I'm still not quite sure how to process Saturday's game. In some ways, I'm not even sure WSU had any business coming within inches of winning it in regulation. The Cougars played a sloppy, turnover-filled game, yet still came inches from keeping their bowl hopes alive. A redshirt freshman quarterback played 45-plus minutes with a lacerated liver. And it all came down to a bang-bang play at the goalline in regulation.
Saturday's game was one that felt like it should come with an "Are you not entertained?" picture. It may not have been the best football in the world at times, but it was entertaining as all hell. Snow was falling, the field was covered throughout the second half, and Utah and WSU threw haymakers in a game that came down to the wire.
Even the officials, who were downright awful at times, added to the hilarity of it all. On two occasions, play was stopped to update the stadium on the status of the chains -- first to tell everyone the chains were broken; a second time to remind us the chains were still broken and in need of repair. This also happened:
After the jump, a wide array of notes and a few quotes.
- Just want to point out Halliday played with internal bleeding one more time.
- If you've been wondering where the trick plays have been, wonder no more. At the perfect time, in the perfect situation, offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy unleashed a reverse pass that was executed to, you guessed it, perfection. Former quarterback Kristoff Williams hit Bobby Ratliff in stride and the receiver did the rest, cutting back and scampering into the end zone.
- WSU knew the fake punt was coming. It was drilled all week, and the Cougars knew Utah would try some trickery on special teams. Thanks to a well-designed pick play, Adam Coerper was trying to run with a wide receiver. Blown coverage at the worst time.
- Chester S'ua had an excellent game, but his day will be remember for the next play from scrimmage after Ratliff's touchdown. S'ua had John White IV dead to rights in the hole, but didn't wrap up, allowing the Utah running back to scamper 56 yards into the end zone. Still, S'ua has a bright future, and showed well on Saturday overall.
- I don't know if WSU should've gone for a touchdown at the end of regulation. I'm not sure anyone knows. It's kind of a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. A field goal at home seems like the play, but then it's about a half yard from the win. On the other hand, Utah has a superb defensive line and WSU was working with a patchwork offensive line, and the Cougs don't run the ball well to begin with. Halliday could've kept it himself, but Halliday was also in a bad place physically. So I don't know. That's all I got. You could make an argument for either way, and you'd be right.
- I don't think Jared Karstetter could've scored. I know some wonder if Karstetter should've bolted for the end zone, but looking at it at the time, and now again on replay, there was no way he was outrunning the corner coming from behind. I just can't blame him for getting out and stopping the clock.
- Covered the non-replay here. Everyone -- players and coaches -- thought it should've been reviewed, but nobody was quite sure what the rules were.
- About those first two plays of overtime. The first was a wide-open wheel to Galvin, but the right side of the line collapsed and forced Halliday to rush his throw. If he hits Galvin, the play is going for a long time. Alas, the protection failed. The second play was a screen called the wrong way. It never had a chance, and Halliday had nowhere to throw the ball. I'm not sure it didn't get to the line of scrimmage -- it got close, in fact it hit the yard marker -- but oh well. As Karstetter said, "Whatever it was, third and 50, it's hard to win."
A few fun quotes
I think we made too many mistakes. Especially in the first half, our defense was playing so well. Offensively, we turn the ball over three times. The only thing I can think about right now is you get a chance to beat someone at the end of the game, they give you a shot, you got to beat them in this league. We didn't play well enough, I didn't think, to win. Then we get a shot, we fight back, do a great job and don't get it. You gotta win it at the end of the game when you get a shot.
Jared Karstetter on the game as a whole.
There's context to the following quote from Karstetter. Prior to being asked about Connor Halliday, Karstetter's mood seemed to be dejected and somewhat salty. He just wasn't the same guy I'd seen in the interview room for the last year. Then he's asked about Halliday's play, his face lights up and he raises his voice like an excited kid.
"He played great. For a young kid who got hit as much as he did, to stay poised. He was getting killed back there. He hung in there, he kept scrambling, he kept extending plays. He wasn't just throwing the ball away. He was trying to make plays. That was all you could ask for. That's what got us back into the game."
And we'll file this under "Why Alex Hoffman-Ellis is the best interview" part 245. He gave a wide-ranging interview, with serious and reflective moments about his time in Pullman, how he thought this class of seniors did and where the program was heading, which we'll cover later. He also gave us the quote of the week.
"Playing in falling snow today, heavily falling snow, was a first. It was cool. It was interesting. Having to come to the sideline on timeouts and having to brush the snow out of our cleats with that little, uh, I don't know, it looked like a little foot comb or whatever (laughter)"
The bowl hopes are out the window and the Apple Cup is, once again, the bowl game for the Cougars. The players know it, the coaches know it and the fans sure know it. But what might have been if the Cougars were able to punch it in at the end of regulation to win, despite the earlier mistakes in the game.