Two-minute drill: Cougs dig deep to find win

DON'T STOP BELIEVING. That is the message that Washington State appeared to be conveying after rallying from trailing most of the game to beat Arizona 24-17 and keep their bowl hopes alive. Despite getting off to a strong start, the Cougars were rattled by 14 unanswered points by the Wildcats. But after more than two weeks off, they found the desire to dig deep and win.

TURNING POINT:
With Arizona leading 14-10 and momentum up for grabs on the first series of the third quarter, the Cougs forced a three-and-out. Arizona's punter mishandled the snap and Xavier Cooper pounced on the ball. It set up WSU's second touchdown six plays later as the Cougs retook the lead, 17-14.

DEFENSIVE PLAYS OF THE GAME:
It was not always pretty, but the Cougars only surrendered 395 yards of total offense.

  • While WSU could not get pressure on quarterback B.J. Denker during the final play of the game, the secondary covered well enough for the Cougars to force an incompletion.
  • Immediately after Connor Halliday threw an interception, linebacker Justin Sagote stripped Denker on the first play of the second quarter to give WSU possession at its own 40-yard line.

    OFFENSIVE PLAY OF THE GAME:
    With seemingly all day to throw the ball, Halliday finally found running back Teondray Caldwell down the left sideline for a 19-yard gain with 3:35 minutes remaining. That gave the Cougars a fresh set of downs at Arizona's 31.

    UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENTS:
    The Cougars were intent on running the ball against the Wildcats' 3-3-5 defense to open the game. WSU's early success on the ground helped it build a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. The Cougars finished with 101 yards on 27 carries.

    INTERESTING STAT:
    The Cougars won the turnover battle 2-1, including the botched punt (see below) that directly resulted in a touchdown. That was the difference in the game.

    MEANINGLESS STAT OF THE GAME:
    WSU converted seven times on third down, while the Wildcats were successful on six tries. Sometimes it is all about timing as the Cougars made the plays they needed down the stretch to secure the win.

    MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACKING:
    Give the Cougars' offensive line credit. They provided Halliday with solid protection – most of his sacks were the result of holding onto the ball too long – as he generally had plenty of time to throw and the running backs had room to run. Halliday's receivers also had a good game. Kristoff Williams and others were physical after catching passes as they broke several tackles. Four different receivers caught passes that went at least 23 yards. On the defensive side, coordinator Mike Breske seemed to challenge Denker by stacking the box. The plan mostly was effective. No team is going to shut Ka'Deem Carey down, but WSU was able to limit his effectiveness. Carey finished with 132 yards on 26 carries. But outside of the one run, he averaged roughly 4 yards per carry, well below his season average.

    SPECIAL TEAMS EDGE GOES TO …
    Senior Mike Bowlin had a horrible game. He had a 3-yard punt late in the first half that gave Arizona possession at its own 43. Fortunately for the Cougars, Jake Smith missed a 40-yard field goal to end the first half. Bowlin also sent his first two kickoffs in the second half out of bounds. Senior kicker Andrew Furney also missed a 46-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. But the Wildcats had their own problems. None were larger than the fumbled punt, which was recovered by defensive lineman Xavier Cooper at Arizona's 31. That play helped set up Halliday's 23-yard touchdown pass to River Cracraft that gave WSU a 17-14 lead with 11:17 minutes left in the third quarter. Smith also missed a 34-yard field goal that could have given the Wildcats the lead with 6:59 remaining in the game.

    UP NEXT
    WSU plays its final home game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday against Utah (TV: Pac-12 Networks).

    SCORING DRIVES:
    FIRST QUARTER:
    WSU 7-0
    7:10: Marcus Mason 17-yard run. Key plays: Pick one. The Cougars had positive yardage on all seven plays of their possession.
    WSU 10-0
    2:05: Andrew Furney 24 FG. Key plays: Facing a first-and-20 from their own 32-yard line, Connor Halliday found Vince Mayle for a 27-yard completion between a pair of defenders. On the ensuing play, Teondray Caldwell rushed for 16 yards. WSU later faced a third-and-7 at Arizona's 17. On that play, Halliday connected with River Cracraft for a 13-yard gain.
    WSU 10-7
    0:47: Ka'Deem Carey 30-yard run.
    SECOND QUARTER:
    ARIZ 14-10
    7:37: Carey 7-yard pass from B.J. Denker.
    THIRD QUARTER:
    WSU 17-14
    11:17: Cracraft 23-yard pass from Halliday. Key plays: Botched punt set up the Cougars at Arizona's 31. Mason also had a 7-yard run at fourth-and-1 from the Wildcats' 22.
    17-17
    6:36: Jake Smith 25 FG.
    FOURTH QUARTER:
    WSU 24-17
    2:15: Isiah Myers 25-yard pass from Halliday. Key play: Caldwell caught a 19-yard pass from Halliday down to the Wildcats' 31.

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