HALFTIME: Barrage of errors bury WSU early

BEHIND A SLEW of early errors, the Cougars quickly fell behind by three touchdowns in the first quarter and trail 24-7 at halftime.

After WSU forced the Utes to punt on their first drive, the Cougars committed a pair of critical errors that set up their opponent’s first touchdown. Senior punt returner Rickey Galvin first called for a fair catch at WSU’s 5-yard line when the ball likely would have rolled into the end zone for a touchback. On the next play, senior quarterback Connor Halliday forced a pass into coverage, which was intercepted by Eric Rowe and returned for a touchdown.

It was just the beginning of the Cougars’ parade of breakdowns.

After going three-and-out, WSU’s punt was returned 58 yards by Kaelin Clay. It was his fourth return — third via punt — for a touchdown this season. But it also was set up by a missed tackle, which enabled Clay to break left and outrace Cougars’ defenders who were no longer in their lanes.

The defense hasn't played badly and has certianly had their moments -- but missed tackles were still an issue during the first quarter as Utah extended its lead to 21-0 on a 76-yard run by one-time WSU signee Devontae Booker.

It appeared WSU would respond on its next drive as the offense picked up three first downs — the last on a 24-yard run by redshirt freshman Gerard Wicks — to the Utes’ 15. But Halliday threw a pair of incompletions before he found senior Isiah Myers for a 5-yard gain. WSU coach Mike Leach eschew a first quarter field-goal attempt and Halliday’s fourth-down pass fell short.

The Cougars’ offense, which struggled to find any kind of rhythm during the first quarter, built a 10-play drive on their third possession of the second quarter as the driving rains let up. Halliday twice found River Cracraft for crucial third-down conversions, but WSU still needed to convert a fourth-and-9 at the Utes’ 35 to sustain its drive. On that play, the best by the Cougs by far in the first half, Halliday eluded a pass rusher and found junior Dom Williams for a 35-yard touchdown to cut the Cougars’ deficit to 21-7 with 6 minutes, 54 seconds, remaining in the first half.

After Utah’s Andy Phillips missed a 46-yard field goal, WSU had another opportunity to gain momentum headed into the half, but Halliday never saw Gionni Paul and essentially gift wrapped an interception. That enabled Phillips another chance and he booted a 46-yard field goal to extend the Utes’ lead to 24-7 with five seconds left in the half.

Halliday completed 17 of 34 passes for 150 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions during the first half.

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