It wasn't pretty in the early going, but WSU hit its stride in the second quarter and never looked back, cruising past Southern Utah, 48-10, in the Cougars' home opener. They move to 2-1 on the season.
Connor Halliday put together his finest performance at the helm of the Air Raid, completing 32-of-41 passes (78 percent) for 383 yards and five touchdowns. The lone blemish was a first-half interception in the end zone in which he and Isiah Myers had some sort of miscommunication.
Other than that, Halliday was nearly flawless, spreading the ball around to nine different receivers. Dom Williams led the way, as 98 of his game-high 101 yards came on a pair of long touchdown receptions in which he burned a corner and Halliday dropped in a beautiful deep ball.
Southern Utah actually hung around for a little while in the first half, as the Thunderbirds found some success on the ground running right through the defensive line that had been so stout against Auburn and USC. They physicality that had been the hallmark of the first two games just wasn't there, and SUU actually was poised to head into the locker room down just 21-10.
That all changed when Damante Horton picked up his second pick-six in two weeks, taking an overthrow from SUU's Aaron Cantu back to the house. It was the second interception by Cantu, who had been efficient early by taking throws underneath but became wild when the Cougs started dialing up the pressure. WSU led 28-10 heading into the locker room.
A third interception late in the third quarter that also was taken back for a TD by Kache Palacio -- who made his first start at Buck linebacker in place of Destiny Vaeao -- was waved off on a questionable defensive holding call on Deone Bucannon, but Bucannon atoned by picking off the very next pass.
Although the Cougs had been in command up until that point, execution remained a struggle, as WSU settled for only a pair of Andrew Furney field goals to start the third quarter. Red zone execution, in particular, had not been good. But following Bucannon's interception, a nice screen to Myers took the Cougs down to the one-yard line before Halliday capped off the drive with a gorgeous fade to Gabe Marks in the corner of the end zone.
While Halliday had inconsistent moments -- particularly inside the 20 -- he calmed down and finished with a flourish. WSU tacked one on for good measure on the next series when Halliday found Vince Mayle on another fade from the two-yard line for his first WSU touchdown.
With the game firmly in hand, Mike Leach emptied the bench. Austin Apodaca saw his first action at WSU; he looked predictably jittery. He completed 3-of-7 passes for 27 yards, looking more comfortable in his third and final drive.
The Cougars take on Idaho next week for Homecoming.