The Washington State Cougars picked up their first win of the 2012 season with a 24-20 win against Eastern Washington on Saturday.
The Cougar offense and defense had their moments and did just enough to pick up the first win of the Mike Leach era. While the win is great, it might come with an asterisk as Jeff Tuel left the game in the third quarter with a knee/leg injury. The extent of the injury is still unknown, but Tuel spent the fourth quarter sitting on the bench with ice on his knee.
WSU took a 24-14 lead into halftime thanks to a 60-yard field goal by Andrew Furney as time expired. It was the second longest field goal in school history, trailing only a 62-yarder by Jason Hanson. WSU got the scoring started with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Tuel to Myers, but Eastern came right back when Brandon Kaufman beat Nolan Washington for a 93-yard touchdown.
Carl Winston put the Cougars back up seven with a touchdown run, but EWU tied it once again. Washington State went up for good on Myers second touchdown. Neither team scored in the third quarter with Tuel going down on the second to last play of the quarter. Connor Halliday came on and looked rusty at times, throwing an interception and completing 5-of-11 passes for 71 yards. A couple of drops didn't help Halliday's cause although he still showed he as absolutely no fear by gunning the ball all over the field. He led WSU down to the one-yardline but Teondray Caldwell fumbled, keeping the Cougars off the scoreboard.
Eastern Washington then drove 99 yards for a touchdown, a drive aided by a few defensive penalties. WSU blocked the extra point to make the score 24-20. The Cougars recovered the onside kick and Leon Brooks appeared to have a long touchdown run on the first play, but it was brought back by a John Fullington holding penalty. WSU appeared to put the game away once more with a Marquess Wilson touchdown, but it was also called back due to a hold. That is becoming a theme, unfortunately.
WSU was forced to punt and EWU took over with 1:29 to play and converted a fourth down to move near mid field. They picked up a second fourth down and moved into WSU's territory but their hail mary fell incomplete and the Cougars squeaked by with the narrow 24-20 win.
Overall, it was a bit of a mixed bag for the Cougars despite the win. The defensive front seven looked good, even great at times but the Cougar defense still allowed too many big plays. Still, they were able to force a couple of turnovers and appeared to have less alignment issues than they did against BYU. Third downs were once again an issue although the defense was able to get off the field when it counted in the second half. After allowing just six points in the second half last week, the WSU defense again allowed six second half points against EWU.
Offensively, they looked much better than last week at times and actually started to run the ball with some success in the second half, but still lacked consistency and continued to shoot themselves in the foot with key penalties. This was a game WSU could have won going away if the offense hadn't sputtered. While they moved the ball, it's still not where it needs to be and the Cougars left a lot of points on the board.
The extent of Tuel's injury will obviously be a major story and determine where WSU goes from here. This was, without question, a very ugly win for WSU. An ugly win is still better than the alternative, I guess that is something.