WSU NOTEBOOK: Cougs 'get hit in the mouth'

WASHINGTON STATE COACHES expressed concern all week about the “Indy 500” tempo the Arizona Wildcats maintain when operating their multi-faceted offense. Sure enough, the Wildcats captured the checkered flag when Washington State’s young defense crashed and burned Saturday at Martin Stadium. The fact that a young, baby-faced Arizona quarterback did most of the damage made the pain that much worse.

A sellout crowd of 32,952 on Dad’s Weekend was eerily quiet right from the start, even before the Wildcats scored on an 81-yard punt return barely a minute into the game. The Cougars trailed 31-0 before mounting a brief rally in the second quarter of a 59-37 loss to the No. 15 Wildcats.

“At times we played really well,” WSU quarterback Connor Halliday said after he posted another record-breaking performance. “At times we didn’t have everybody playing as hard as we needed them to play.”

The win made Arizona (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) bowl eligible. The loss left the Cougars (2-6, 1-4) one loss away from their eighth consecutive losing season, and one loss away from missing out on a second straight bowl game.

“We came out of the week very intense,” Mike Leach said. “Everyone wanted to play well, and we played tight in the first quarter.

“In the second quarter, we played well. In the third quarter, basically they came out and hit us in the mouth.”

-- The Wildcats wrapped things up early by scoring all 21 points of the third quarter. The last of redshirt freshman Anu Solomon’s five touchdown passes – a 13-yard delivery to sophomore wide receiver Trey Griffey, son of former Seattle Mariners great Ken Griffey Jr. – pushed Arizona ahead 52-16 at the end of three quarters.

“We spent much of the third quarter reeling rather than reacting,” Leach said. “The maturity of Arizona’s offensive line showed against our defensive line.”

It did not help that the injury-riddled Cougars were forced to give true freshman cornerback Patrick Porter his first start. Porter struggled badly enough that the Cougars – eight games into the season – pulled the redshirt off true freshman Kevin Griffin and played him much of the way in Porter’s place.

-- Halliday, not always on the same page with his receivers, still made some gorgeous passes. He finished 56 for 79 for 489 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.

Leach, ever demanding with his quarterbacks, was not overly impressed.

“I think we went out there and tried to score 14 points every play,” he said. “We should have tried to focus a little more on just throwing a completion.

“We just have to focus on the job at hand and do a better job of that. We as coaches need to get them focused that direction. Everybody needs to work together and focus and embrace each individual play.”

Said Halliday: “I think it’s something that I battle – getting down a bunch and trying to make too much happen. I think I did an all right job of that tonight, though.” Halliday broke Alex Brink’s school record for career passing yards, climbing into fourth place all-time in the Pac-12 with 11,264 yards. His 90 career touchdown passes rank third.

-- WSU senior wide receiver Vince Mayle took little consolation in tying the school record of 14 catches in one game.

“We just need to come out and play physical like we should have,” Mayle said. “They just jumped on us. It’ll bring the team morale down, but we preach ‘play the next play.’ We really do not look at the scoreboard. We are playing the next play.”

“Offensively,” Leach said, “I thought we battled the whole game, but I thought we were explosive but erratic. And then some of the same on the other side of the ball.”

-- River Cracraft set the record of 14 receptions during WSU’s previous game Oct. 10 at Stanford. Cracraft, one of the nation’s leading receivers, sat out the second half Saturday after taking a hard hit in the second quarter.

Porter started for Charleston White, who was hurt in the Stanford game. Joining Porter as first-time starters were sophomores Peyton Pelluer at MIKE linebacker and Sam Flor at center. Regular MIKE starter Darryl Monroe did see action, but starting center Riley Sorenson was sidelined with an undisclosed injury.

Destiny Vaeao moved from defensive end to start at nose tackle for Toni Pole, who did play. Darryl Paulo started at end. Wide receiver-kick returner Rickey Galvin returned from the injured list.

-- The Cougars ran 99 plays to Arizona’s 74 and led in total yards 543-451, but Solomon passed for 294 yards, and Terris Jones-Grigsby ran for 107.

“I’m very proud of my team, how we came out today,” Solomon said.

NOTABLE:

-- In the first half, Washington State lost a touchdown on an illegal-formation penalty, wiped out a long kickoff return due to an illegal blocking scheme and missed an extra point. In the second half, an onside kick attempt resulted in the third touchdown on a kickoff return in WSU’s last three games.

-- WSU had lost five in a row to Arizona before winning last year in Tucson, but the Cougars have dropped their last four home games against the Wildcats.

-- The 59 points is a season high for Arizona. The Cougars gave up a season-high 60 points Oct. 4 in a one-point loss to California.

-- Rich Rodriguez, in his third season as Arizona's coach, improved to 22-11 overall and 11-11 in the Pac-12. Leach, in his third season as Washington State's coach, slipped to 11-22 overall and 6-17 in the Pac-12.

-- Halliday came into the day ranked first in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 3,344 passing yards, 28 touchdown passes, 292 pass completions and 438 pass attempts. -- WSU sold out for the second time this season. The Cougars' other sellout was the Oregon game on Sept. 20.

-- WSU wide receiver Tyler Baker, a redshirt junior walk on whose only college reception came earlier this season, had four catches for 24 yards and his first touchdown.

-- WSU junior linebacker Kache Palacio led the Cougars with a career-high 10 tackles.

-- Mayle, who had 145 receiving yards, tacked on 62 yards with his first three kickoff returns during his two seasons at WSU.

-- Wide receiver Isiah Myers, continuing to enjoy a fine senior season, caught six balls for 95 yards and two touchdowns for the Cougars.

-- Redshirt freshman running back Jamal Morrow gained 48 yards on six carries (an 8-yard average) and caught a season-high 11 passes for 70 yards.

-- The Cougars face No. 20 USC at home next Saturday (1:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).


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