with true freshman John Fullington out of North Mason High School. Coaches considered starting Fullington this week.
Andrew Roxas replaced Wade Jacobson as the starting left guard. Hallston Higgins started at middle linebacker when Mike Ledgerwood sat out due to a stinger.
Bernard Wolfgramm started at defensive tackle, but missed most of the game with a lingering shoulder injury.
Senior Nico Grasu kicked his third game-winning field goal in three years with the Cougars. He played one year of junior college ball before coming to WSU.
Grasu’s most memorable kick beat Washington in double overtime in the 2008 Apple Cup.
Pleasant weather and brisk walk-up sales led to a crowd of 26,356.
Season-ticket sales are down at WSU after the team’s recent struggles.