BY Adam Lewis 07:20PM 11/29/2013

Cougars ask ‘what if’ after Apple Cup loss

The Cougars lamented a series of what-ifs that might have earned another Apple Cup upset. But the 10-3 halftime lead withered in a nine-minute Huskies’ blitz.

WSU QB Connor Halliday stayed poised for most of four quarters, but two fourth-quarter interceptions proved costly. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday offered a lost stare outside Husky Stadium’s visitors locker room. Shortly after, center Elliott Bosch, eyes bloodshot, did his best to push back tears.

WSU (6-6, 4-5 Pac-12) was a few plays from taking the Apple Cup for a second year in a row, a botch or two from guaranteeing itself a bowl berth. The snafus resonated in the moments after their 27-17 loss in the 106th version of the cross-state rivalry.

Questions remained.

What if, leading 10-3 with seven seconds remaining in the first half, holding one timeout, WSU coach Mike Leach let stud kicker Andrew Furney try a 52-yard field goal rather than call for a quick pass?

UW’s Hau’oli Kikaha busted through the line and sacked Halliday for a 10-yard loss. The half ended, and with it the chance to take a two-score lead.

“We were trying to throw a five-yard out to the right to get Furney in distance to kick a field goal,” Halliday said after going 32 of 59 for 282 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. “They dropped underneath that. We had 10 guys on the field. Rickey Galvin ran off the field so we were only playing with 10.”

What if, still up 10-3 after the offense sputtered near midfield on their opening drive of the second half, the Cougars, defending a third-and-five, snuffed out Bishop Sankey’s 40-yard screen pass?

WSU to that point was stout against UW’s run, and flummoxed Huskies senior quarterback Keith Price.

Cornerback Nolan Washington intercepted him early in the second quarter inside the WSU 10. Price fumbled near the end of the first quarter when WSU defensive end Xavier Cooper clobbered him in the backfield.

WSU responded with a 49-yard strike from Furney to knot it at three.

The Cougars zapped the energy from Husky Stadium with 4:25 left in the first half with a 13-play, 91-yard drive, highlighted when Halliday lobbed a perfect pass to Galvin for a 14-yard touchdown. The Cougars led 10-3.

The 71,753 in attendance didn’t regain the mojo until the screen to Sankey.

 “I thought that was pretty big,” Leach said of UW’s conversion on their first drive of the third quarter. “If we had kept them pinned back it was going to increase the pressure on them and certainly the tempo of the second half.”
They didn’t. The Huskies scored five plays later when Price found tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins for an 18-yard touchdown pass, tying it at 10.

WSU followed with a three-and-out, and the Huskies countered with an eight-play, 60-yard drive, capped with 5:16 left in the third quarter when Sankey took it through the right side from seven yards out.

The Huskies forced another punt, then added a 39-yard Travis Coons field goal late in the third to take a 20-10 lead.

“Their playmakers stepped up, to be honest,” WSU safety Deone Bucannon said afterward. “Bishop Sankey and Keith Price either made a decision going into the halftime that they were going to carry the team, or I don’t know what happened.”

A miscommunication between Halliday and Bosch was the meltdown’s apex. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, WSU marched inside the UW 40. On third-and-two, Halliday kept the ball in a read-option play and went down for a one-yard loss.

He came up screaming at Bosch, his college roommate, hands gesturing wildly. Attempting to make it up on fourth down, Halliday was flustered. The ball slipped out of his hands when he tried to hit a crossing route, and fell incomplete.

“It was just a miscommunication on snap count,” Bosch said. “It happens at times. It was noisy and everyone was excited. There were some emotions, which is fine.”

But the Cougars weren’t done.

After forcing a UW punt, WSU again moved inside the Huskies 40, then faced a 4th and 15.

Halliday floated a 22-yard completion to Dom Williams, who took the brunt of a helmet-first hit from UW linebacker John Timu. The conversion and a 15-yard targeting penalty took WSU down to the UW eight. Halliday struck two plays later by finding Williams again, this time from five yards out.

Trailing 20-17, the Cougars had one more chance with a bit more than five minutes left, but UW cornerback Gregory Ducre picked Halliday at the WSU 28. Halliday intended to throw it at WR Isiah Myers’ back shoulder, but the pair didn’t make eye contact, and Myers didn’t look back.

Another miscommunication. Another “what if.”

Price finished UW’s last drive with a two-yard TD keeper to seal the final score.

Leach was not in a mood to reflect.

“I don’t have any retrospect,” Leach said.

He is most likely alone.


YourThoughts

  • Nathanjr

    That would be a shoulder-first hit from LB John Timu.

  • Kage McClued

    What if…. frogs had wings?

    They wouldn’t bump their butts every time they jumped.

    Considering how the Cougs choked… once again… they’ve got no one 5to blame but themselves.

    • Adam Lewis

      What if your avatar didn’t look like a sergeant in the SS? Then maybe your comments would be taken seriously?

      • Kage McClued

        Well, I’m truly sorry that:

        1. Your Cougs stayed true to form and choked.

        2. That my Chain of Command picture, which is that of me as a serving US Army officer some years back, is the only thing you can utilize for a rejoinder.

        3. And that you are a fucking moron for comparing me to a Nazi.

        How it must suck to be you… but particularly today… now, can you get some medical attention to get that Husky boot out of your ass?

        • Shaun

          The author compares a reader to a Nazi? That can get you fired in a lot of companies. Not smart.

      • Bobby Hubbard

        Wow the author taking shots and a reader? Classy, you must be a POS cougar!

        • Shaun

          I can’t believe he wrote that!!

      • Shaun

        Honestly, they should fire you for that comment.

      • Emerald

        What if the Husky linebackers didn’t drop -2- pick six interceptions ?

        68-32-6

  • oldfan

    If we are playing “what ifs”….
    What if Pac 12 officials knew the rules? 6 refs huddle to discuss a call then change it when WSU coaches argue. Did they have to be schooled by a (bias) coach on what rule is? Were they intimidated or just incompetent? Or does it need further review?

  • RadioGuy

    That 40-yard run by Sankey was a game-changer. It kick-started the UW offense and got them moving the ball after WSU’s defense played well in the first half.

    It was interesting to watch how the two quarterbacks responded to the pressure in the second half: Price rose to it while Halliday wilted under it…you could see it in his eyes. BTW, Connor, NEVER yell at your O-liners like that. They’re the only thing standing between you and the ER. I’ve never forgotten a story an NFL player’s wife once told me while I was collecting for my P-I route about how her husband’s team had a hotshot young QB who ripped his O-liners (hubby was one of them) once too often…they opened the gates for the opponent’s D and the kid was taken off the field in sections.

  • Retrovivo

    What if? You mean as in, “What if the Mariners had real baseball ownership?” “What if Al Gore hadn’t caved in 2000?” “What if I’d bought Microsoft stock on March 13, 1986?” “What if we could take a mulligan for everything we ever screwed up in our lives?”
    Leach must be taking clock management lessons from Les Miles (who needed a true freshman QB to bail out LSU yesterday). He without retrospect is doomed repeat what if.

  • Watson
    • Kage McClued

      Let me welcome you to my legion of stalkers….

    • Guest

      Let me welcome you to my legion of stalkers… And typically anonymous as well.

    • Kage McClued

      Let me welcome you to my legion of stalkers…