It was a game of firsts for the Washington State University football team and program as they battled SMU to a halftime 14-14 tie before ultimately succumbing to the Mustangs, 35-21, at Dallas on Saturday. With the loss, the Cougars fell to 1-2 overall on the year.
The Cougars began the game in a familiar position - down by a touchdown in the first quarter - after SMU marched down the field and - helped by a late hit penalty from freshman safety Deone Bucannon - scored the game's first touchdown. But with 54 seconds left in the first quarter, Wazzu, for the first time in two years, scored a touchdown in the first quarter.
Sophomore quarterback Jeff Tuel hit sophomore receiver Jared Karstetter with a four-yard touchdown pass to even the score. Wazzu was poised to take the lead in the second quarter when senior kicker Nico Grasu lined up for a 24-yard field goal attempt. Grasu kicked the ball through the uprights for what appeared to be a 10-7 Wazzu lead only to have Skylar Stormo called for a false start that nullified the points and Grasu then missed a 29-yard attempt. It would have been the first-ever second quarter lead for the Cougars over a Division I opponent since head coach Paul Wulff has been at the helm.
Instead, SMU responded with a 67-yard touchdown pass to take a 14-7 lead. But the lead was brief as Wazzu was the benefit of a controversial call after a Mujstang punt returner fumbled the ball into the end zone after appearing to be hit by a Wazzu player. A flag was thrown on the play but it was determined there was no foul on the play and the special teams touchdown stood - giving Wazzu and Wulff their first-ever halftime tie against a Division I opponent.
But then it fell apart for the Cougars as SMU came out of the halftime break and methodically scored the go-ahead touchdown. With nearly three minutes left in the quarter, the game-changing moment arrived when Tuel hit freshman receiver Marquess Wilson for a 40-yard pass and it appeared Wazzu was on their way to tying the score. But offensive lineman B.J. Guerra was called for holding on the play, negating the big gain. Tuel was sacked on the next two plays and then the Cougars were assessed a penalty and Tuel followed by throwing an incomplete pass. On the ensuing possession, the Mustangs scored another touchdown - assisted by a personal foul on Daniel Simmons.
In the fourth quarter, Wazzu failed on two fourth down conversion attempts in Mustang territory and SMU scored another touchdown with about two minutes left in the game. Tuel hit a 68-yard bomb to Wilson on the Cougars' next possession but Wazzu was unable to recover the onside kick and SMU ran out the remainder of time left in the game.
- It was the first time Wazzu has scored more than 20 points in a game against a Division I opponent since 2008.
- It was the first win for SMU over a Pac-10 opponent since 1974.