Two-minute drill: Cougars 48, Thunderbirds 10

AFTER TWO WEEKS of coming down to the final minutes, WSU essentially secured its 48-10 win against Southern Utah during the first half of Saturday's home opener. The Cougars capitalized on three interceptions and shut out the Thunderbirds in the second half. The prolific offense was key in producing the largest margin of victory in Mike Leach's two seasons.

TURNING POINT: SU (2-1) signal-caller Aaron Cantu was having little difficulty moving the ball as his team trailed by just four points late in the second quarter approaching midfield. That is when true freshman Daquawn Brown intercepted Cantu, who looked nearly flawless to that point. WSU (2-1) translated the turnover into points when junior quarterback Connor Halliday found sophomore wide receiver Dominique Williams for a 45-yard touchdown pass.

DEFENSIVE PLAYS OF THE GAME: Senior cornerback Damante Horton appears to be securing this spot on a weekly basis. For a second straight week, Horton returned an interception for a touchdown late in the first half. Last week, it was the Cougars' only touchdown in a 10-7 win at No. 25 USC. This time, it gave WSU a comfortable 28-10 halftime lead when he returned Cantu's interception 72 yards for a touchdown with 38 seconds left in the first half.

OFFENSIVE PLAY OF THE GAME: The Cougars had little difficulty moving the ball during the first quarter, but became stagnant during the second period and looked like they might waste Brown's interception. But on third-and-18, Halliday found Williams for a touchdown. An honorable mention goes to the fourth-and-2 play call in the second quarter where Halliday dumped the ball to physical wide receiver Kristoff Williams on a fly sweep. But three plays later, Halliday was intercepted by Leshaun Sims.

UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENT: Behind Marcus Mason, WSU finally appeared to have established a legitimate running game in its 31-24 season-opening loss, amassing 120 yards at Auburn. But Saturday's game harkened back to recent years or even the "(Frank) Madu for 2" era nearly two decades ago as the Cougars finished with just 54 yards on 17 carries.

INTERESTING STAT: Playing a Football Championship Subdivision opponent has not resulted in major progress in the passing game in recent years. During a 24-20 win last year against Eastern Washington, the Cougars had 247 passing yards. And three years ago, WSU had just 204 passing yards in a 23-22 come-from-behind win versus Montana State. The passing game remained a concern as the Cougars entered the game near the bottom of the Pac-12 in that stat. That was before Halliday completed 32 of 41 passes for 383 yards, five touchdowns and an interception.

MEANINGLESS STAT OF THE GAME: The time-of-possession column was dominated by SUU. It could not have been less relevant as three touchdowns were a direct result of Thunderbirds interceptions.

MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACKING: SUU seemed content to dink-and-dunk the Cougars during the first half with some success. But when Cantu tried to challenge WSU's secondary, the Cougars made him regret it as Brown, Horton and Deone Bucannon all came up with interceptions. One criticism might be the play of WSU's linebackers. Leach has gone out of his way to praise both the defensive line and secondary during his weekly teleconferences, and both units again played well Saturday. But SUU, particularly during the first half, made a point of attacking the Cougars' linebackers in the passing game. And, outside of BUCK Kache Palacio and Cyrus Coen, who had 10 tackles, it is difficult to recall that unit making too many big plays.

CF.C Associate Editor Chris Chancellor contributed to this report.

BOX SCORE:
FIRST QUARTER:
WSU 7-0
13:03: Dominique Williams 43-yard pass from Connor Halliday, capping a x-play, 80-yard drive. Key plays: Along with the touchdown pass, the game-opening drive started with a 17-yard completion from Halliday to true freshman River Cracraft.

WSU 7-3
6:02: Colton Cook 40-yard field goal. Key plays: Aaron Cantu found Chandler Allphin for a 16-yard completion on third-and-4 and Raysean Martin also had a successful third-down run.

WSU 14-3
xxx: Isiah Myers 10-yard touchdown pass from Halliday (Furney kick). Key play: Halliday found sophomore Gabe Marks for a 30-yard completion down to the Thunderbirds' 12-yard line.

SECOND QUARTER:
WSU 14-10
10:55: Raysean Martin 3-yard run (Cook kick). Key play: Thunderbirds start with possession at the Cougars' 29 after WSU's drive stalls at its own 3.

WSU 21-10
4:22: Dominique Williams 55-yard touchdown reception from Halliday (Furney kick). Key plays: Cornerback Daquawn Brown intercepted Cantu at SUU's 47. The touchdown pass came on third-and-18.

WSU 28-10
0:38: Senior cornerback Damante Horton returns a Cantu interception 72 yards for a touchdown (Furney kick).

THIRD QUARTER:
WSU 31-10
8:38: Furney 46-yard field goal. Key play: Kristoff Williams' third-down conversion initially resulted in a fumble turnover. But upon review, it was determined Williams stepped out of bounds before the fumble for a 16-yard gain. Later in the drive, Bobby Ratliff secured his first reception with a 19-yard gain that helped put the Cougars into field-goal range.

WSU 34-10
4:20: Furney 31-yard field goal. Key play: Leon Brooks returns punt 25 yards to SUU's 38.

WSU 41-10
2:53: Gabe Marks 1-yard touchdown pass from Halliday. Key plays: Cantu was intercepted by senior safety Deone Bucannon, who returned it 23 yards to the Thunderbirds' 18. Halliday then completed a 17-yard pass to Myers.

FOURTH QUARTER:
WSU 48-10
11:07: Vince Mayle 3-yard touchdown pass from Halliday. Key plays: Cracraft had a 21-yard reception on third down and Marks later followed with a 17-yard gain on fourth down.


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