CRAZY FINISH — CSU scores 18 points in the last three minutes, and stuns the Cougars, 48-45. Some bad clock management and worse execution by WSU.
LESS THAN 3 MINUTES LEFT, WSU TRYING TO RUN THE CLOCK OUT — WSU on top, 45-37, with the ball, 2nd and 8 at its 20.
HANG-ON TIME FOR WSU — Cougars have just scored on Connor Halliday’s 22-yard strike on a post pass to Isiah Myers and have a 45-30 lead with 9:35 left. Problem is, they’ve shown little proclivity for stopping the Rams. A defensive stand right about now would be huge. Cougars converted a big third down to Gabe Marks on the drive to the CSU 42, and then a fourth-down-and-three pass to Kristoff Williams for 15 yards to the CSU 20.
WSU WAVERING — With a chance on two consecutive drives to create some breathing room on an eight-point lead, WSU misfires. On the first one, the Cougars had the ball at the CSU 20 with second-and-four, but Connor Halliday took consecutive sacks to take WSU out of field-goal range.
BIG PLAY FOR CSU — Just after the Cougars seemed to reassert themselves with a field goal and a 15-point lead, CSU back Kapri Bibbs broke through a hole on the right side and outlegged cornerback Damante Horton all the way to the end zone, pulling the Rams within 38-30. Not a good day for the WSU defense, which has now surrendered close to 400 yards, and there’s a long way to go.
COUGARS, 38-23 — With 10:43 left in the third quarter, Andrew Furney toed a 33-yard field goal to put the Cougars up, 38-23. It came after a stop of the Rams on their first series of the half, punctuated by a CSU chop-block penalty that left Junior Gauta limping off the field.
AT HALF, WSU, 35-23 — Some bad clock management by WSU near the end of the half cost the Cougars, who, leading 35-13, allowed a drive by CSU to score with just 59 seconds left. The Cougars tried to move the ball — good idea — but then Connor Halliday took a sack back to his 10, which would have been a good time to try to run some clock. Instead, WSU punted, Wes Concepcion barely getting the thing off from his end zone, and with possession at the WSU 40 and 30 seconds left, CSU moved for a field goal as time ran out. The Rams get the second-half kickoff, and that figures to be a big possession.
WSU ROLLING — After a short CSU punt and good return by Leon Brooks, the Cougars just struck again on a three-yard TD pass from Connor Halliday to slot Rickey Galvin, giving them a 35-13 lead with 2:48 remaining. Now it becomes pivotal that CSU answer with something before halftime. The Rams will get the second-half kickoff. This makes five touchdown passes for Halliday, which is already a New Mexico Bowl record.
COUGARS BUMP LEAD TO 28-13 — A 28-yard seam pass from Connor Halliday to Vince Mayle, who got behind cornerback Tyree Simmons, gave WSU a 15-point lead with 6:52 left in the half. It came after the momentum had been swinging toward CSU, but Rams quarterback Garrett Grayson threw a bad pass that Deone Bucannon picked off in his last college game and returned to the CSU 27.
CSU CUTS DEFICIT TO 21-13 — After a 19-play drive, the Rams get a 19-yard Jared Roberts field goal to get within eight.
FIRST QUARTER ENDS — WSU leads 21-10, but the Cougars have hardly stopped the Rams, and CSU is on the move right now, with a first down at the WSU 43. The Rams just had a fourth-down conversion with two feet to go, the second time they’ve converted on fourth down.
HOPE YOU PLAYED THE ‘OVER’ — A crazy first quarter continues, with Washington State upping its lead to 21-7 on a 28-yard pass from Connor Halliday to Theron West — after CSU defensive end Eli Edwards was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for trash-talking to Hallidayon the heels of a sack. West is something of a revelation, a guy who didn’t play a whole lot this year, but started the game in a two-back formation with Marcus Mason. And there’s been some give-and-take between Halliday and the CSU sideline, as there was a spirited exchange earlier caught on TV after Halliday threw his first TD pass.
RAMS STRIKE BACK: After converting a fourth-and-a-foot situation on its 33, CSU halved a 14-0 deficit with a 63-yard Garrett Grayson-to-Charles Lovett pass. Lovett got well behind WSU corner Nolan Washington.
DISASTROUS START FOR CSU: Cougars lead it 14-0 with 11:17 left in the first quarter. Rams have had a reception stripped for a turnover, had a punt blocked and four penalties. Not the way they scripted it, for sure. Connor Halliday’s one-yard slant pass to Gabe Marks put the Cougars up by two touchdowns.
WILD START: Two turnovers in the first 40 seconds, the second takeaway by the Cougars’ Nolan Washington on a strip of Rashard Higgins that set up WSU at the CSU 44. Then Connor Halliday threw a 25-yard TD pass to freshman River Cracraft for a 7-0 lead at the 12:32 mark.
WSU WINS THE TOSS, RECEIVES: Cougars will be going into the breeze, south to north.
HEAD-SPINNING MORNING/AFTERNOON FOR INLAND EMPIRE FANS: Not like there aren’t a few things at mid-day to capture the attention of sports fans east of the mountains (and for many, west of them as well). There’s the New Mexico Bowl, and at the same time, the Eastern Washington-Towson FCS playoff semifinal. At 12:30 p.m. (PST), there’s the Gonzaga men against Kansas State in Wichita, and the GU women are visiting the Washington State women, which starts an hour before the men’s hoops game. Keep the clicker at the ready.
Hey folks … kickoff for the New Mexico Bowl between WSU and Colorado State is less than an hour away. It’s supposed to be about 41 degrees at kickoff with a high later of 44. There were predictions of showers, but so far, the morning has been partly sunny (though as I speak, it’s mostly cloudy).
There is a pretty good breeze that I’d estimate at 10 miles an hour, and if anything’s going to affect play, it could be that. Given the altitude and the north-to-south breeze (guessing that’ll be left to right as you watch the game), it’s possible there could be some booming field goals attempted. That would no doubt please two very good kickers, Colorado State’s Jared Roberts and WSU’s Andrew Furney.
The chilly temperatures shouldn’t be of much concern to either team. These have to be two of the more acclimated teams in the country to cold weather.