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WSU Cougars earn 10th win of season

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EL PASO, Texas — Washington State coach Mike Price really wanted that 10th win.

He got it Monday when No. 13 Washington State beat Purdue 33-27, ending the season with a 10-2 record. It was the Cougars' first bowl victory since 1994, when they beat Baylor 10-3.

Price wanted the 10th win so his seniors could say they won 10 games twice in their college careers. Price's 1997 team went 10-2, including a Rose Bowl loss to Michigan.

"There is no other player in Washington State football history who can say, 'Two times, I won 10 games in my career,' " Price said before the game. Afterward, Price said his Cougars "could be one of the best teams ever at Washington State."

The Cougars had to come from behind to win.

Jason Gesser passed for 281 yards and ran for a touchdown to rally the Cougars from a 20-17 halftime deficit. The Cougar defense held Purdue (6-6) scoreless in the second half until the final two minutes.

"I feel like our coaching staff did some wonderful halftime adjustments with settling the offense down and firing the defense up," Price said.

Purdue closed to 33-27 with 1:53 left, then recovered the ensuing onsides kick. The Boilermakers drove to the Washington State 22 before turning the ball over on downs.

Drew Dunning went 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts, and Nakoa McElrath caught five passes for 116 yards. McElrath didn't start as punishment for criticizing the play-calling in the season finale, a 26-14 loss to Washington.

"My timing was off in the first half, but after we went to the shotgun in the second half, it gave me more of a chance to get my timing down," Gesser said. "We knew what we had to do, but they were blitzing us and took us out of our rhythm."

Sun Bowl records fell under the onslaught of two wide-open offenses. Purdue coach Joe Tiller twice coached under Price at Washington State, and their offensive philosophies are similar.

Both teams run the trap, the draw and throw downfield while using the spread offense. The running game is minimized, while four or five receivers are often on the line of scrimmage.

Purdue freshman Kyle Orton was 38-of-74 for 419 yards passing and two touchdowns, all Sun Bowl records, but he was intercepted four times.

"We didn't execute well and dropped too many balls," Tiller said. "When you have a young quarterback and things start to get out of sync, they tend to stay that way."

Taylor Stubblefield caught nine passes for 196 yards, another Sun Bowl record, and two touchdowns for Purdue. John Standeford and Tim Stratton each had 12 receptions, sharing a Sun Bowl record.