Two Minute Drill: Rutgers 41, WSU 38

THE SEASON OPENER for Washington State was a nervous affair from start to finish. Fingernails must have littered floors around the country, and beneath fans’ chairs at CenturyLink Field, too, if they showed up to watch. Indeed, the game that unfurled in Seattle on Thursday night was an uneasy one and in the end, Rutgers running back Paul James made his job look easy against a helpless WSU defense.

CF.C’s Player of the Game: The player-of-the-game honors go to quarterback Connor Halliday, who did everything he could in order to keep the Cougs in the thick of what turned out to be an offensive shootout. Halliday fired plenty of passes on the night, completing 40 of his 56 attempts, en route to 532 passing yards and five touchdown tosses. He only threw one interception on WSU’s first drive of the game. Halliday settled down after that and proceeded to put up video-game numbers by the end of the night. His final pass was on target too but a Rutgers defender made a nice play to jar it loose out of River Cracraft's hands, (pictured above.)

Normally CF.C will also choose a defensive player of the game but no player on defense distinguished himself enough, though Mitch Peterson came close with 16 tackles. Alas, those 16 stops mostly came after Rutgers had already gained significant yardage.

Biggest surprises for the Cougars: Teondray Caldwell played most of the game for the Cougars alongside Taylor Taliulu at safety, though Mike Leach had said to expect two safeties besides Taliulu to play against Rutgers. That did happen, but only because Caldwell left during the fourth quarter due to injury and Darius Lemora came in.

A mild surprise the offensive line bent but it did not break against Rutgers. Halliday was sacked a total of three times on the night, and Riley Sorenson was called for holding once, but the offensive line settled down nicely after a rough start. For the most part, Halliday had lots of time to throw and although his footwork didn’t always look textbook, that did not seem to be a product of the offensive line and you can’t argue with Halliday’s numbers.

Eye-catching statistics of the night:
  • Rutgers ran roughshod over the Cougar D to the tune of 215 yards in the game. By comparison, the Cougars only mustered six yards on the ground, and Cougar running backs only had nine carries combined. Granted, college football stats include the quarterback’s negative yards from sacks, but Halliday only had minus-16 yards in the game. Needless to say, Rutgers won the battle in the running game.

  • However, the passing game was also lopsided but this time, the scales tipped well in the Cougars’ favor. Halliday’s 532 yards matched up against Gary Nova’s 281 hashes.

  • Time of possession in the game didn’t look too interesting to the naked eye, but the running game of Rutgers took control multiple times during the game to give the Scarlet Knights the advantage. Halliday and the Cougars had over three minutes to score on their last drive, but turned it over on downs on a drive that started at the 24-yard line. Rutgers won the clock battle, 33:17 to 26:43.

  • The receivers reaped the benefits of Halliday’s barrage of passes. Five different targets surpassed 50 yards receiving in the game, and Vince Mayle went over the 120-yard mark. Four different receivers caught touchdown passes from Halliday, and 10 receivers had at least one catch in the game.

  • Cracraft was the second-leading receiver and turned in some key catches with eight grabs for 83 yards and one TD. Alas, much of that was forgotten with the fumbled punt that pretty much decided the game.

    Injuries: Teondray Caldwell started the game at strong safety opposite of Taylor Taliulu, and those two stayed in the game until the fourth quarter. Caldwell appeared to endure some cramping after assisting on a tackle, and he did not return to the game. Darius Lemora relieved Caldwell and played the rest of the game.

    Cyrus Coen did not play in the game against Rutgers. He was inactive in the practice before the game. Mitch Peterson took his place and racked up 14 tackles.

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