There hasn't been a lot written here about the Apple Cup in the week since the game. That's partially because our attention quickly shifted to bowl scenarios, partially because Washington doesn't even have the same coach and partially because it isn't very fun writing about a loss. I still don't have much of a desire to write about that game, but there is just one thing I can't get over.
WSU's failed drive at the end of the first half.
While the Cougars missed a handful of opportunities in the game, none were more obvious than not coming away with points before halftime. It appeared WSU was in position to increase its lead, but a few mistakes on the field and on the sidelines later and those hopes were dashed. So, what wen't wrong? Let's take a closer look at the 10-play drive to find out.
After Leon Brooks called for a fair catch, WSU began the drive at its own 18-yard line with 2:55 to play and one timeout remaining up 10-3. The time you see listed in the plays below is when the ball was snapped.
1-10, WSU 18, 2:55 - Connor Halliday pass incomplete to Jeremiah Laufasa
The Cougars began the drive in 20 personnel with Laufasa motioning out of the backfield on the snap. Halliday had plenty of time to throw and appeared to go through his progression before scrambling out of the pocket and to his right. He then threw a dirt ball across his body at the feet of Laufasa. It's a good thing the throw was very good, because Laufasa was well covered and the ball likely would have been intercepted. The ball clearly hit the ground at 2:48 or 2:47, but the clock stopped at 2:45.
2-10, WSU 18, 2:45 - Halliday pass complete to Vince Mayle for 13 yards to WSU 31
Mayle starts in motion then continues across the formation at the snap. Halliday hits him with a quick screen pass. Gabe Marks throws a solid block and Mayle makes his way upfield and out of bounds. First down WSU.
1-10, WSU 31, 2:17 - Halliday pass complete to Mayle for 8 yards to WSU 39
With more than two minutes to play in the first half, the clock starts running when the ball is set. Halliday wants things faster from the sideline and waves his arms to motion for the tempo to hurry up. The clock runs from 2:39 to 2:17 by the time WSU snaps the ball. Halliday again throws quick to Mayle who gets up field for a solid gain.
2-2, WSU 38, 1:50 - Marcus Mason rushes for 5 yards to WSU 44
Mayle goes down with 2:10 to play and WSU again takes 20 seconds to snap the ball. There is plenty of clock to work with and the Cougars still have a timeout at this point, so not a huge deal ... yet. Mason makes a nice run inside, maximizing what was blocked and picks up the first down. The clock stops at 1:45.
1-10, WSU 44, 1:28 - Halliday pass complete to Kristoff Williams for 20 yards to UW 36
WSU continues to take its time, but Halliday connects on a big play to Kristoff Williams. Perfectly thrown ball and Williams did a great job of taking a big hit and still managing to get out of bounds to stop the clock at 1:21. The Cougars appear to be in business.
1-10, UW 36, 1:21 - Halliday pass incomplete on a throwaway
Halliday initially had some time to throw, but the pocket collapsed. He moved to his right and then threw the ball out of bounds.
2-10, UW 36, 1:14 - Halliday rush for 11 yards to UW 25
Halliday fakes the handoff to Mason, but pulls it back and runs off left tackle for a nice pickup. He dove forward to pick up the first down and stop the clock at 1:09. WSU lined up quickly and Halliday was going through his checks at the line before the official blew his whistle for review with 53 seconds remaining.
1-10, UW 25, 0:38 - Halliday pass incomplete to Dom Williams
The ruling on the field is confirmed and the Cougars are lined up and ready to go. Halliday, however doesn't like something he sees so he calls for a check. The clock continues to run with WSU snapping the ball with 38 seconds to play. With the review playing a big part, 30 seconds ran off the clock between the time Halliday finished his run to the time WSU snapped the next play.
I don't know what you can do differently to change anything, other than the official resetting the clock to 1:09 after the review. The clock was stopped on the first down, only to run for 15 seconds before being stopped again on review. There isn't a rule for this, but it seems like inside of two minutes the game clock should be reset to avoid penalty for review. Or at least it shouldn't start running until the ball is snapped. That rule doesn't exist, so essentially WSU lost 15 seconds to confirm a call, that appeared to be fairly obvious.
Halliday was flushed left out of the pocket on the play and threw one up to Dom Williams. He was well covered and the ball went out of the back of the endzone.
2-10, UW 25, 0:29 - Halliday pass complete to Teondray Caldwell for 6 yards to UW 19. Matt Goetz flagged for an illegal block, negating the play
This is the big one. Had the play stood, WSU is almost within chip shot range for Andrew Furney. Instead, the net result is a loss of 16 yards and the time it took to run the play. The clock was stopped at 23 seconds.
2-20, UW 35, 0:23 - Halliday rush for no gain to UW 35
Elliott Bosch snaps the ball with 17 seconds to play. Halliday wants something quick to his left, but it isn't open. He pumps before running to his right. At this point, he just needs to throw the ball away. He begins to scramble with 13 seconds on the clock. Watching the clock and watching him run, it looks like he's running in quicksand. He appears to step out of bounds with nine seconds to play, but another two seconds tick off. Trying to make too much happen cost WSU at least four seconds, four very valuable seconds.
3-20, UW 35, 0:07 - Halliday sacked for loss of 10 yards to UW 45
The debate here is whether WSU should have just attempted a field goal instead. With a timeout remaining, there was time to hit something quick and still stop the clock with a second or two. The field goal from the original spot is 53 yards. Those aren't good odds for WSU, even with Furney. I don't know that the odds improve enough on a 49 yard kick for it to be worth the risk, but Mike Leach obviously thought it was.
It looked like Halliday wanted to hit a quick out to River Cracraft, but a Washington linebacker was all over it and probably would have cut the route and taken it to the house if Halliday threw it. He pulled it down and tried to scramble before being sacked with two seconds left on the clock. I'm a little surprised WSU didn't get a timeout with a second to play to at least attempt a hail mary, but the clock probably hit zeros before an official could whistle it dead.
End of half
WSU had a 1st-and-10 at the UW 25-yard line with the clock stopped on a first down and 1:09 to play. The Cougars then proceeded to lose 20 yards while watching the clock tick all the way down. In perfect hindsight, the best move would have been to call a timeout after Halliday's run. The clock would have remained at 1:09 through the review, instead of WSU losing 30 seconds between plays.
That, however, wouldn't have made very much sense, especially with it being the only timeout remaining. WSU wanted to hit something quick on the final two plays of the half, but the Huskies covered well. There wasn't a lot WSU did "wrong" during the final drive. They moved with good tempo for the most part, but got hurt by a penalty and some lost time on a review. Halliday also extended a couple plays longer than he probably shouldn't have.
The other option, of course, would have been to just kick the field goal. Furney had hit from 49 earlier in the game and is 4-of-7 in his career from 50+. If you want to find one mistake, it was probably Halliday scrambling at the end. Cracraft was covered, but that ball should have gone out of bounds or at Cracraft's feet in that situation. You're still likely to have a second or two left and can then attempt the long kick.
Regardless, it's impossible to say not coming away with points cost WSU the game. I saw some fans on Twitter who said the score would have been 20-20 in the fourth quarter. It's not that simple. There is a butterfly effect from that kick. If he makes it, who knows what happens in the second half. Maybe Washington gets more aggressive and goes up 24-13, instead of 20-10. Maybe the kick is blocked and UW returns it for a score to make it 10-10 at halftime.
Maybe next time WSU will get the plays in a little quicker, or the execution will be a little cleaner. We'll see. Either way I still think it's stupid a review can cost a team 20 crucial seconds inside of two minutes.