Every so often in college football, a team finds itself down 21-0 in the first quarter. Most of the time, that team loses. The Washington State Cougars found themselves in that exact situation on Saturday night, but emerged victorious on the road with a 28-27 win over the Utah Utes.
It was Vince Mayle with the go-ahead touchdown with 4:58 remaining in the fourth quarter, taking a slant and going 81 yards for the score. But it was the Cougar defense that stepped up all night to keep WSU in the game as its offense slowly chipped away at Utah's lead.
That Utah lead was built in a flash, with an interception touchdown and a punt return touchdown, followed by a 76-yard scoring run from Devontae Booker put the Cougs in a three touchdown hole.
WSU seemed buried at that point, but the defense wouldn't allow another touchdown the rest of the way. Connor Halliday hit Dom Williams for a 35-yard touchdown on fourth down in the second quarter to give WSU life. That life seemed stamped out when Halliday threw a pick late in the second half, which Utah converted to a field goal for a 24-7 halftime lead.
But the defense. Have we mentioned the defense? It held in the third, giving WSU a chance to get the first score of the second half: And 11-yard improvisation from Halliday to Mayle.
The Cougs still faced a 24-14 deficit at that point. The defense continued to hold, but another opportunity looked squandered when Halliday lost the hold on a screen pass, fumbling it to Utah. The Utes could only muster a field goal with a drive that started at WSU's 43 and the stage was set for a comeback.
Halliday and the offense was undaunted by the fumble, driving deep into Utah territory. The Cougs faced another fourth down when Halliday connected with Williams on a TD for a second time to bring WSU within a possession for the first time since the first quarter.
One drive later, Mayle struck with a big play. The defense held off not one, but two potential Utah winning drives in the final five minutes. WSU escaped Rice-Eccles with a win and a renewed outlook on the season.
Oh yeah, and River Cracraft was friggin' awesome. And Ivan McLennan was friggin' awesome.