Washington State’s bowl drought stretched to nine seasons after the Cougars solidified their five-year run as a Pac-12 doormat, falling 49-6 to Utah Saturday afternoon in Salt Lake City.
Those seeking reasons for the Cougars’ sixth consecutive defeat needn’t look past Mike Leach’s horrific offensive line. Fresh off surrendering 10 sacks in a loss to Stanford, the pass protectors looked over-matched when they weren’t blowing schemes.
Their performance crushed what little chance WSU (2-7, 0-6 Pac-12) had of upsetting a Utes team (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) trending in the opposite direction.
“If five of our guys went into an alley and fought two of theirs, we would get massacred,” Leach said after his offensive line gave up five first-half sacks.
WSU did manage to avoid being shut out after quarterback Jeff Tuel found Kristoff Williams for a five-yard touchdown pass on the final play of regulation.
Chalk up the play as the only thing that went right for the Cougars during a game that was over by halftime.
Tuel racked up 232 yards on 23-of-45 passing and only one interception. The Cougars rushed the ball just 13 times, amassing -4 yards. Utah, meanwhile, carved through what many analysts pegged as a formidable Cougars front seven. Kyle Whittingham’s squad ran 43 times for 205 yards.
That number could have been doubled had John White IV (18 rushes, 101 yards, two TD’s) played the entire game.
A promising first series stalled inside Utah’s 40-yard line when Tuel couldn’t connect with Marquess Wilson on fourth-and-12.
Matters worsened for WSU from there.
After forcing a three-and-out, the defense began a puzzling stretch of ineptitude. White began the onslaught with a 47-yard touchdown run to give Utah a 7-0 lead.
The Cougars offense — held to a paltry 255 yards of offense — stalled again on the next drive after picking up a single first down. The Utes responded with an eight-play, 69-yard drive highlighted by a 24-yard completion from freshman quarterback Travis Wilson to Anthony Denham on third-and-19. A personal foul penalty from Casey Locker tacked on an additional 15 yards, pushing Utah into WSU territory. Wilson hit Max Moala six plays later for a five-yard touchdown to give the Utes a 14-0 lead.
The Utes added a pair of touchdowns and a field goal in the second quarter while Wilson, Utah’s third-string quarterback, torched a WSU defense that looked impressive in a 24-17 defeat to Stanford last week. Wilson finished 17-of-21 for 171 yards, two touchdowns and a meaningless interception.
It was 31-0 by halftime.
WSU fans still watching after intermission were treated to a 100-yard kickoff return by Utah’s Reggie Dunn to start the second half. Whittingham followed the score with his best Jim Harbaugh impersonation, going for and converting a two-point conversion to give the Utes an insurmountable 39-0 lead.
Leach didn’t appear at his post-game radio interview for the first time this season.
The Cougars play in Pullman for this first time in nearly a month Saturday against UCLA.