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September 14, 2013

Halliday, defense dominant in home opener



PULLMAN, Wash. | After two weeks of questions surrounding Connor Halliday and his questionable play, the redshirt junior gunslinger quieted most of his critics on Saturday as he tossed five touchdowns, and Washington State rolled over Southern Utah 48-10 in their home opener.

It was a coming out party of sorts for a Cougars (2-1, 1-0 Pac-12) offense that scored over 40 points for the first time under second year head coach Mike Leach. Halliday, who threw for 383 yards on 32-of-41 passing, made quick and easy work on the Thunderbirds (2-1) and the defense failed to yield a point in the second half for the second consecutive game.

Damante Horton followed up his Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week award with yet another interception returned for a touchdown. This pick, too, came just before halftime as Thunderbirds quarterback Aaron Cantu overthrew his intended receiver and Horton returned it 72 yards to give the Cougars a 27-10 lead.

For the second time this season, WSU amassed over 400 yards of total offense, finishing with 464 yards and 410 coming via the air.

With a comfortable 38 point lead late in the fourth quarter, backup quarterback Austin Apodaca took over for Halliday and finished the game 3-of-7 for 27 yards. The redshirt freshman missed a few throws but moved the ball well on the final drive as the Cougars ran - mostly passed - the clock out.

But on this day, Halliday was the story.

The Cougars' starting quarterback jumpstarted the game with two straight scoring drives, completing 9-of-9 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns. He connected with Dominique Williams for two touchdowns, one of 43 yards and another for 55 yards, and completed passes to 10 different receivers.

His lone interception came in the second quarter as he tried to find Isiah Myers on a post, but miscommunication on the route resulted in a diving interception by SUU defensive back LeShaun Sims in the endzone.

D. Williams finished with three catches for 103 yards. River Cracraft added six receptions for 87 yards and Gabriel Marks snagged seven balls for 83 yards and a touchdown.

Also getting in on the action was junior college transfer Vincent Mayle, who grabbed his first career reception and tacked on a late touchdown from Halliday on a beautifully thrown fade route.

The running game, on the other hand, struggled to get going as the Cougars finished with 17 rushes for 57 yards. Teondray Caldwell led the way with six carries for 26 yards.

The defense continued their early season revival, yielding just 219 total yards and forcing three turnovers. Freshman cornerback Daquawn Brown picked up the first interception of his career and senior safety Deone Bucannon also joined the pick party.

Bucannon's interception came one play after Kache Palacio intercepted Cantu inside his own 20 yard line and rumbled in for a touchdown. However, Bucannon was called for holding on the play, negating the would-be touchdown.

The Cougars are off to a 2-1 start with a Homecoming matchup against Idaho next Saturday.

NOTES:

Cyrus Coen led all tacklers with 10 and Palacio added the team's only sack of the day. Bucannon had eight tackles, and Taylor Taliulu, Darryl Monroe and Tana Pritchard each added seven.

Andrew Furney connected on his two field goal attempts from 46 and 31 yards.




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