HALFTIME: WSU's Halliday leaves on stretcher

IT IS DIFFICULT to imagine a worse start for Washington State in coach Mike Leach’s three seasons. In addition to a 24-7 deficit at halftime against USC at Martin Stadium, starting quarterback Connor Halliday left the game via stretcher during the first quarter.

With the Cougars already trailing 14-0, Connor Halliday was hit by defensive end Leonard Williams on 14-yard third-down conversion to Vince Mayle. Halliday, who appeared to suffer a right leg or hip injury, was in writhing pain and was removed from the field with 8:36 left in the first quarter.

Halliday’s departure was just the latest blow in a horrific start. WSU forced the Trojans to punt on their opening drive, but the offense responded with a three-and-out. That set up what has become all too familiar — a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown by Nelson Agholor.

The errors continued on the Cougars’ next possession. On second-and-13 from his own 22, Halliday was intercepted by Hayes Pullard. He returned it 19 yards to WSU’s 19-yard line. Three plays later, Cody Kessler found Juju Smith for a 22-yard touchdown pass.

Without Halliday and sophomore River Cracraft, who was sidelined for undisclosed reasons, the offense had little success moving the ball as both quarterbacks were hugely hurt by dropped passes.

Desperate for offense and with Luke Falk apparently pleading to the sideline, Leach elected to go for it down 17-0 on fourth-and-2 from the Cougars’ 36. But Falk, who was 15-of-23 for 122 yards in the first half with one touchdown and an interception, threw into coverage and his pass fell incomplete. Two plays later, Kessler victimized true freshman Kevin Griffin with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Smith to extend USC’s lead to 24-0.

WSU scored with 1:33 left in the first half. Falk capped an 11-play, 81-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Robert Lewis.

Some positives for the Cougars during the first half included pressure on Cody Kessler, who completed 13 of 22 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns, and solid pass blocking by the offensive line. The Trojans outgained WSU 241-194 during the first half. Falk's interception in the first half came on the last play when he tossed a Hail Mary.

USC has also lost a star to injury, safety/linebacker Su’a Cravens came out at the end of the first half and was barely able to put any weight on his injured right leg.


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