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What’s the wildest WSU football game ever?

Sometimes college football games can be crazy. What’s the wildest Cougar game you’ve seen? We look back at one from 2003.

Jackson sacks Anderson
The Cougs had a dominant D? That’s wild.
Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Consider a college football game where the two teams combined for 599 yards on 155 plays. That’s less than four yards per play, and at first glance may sound like a grinding 13-10 affair. What if I told you that game ended with a final score of 36-30? Something pretty wild must have went down, right?

Yes, the wildness connecting those total yards to that score included three safeties, 12 turnovers and a double-digit fourth quarter comeback from the victorious squad (after the other team came back from double digits to take the lead). Hat tip to Hendu Manchu for reminding me of this game.

I was sitting in the stands on that day with my Dad. It was my freshman year, and my Dad’s first college football game. As far as Martin Stadium goes, it was a pretty big match-up: The No. 6 Washington State Cougars hosted the Oregon State Beavers, who were ranked No. 25 in one of the polls if I remember correctly. The Beavers also featured Stephen Jackson, destroyer of NCAA defenses.

It was Dad’s weekend, so Martin was packed to the brim. In 2003, guest passes in the student section for Dad’s weekend were a hot commodity. I camped out in front of the old Cougar Depot to ensure my dad would have a seat (read: place to stand) for the game.

Looking back, sleeping on cement was totally worth it.

The Cougs jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the first score needing just a two-yard drive after Isaac Brown recovered a Derek Anderson fumble. It looked like it was going to be an easy day. Eventually, things began to unravel for the Cougar offense, especially quarterback Matt Kegel. The fifth-year senior had been pretty secure with the ball throughout the season, but not against the Beavers.

By the end of the second quarter while under some pretty steady pressure, Kegel had thrown two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He had also fumbled twice, one recovered by the Beavers and another recovered by WSU in its own endzone for a safety. Oregon State put up 25 consecutive points to take a 25-14 halftime lead.

WSU would only score once in the third quarter, a botched OSU punt that resulted in a safety. Another Kegel interception leads to an OSU field goal and the Beavers are up 28-16 heading into the fourth. That's when WSU's defense turned the wild up to 11.

To give you an idea of how the fourth quarter went (also known as "The Scott Lunde Quarter"), let's go rapid fire:

Scott Lunde TD! (28-23 OSU)
OSU punter fumble! Scott Davis returns it to the the Beavers 8!
Kegel INT :-(
OSU QB fumble! Recovered by Al Genatone at Beavers 28!
Lunde TD! (29-28 WSU)
2-point conversion attempt INT :-(
Erik Coleman interception!
Kegel INT :-(
No wait, roughing the passer! No INT!
Jonathan Smith TD! (36-28 WSU)
Consecutive D.D. Acholonu sacks!
OSU successful punt! (congrats guys)
Jason David INT!
Jason David unsportsmanlike conduct penalty!

After that last interception, just 57 seconds remained, but there was still some wild to be had. WSU failed to run the clock down completely after two OSU timeouts. That left the Cougs with an awkward fourth down with three seconds to play.

What does a coach do in that situation? WSU was on its own 15. Head coach Bill Doba could have maybe run a play, perhaps just having a running back sprint backwards until the clock hit zero. He chose a common tactic: Directing the punter to take an intentional safety.

The snap was clean to Kyle Basler, who caught it standing in his own endzone. With very little room to retreat, he ran sideways. Simple enough, but Basler chose to hold the ball above his head in celebration with the play still live, causing one of the biggest collective gasps I've ever heard as Beavers were giving all-out pursuit.

It was fine though, Basler stepped out of bounds for the game's third safety, and it was over. A quick glance at the score might have one thinking it was an offensive shootout, but we know better.

That's the wildest WSU game in my book. In your mind, what's the wildest WSU game ever?

BONUS: Here are some highlights that are without narration or context: