2-Minute Drill: Eyes wide shut for Cougar D

BOTH DEFENSES came into Pullman on Saturday with issues aplenty. Arizona’s wrapped up and played well in coverage and out in space. Washington State's, on the other hand …

In the 59-37 loss, WSU actually tallied 543 yards of total offense to Arizona’s 451. But that wasn’t representative of either team’s defensive play. Not in the least.

It’s hard to tell on TV except when there are straight-on camera angle replays but it’s safe to say the Cougs didn’t have their eyes right much of the night.

When it was still a game, Arizona’s defense covered WSU receivers tightly. Arizona’s wideouts, meanwhile, freely operated out in plenty of space.

Perhaps most discouraging was what happened after WSU went down 38-16 in the early moments of the first half. On multiple occasions, once a WSU defender made contact, other Cougar defenders pulled up rather than playing to the whistle and/or getting in on the tackle.

Arizona’s game plan was to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands immediately and hit a variety of short passes. The yards after those completions doomed WSU’s chances.

Leading tacklers: Kache Palacio, 10; Jeremiah Allison, 8; Patrick Porter, 6; Darryl Monroe, 6; Beau Glover, 5.

Stat of the game that just didn’t fit: Take your pick. WSU lost by 22 points and yet had 33 first downs to Arizona’s 25. They gained nearly 100 yards more of total offense. The Cougs controlled the clock by a margin of 34:24 to 25:36.

The bye didn’t help: Washington State’s offense looked out of sync for the first quarter and part of the second. Arizona looked far more physical on both sides of the ball to start the game. WSU opened the proceedings with an uncharacteristic three-and-out and then missed multiple chances in punt coverage as Arizona took it all the way back. The Cougs converted on only 7-of-18 chances on third down.

Washington State’s defense had a few moments here and there, mostly against Arizona running plays, where they held Arizona to minimal gains. But those were dwarfed by the big plays they surrendered. Early in the third quarter, Arizona went from their own 23-yard line to WSU’s 26 on two plays, both simple runs up the middle. Arizona converted 7-of-13 third downs and was 1-for-1 on fourth down tries.

Arizona came in with significant red zone woes on offense but went 6-for-6 against WSU, with five TDs.

Bittersweet record: Connor Halliday set the all-time WSU program passing yards mark against Arizona, passing Alex Brink (10,913) early in the game. Unofficially, Halliday now has 11,268 career passing yards. Halliday, with four TD passes, now has 90 career TD throws.

Not a happy sideline: Daquawn Brown and the WSU secondary had a night to forget, (Safety Taylor Taliulu is pictured above but Brown, a second-year corner, was flagged for two pass interference calls and two personal fouls.) After the second personal foul late in the third quarter, Brown was pulled from the game and was reported by the radio broadcast team to be upset on the sideline.

WSU sideline reporter Jessamyn McIntyre also reported on the radio broadcast backup Luke Falk grabbed his helmet every time the Cougs got the ball down the final stretch, with Falk assumedly awaiting a call that never came to go in with the game out of reach. Halliday finished his night with a TD strike to Tyler Baker with 0:16 left on the clock.

When it was still a game: Early on, WSU running backs gained good yardage on the ground. But WSU’s is a passing offense and by halftime, with WSU trailing 31-16, Cougar running backs had eight carries to WSU’s 37 pass attempts.

Jamal Morrow finished with 48 hashes on six carries (8.0) while Gerald Wicks had 17 yards on nine carries (1.9). Morrow was also the Cougs' second leading receiver, with 11 catches for 70 yards. Halliday was credited with minus-11 yards after being sacked four times.

Injuries: River Cracraft was injured in the first half, with the TV broadcast reporting a brace on his knee to start the second half. Cracraft came out after the first play on the Cougs’ first possession of the third quarter. Halliday looked to have come down wrong on something on his second-to-last TD pass but was no longer limping on the Cougs’ next possession.

Another special teams nightmare: In addition to the punt return for score, an onside kick (where WSU committed two penalties on the play) was taken back for a touchdown, WSU couldn’t recover another onside kick and WSU’s Quentin Breshears missed an extra point. WSU did force a fumble on an Arizona kickoff return that led to a WSU field goal but it was another week of special teams gaffes.

Player of the Game: Vince Mayle had a game-high 14 catches for 145 yards with 1 TD.

Play of the Game: Arizona returned a punt 81 yards where at least four Cougs had a shot at the tackle just 1:06 into the game, taking a 7-0 lead and they never looked back. Indeed, WSU didn’t score before Arizona had built a 31-0 lead early in the second quarter. WSU had a chance coming out of the locker room, down 18, but Arizona outscored WSU 21-0 in the third quarter. Up Next: WSU vs. USC, Saturday at 1:30 p.m.; Pac-12 Networks

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