WHILE THE FOCUS in the Cougars’ 59-21 thrashing of Portland State was an outstanding passing game starring Connor Halliday and Isiah Myers, the running game, virtually nonexistent in the first two games of the season, also made some strides that contributed to a school record 706 yards of total offense.
Granted, the gaudy numbers produced in the air – 630 yards between Halliday
and Luke Falk
, and a record tying seven touchdown passes – make it easy to dismiss the ground game as anything special.
Redshirt freshmen Gerard Wicks
and Jamal Morrow
combined for 88 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
But consider that the running backs produced just 139 total rushing and receiving yards – 14 percent of the Cougars’ total offense – in the losses to Rutgers and Nevada.
“During practice we put a point of emphasis on running the ball,” Morrow said during a postgame radio interview. “We knew we could do it.”
Morrow added that the players were basking in the feeling of victory.
“We knew we needed to come out here to get this ‘W’,” he said.
Coach Mike Leach
felt the running game “should’ve gone further” – but added that he saw some good things, too.
“I felt like we should have got more yards on the ground,” he said. “We were close to breaking some longer runs, which we didn’t.
“Of course the backs, a couple times, made some great runs that we didn’t block up very well. I thought we did a better job distributing the ball to them.”
Halliday was succinct in his thoughts on the win.
“We really needed to get a win,” he said. “And we did that. All the other stuff is extra.”
Halliday finished the game completing 41 of 62 passes for 544 yards and six touchdowns. It marked the fourth time in his career that he eclipsed 500 yards.
Halliday’s 544 passing yards are the second-most by an individual in a single NCAA game this season. The leader is Brandon Doughty of Western Kentucky, with 567. Halliday has two of the top three individual passing games in the NCAA this season, the other being his 516-yard effort against Rutgers.
Halliday’s six touchdown passes on the night give him 70 for his career, tied with Cougar great Jason Gesser for 13th in Pac-12 history and second in WSU history. It was Halliday’s second career six-touchdown game. Only Alex Brink (76) has more.
Myers’ 227 receiving yards are the second-most by an individual in a single game in the NCAA this season, behind Keevan Lucas of Tulsa, with 233.
Linebacker Cyrus Coen finished the game with a career-high 12 tackles.
Redshirt freshman Charleston White had his first career interception in the second quarter.
Washington State’s 33 first downs were the sixth-most in single-game history.
Washington State’s third touchdown of the game was a one play, 17-yard scoring pass from Halliday to Dom Williams. The last time the Cougars had a one-play scoring drive was Oct. 3, 2013, when Halliday connected with Vince Mayle on a 72-yard touchdown pass in a 44-22 win at California.
Portland State coach Nigel Burton said that he felt good about defending the Cougars’ passing attack until the end when “we just blew some very simple stuff.”
“Other than that, [Isiah Myers] made a great play on a fade and I don’t know how much better position Aaron Sibley can be in. I told him, ‘Every now and again a guy is going to make a play.’”