Brandon Moore and Phillip Glover blocked two second-quarter punts in a 5-minute span, and Jamel Payton provided the entertainment in between as Washington State delivered a devastating 1-2 punch on its way to Saturday’s 40-14 knockout of Oregon State.
The WSU offense converted the key plays into 10 points, stretching the Cougars lead to 27-0 with 2:30 left in the second quarter. It was a deficit too large for the Beavers, whose run-oriented attack was hardly suited for the quick downfield strikes needed to make a speedy comeback.
“I think our kids executed (the punt blocks) perfectly,” WSU coach Mike Price said. “It was just hard-nosed football. It wasn’t necessarily a play (special-teams coach Larry Lewis) has worked hard on. And I want to credit those kids for that, because that just breaks (OSU’s) back. I knew we were better on special teams than they were.”
The Beavers employ a unique alignment on punts, using only five interior blockers at the line of scrimmage and stringing them out in an attempt to force outside rushers too wide. To protect the middle, three additional blockers line up between the center and punter.
“Our punt coverage is supposed to be that if we take wide enough splits, somebody from the outside can’t get to our punter,” OSU coach Jerry Pettibone said.
The alignment couldn’t stop Moore from breaking through the middle on fourth-and-2 from the OSU 28. With the Beavers already down 17-0 and 7:40 left in the second quarter, Moore made his move, barely getting past one of the final three blockers to deflect Doug Stuckey’s punt.
“We were trying to bring guys up the middle because they didn’t have any guard blocking us up front,” Moore explained. “We tried to attack the back wedge coming from inside and outside. As soon as (the punter) flexed his hands, that’s when I took off.”
The ball bounced free inside the 25-yard line, and that’s where the fun began. Payton, a third-string sophomore cornerback in on punt coverage, had plenty of time to scoop it up and run in for the touchdown. In Payton’s haste, however, he booted the ball around like a World Cup midfielder, and was finally forced to fall on it as several agitated Beavers converged.
“If I’d been more patient, I could’ve picked it up,” Payton offered, “but I just got too excited.”
Moore had to laugh. “I was on the ground and I was looking up and Jamel was over there fumbling and messing with the ball,” he mused, unable to pass up a good-natured shot at his teammate and fraternity brother. “I was like, Jamel, pick the ball up! Pick the ball up! But he was over there rolling it around. Ah, man.”
How many times did Payton boot the ball around? “Two, two or three. It seemed like an eternity to me,” Payton said. “Everything seemed so slow. I could hear everything. I just didn’t realize I was the only person there. I kept feeling pressure and I just wanted to pick it up and go.”
WSU took over at the 19, and settled for a field goal and 20-0 lead. Then came Glover’s turn. After the WSU defense clearly energized by Moore’s block - shut OSU down in three plays, Stuckey was given another chance, this time inside the 3-minute mark. He got the punt off, but was forced to kick again after an illegal motion penalty pushed OSU back to its own 26.
This time, Glover sped around the outside for the block, again giving WSU possession at the 19.
“The guy over me was making a swim move and not trying to block me,” Glover said. “So I went and told the coaches and they said to go ahead and go for the block.”
Two plays later, Chad Davis found Shawn McWashington for an 8-yard TD and 27-0 lead.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
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