Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday entered Friday’s Apple Cup as the No. 3 passer in the nation, both in total passing yards and passing yards per game.
He left Husky Stadium having completed 32 of 59 passes for 282 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions — a performance below the expectations many had for what was expected to be a high-scoring affair.
It wasn’t, both because of Washington State’s strong defensive effort in the first half, and because of Washington’s containment of Halliday and the Cougars’ passing attack through most of the game.
When it was over — and the Huskies had secured their 27-17 victory — WSU had just 4.0 yards per play, and Halliday finished with an average of 4.8 yards per attempt.
“It kind of felt like they didn’t really know what to do,” said Washington sophomore cornerback Marcus Peters. “They didn’t know what to expect from us. Last year coming into the fourth quarter they put up 18 points and won the game. We stuck with the energy on defense and they came out a little bit flat on offense. So energy won.”
Halliday was also sacked five times, twice by Huskies defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha.
“The offensive line has wide splits, first of all, and they deep-set,” Kikaha said. “So (we ran) a lot of powers and counters. Not so much edge rushing because it just takes a lot longer to get there and they can just widen you out.”
Halliday was impressed.
“I think UW’s defense played really well,” said the fourth-year junior. “We had trouble running the ball in the third quarter. We dropped a few. I missed a few throws. We had protection trouble. Kind of go down the line, but credit to them. Their defense played real well.”
With the ball at UW’s 35-yard line and seven seconds remaining in the second quarter, WSU coach Mike Leach chose to run another play instead of bringing in Andrew Furney to attempt a 52-yard field goal.
But Halliday instead took a sack, and time expired without the Cougars scoring any points.
Asked about his thoughts on the play, in retrospect, Leach said: “I don’t have any retrospect.”
Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ touchdown catch was the 20th of his career, moving him into fourth place all-time at Washington. Jermaine Kearse (2008-10) and Reggie Williams (2001-03) are tied in second place with 22 touchdowns apiece and leader Mario Bailey scored 30 TDs over the 1988-91 season. ... Kikaha’s two sacks were his ninth and 10th of the season, tying him for sixth-best in UW single-season history. ... Travis Coons’ 48-yard field goal in the first half was the longest of his career. He also went 14 of 15 in field goals this season for a 93.3 percent completion rate. ... UW has outscored its opponents 177-65 in the third quarter this season.