To paraphrase rapper, dramatic television actor and guy who once wore a Cougar baseball jersey in a movie poster, Ice Cube: Yesterday was a good day.
While I often complain about staying up until all hours of the night to watch WSU football on the weekend, night games do offer the important benefit of allowing fans to have an entire day to do cool Saturday things that aren't football and still be able to come home (or go to a bar) and catch the Cougs.
So yesterday, I took full advantage of those non-Cougar football hours. I woke up early and made about a 45-minute drive to Mad River Glen Ski Area for a beer festival. I had missed the chance to buy tickets, but by volunteering (and signing up my wonderful girlfriend to volunteer) for the setup shift, I would be able to attend the festival for free.
That festival was the best beer festival I've ever attended and I still had time get dinner after before getting home 30 minutes before game time.
I was in a good mood as the Cougars and Utes started. I had a feeling for much of the week that WSU could go into Rice-Eccles and pull out the win. But my hopes and cheery mood were soon squashed. The Utes were up 21-0 before 10 minutes of game time had passed.
Then for a time the game was frustrating. Not because WSU was getting stomped, but because the Cougs looked like the superior team. I was preparing to lament another loss.
And it wasn't just the 21-point deficit that had me expecting a loss. It was how Utah arrived at 14 of those points: An interception for a touchdown and a punt return for a touchdown. It became clear by the end of the first half that WSU was the better team--it was winning the battles on the lines and moving the ball much more than Utah. But I wasn't sure that WSU was so much better than the Utes that it could overcome a 14-point gift.
There were missed opportunities that exacerbated the desperate feeling that comes from a huge early hole. The Cougs failed on 4th down inside the redzone. Connor Halliday threw an interception in WSU territory. Even though the defense continued to shut down Utah, it didn't look like the offense would capitalize.
But the offense slowly came back, and so did my hopes. River Cracraft was extending drives, seemingly converting every third down that WSU faced. One of those Cracraft-extended drives resulted in a third-quarter touchdown catch from Vince Mayle that brought the Cougs within two scores with more than a quarter to play. A comeback suddenly seemed entirely plausible, especially the way the WSU defense had been playing.
The next drive had me lamenting again. Another missed opportunity as Halliday lost his grip on the ball and Utes recovered.
It just didn't seem that WSU was good enough to overcome a 21-0 deficit and the mistakes. But the Cougar defense held just enough, limiting the Utes to a field goal and allowing for some small shred of hope to remain. '
It was all WSU the rest of the way.
When Halliday found Dom Williams for a second fourth-down touchdown, it started to feel like WSU was going to pull out the win. Then another Utah punt came, and Mayle took a slant pass the distance to give the Cougs their first lead.
I jumped and screamed and yelled and terrified my pets. That play was everything. Halliday hit Mayle in stride. Mayle had the speed to blow away from a fallen Utah defender, and then breeze past a safety with the most subtle of shakes. Then Robert Lewis--5'9, 162-pound Robert Lewis--turned on a dime and de-cleated the last remaining Ute. All that to top-off a comeback. Just a perfectly glorious play.
There was still work to be done. The Cougs had to keep the Utes out of field goal range to ensure the victory. Charleston White stepped up to make a pair of drive-ending pass breakups. The first was one of the those breaks that WSU just wasn't seeming to get in the first four games of the season--White was clearly beat but a short throw allowed him time to recover and knock the ball away.
The second was just an awesome individual play as White closed down in a hurry to hit Dres Anderson--Utah's leading receiver who, by the way, didn't record a catch--and knock the ball away to wrap up the win. A win where WSU trailed 21-0. Where it trailed 24-7 in the second half and 27-14 in the fourth quarter.
Any day when the Cougs win is a good day. Any day when I go to a beer festival is a good day. There was just so much good in yesterday.