TURNING POINT: Cougs' hopes punted away late

SEATTLE – On a night of ups and downs, at times it seemed that Washington State would have no problem blowing through Rutgers’ defense – and at others, that its own defense would be unable to make the necessary stops. In the end, it was a series of late miscues that cost the Cougars a season-opening victory as they fell 41-38 to the Scarlet Knights at CenturyLink Field.

Washington State appeared poised to take control with a four-point lead midway through the fourth quarter — and the ball. But that was thwarted when River Cracraft fumbled the punt return at midfield, which was recovered by Anthony Cioffi. That set up the go-ahead touchdown and Rutgers’ victory.

While the Cougars struggled to contain the Scarlet Knights’ running game, they also produced several important stops:

  • Immediately following a failed fourth-down conversion at Rutgers’ 5-yard line, linebacker Tana Pritchard intercepted Gary Nova and returned it 9 yards to Rutgers’ 2-yard line. That play set up an Erik Powell field goal that reduced the Cougars’ deficit to 7-3 in the first quarter.

  • Pritchard stopped Paul James for no gain on third-and-1 at Rutgers’ 39. The Scarlet Knights then attempted to go for it on fourth down, but a lineman was called for a false start.

  • Ivan McLennan and Xavier Cooper sacked Nova on third-and-6 at WSU’s 49 with just 36 seconds remaining in the first half.

  • Daquawn Brown’s coverage held up on third-and-2 from WSU’s 19, which forced Rutgers to kick a field goal to tie the game, 24-all, during the third quarter.

  • Pritchard tackled James for a 2-yard loss on second-and-goal at the WSU 5 to end the third quarter.

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