PULLMAN, Washington (Ticker) -- Unfortunately for Montana State, 18th-ranked Washington State was not looking ahead, just tuning up.
Jason Gesser threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score as Washington State remained unbeaten with a 53-28 pounding of their Division I-AA opponent.
Gesser completed 20-of-32 passes for 349 yards as the Cougars (7-0) matched their best start in four years. Washington State, whose last trip to the Rose Bowl came in 1998, host undefeated and fifth-ranked Oregon on October 27. The Ducks entertain Stanford on Saturday.
"Well, we are 7-0 and we probably lulled Oregon to sleep watching this film," Washington State coach Mike Price said. "They will be real overconfident. We didn't play like champions all the 60 minutes. I was disappointed in some of the late hits at the end of the game. That is frustrating for me. I will get over it because we are 7-0.
"We want to beat the Ducks real bad," he continued. "That is paramount to us right now. There is nothing more important. We will give the players a couple of days off to rest, then get ready for Oregon Monday."
Montana State (4-3) was playing a ranked Division I-A foe for the fisrt time in school history. The Bobcats grabbed the lead with 83 seconds left in the opening quarter when linebacker David Smith picked up a fumble by John Tippins and raced 37 yards into the end zone.
"I'm really proud of our team," Bobcats coach Mike Kramer said. "We were spilling a lot of energy early that we needed later, but it was a great effort for Montana State."
Mike Bush caught a screen pass and turned it into a 31-yard touchdown to pull the Cougars within 7-6 after the extra point was blocked midway through the second quarter.
Tippins capped an eight-play, 44-yard drive with a one-yard plunge to put Washington State ahead for good, 12-7, with 3:44 to play in the second. He also grabbed a 41-yard TD pass from Gesser 36 seconds before halftime, stretching the lead to 19-7.
The Cougars scored on their first possession of the second half, with Tippins catching a 21-yard pass.
Tyler Thomas was 22-of-40 for 252 yards for Montana State (4-3). He capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive with a three-yard pass to Toby Winters to cut the deficit to 26-14 less than six minutes into the third quarter.
Washington State answered on its next drive as Gesser ran in from 15 yards to make it 32-14. Tippins added a 14-yard TD run with 86 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Tippins carried 24 times for 100 yards as the Cougars amassed 217 yards on the ground while throwing for 436.
Thomas hooked up with Scott Turnquist for a 47-yard scoring pass 3:37 into the fourth.
Backup Matt Kegal capped a 73-yard drive with a two-yard toss to Bush to push the bulge to 46-21 with just under nine minutes to go. Freshman Jimmy Wilson had a one-yard run for Washington State's final TD with 5:31 left.
Bryan Molen returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards to complete the scoring.