Dion: Backs Power WSU In Win
One week after it lost big to Stanford, Washington St. (4-2, 1-1) bounced back behind a near record performance by quarterback Connor Halliday to beat California 44-22.
It was the first win for WSU at Cal since 2002, snapping an 8-game losing streak to the Bears. In 2002, Jason Gesser was at the helm, leading WSU to an eventual Rose Bowl appearance. This time it was Halliday who finished 42-for-67 with 521 yards passing, falling just 10 yards shy of the school record set by Alex Brink in 2005.
Both teams had big games offensively as Cal (1-4, 0-2) rolled up 585 total yards, including 506 yards through the air. It was the five turnovers generated by the WSU defense that really gave the Cougars the advantage in this one, The Bears fumbled twice inside the WSU 10-yard line, taking points off the board and handing the momentum back to the Cougars.
In one instance, defensive lineman Toni Pole ripped the ball from the hands of Cal running back Brendan Bigelow at the 2-yard line, highlighting a brilliant goal-line stand by the Cougars.
WSU now prepares to host Oregon St. on Saturday, in the meantime here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the Cougars performance in the win over Cal.
Quarterback — As mentioned above, Halliday had a big game against the Bears defense. In addition to the near-record yardage, which was the most for any Pac-12 QB since ’05, Halliday passed for three touchdowns, one interception and finished with a 62.7 completion percentage.
Halliday was pretty good especially considering he’s still feeling the effects of the hits he took from the Cardinal last week. The fact that he showed the toughness to return to the starting lineup one week later is huge as a leader of this team, and then to give the performance that he did was really special.
Halliday was a little inaccurate early on and his interception helped allow the Bears back in the game for a short period of time. So there were some struggles for Halliday in this one, albeit minor.
Overall Grade: A
Running Backs — The Cougars continue to be a pass first, pass second and pass third team which left the Cougar running backs with little opportunities other than to work on their pass-blocking skills, which, by the way, are getting better. Practice makes perfect, right?
Marcus Mason started and led the way with seven carries for 32 yards, Teondray Caldwell had seven carries for 24 yards and a TD and Jeremiah Laufasa added four carries for three yards. All three were also active in the passing game as Mason had four catches for 118 yards and a TD to lead the way.
Overall Grade: B-
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends — Anytime your QB finishes with 67 pass attempts, the statistics for the receivers are going to look pretty good and this game was no different. Credit to the receiving corps for consistently getting open against the Cal secondary and making some tough catches throughout the game.
Vince Mayle had the best game for the Cougars, as he finished with four catches for 113 yards and two scores. Following him were Bobby Ratliff (eight catches, 62 yards), Rickey Galvin (five catches, 48 yards) and Gabe Marks (four catches, 55 yards).
Overall Grade: B
Offensive Line — Head coach Mike Leach made some changes to the starting group with guard John Fullington taking over at tackle for Rico Forbes and Matt Goetz filling in his spot at guard. The unit was effective at keeping Halliday upright all game and giving him time to throw. It allowed just one Cal sack. The line is still unable to get much push in the running game, however.
Overall Grade: B
Defensive Line — The great play of lineman Toni Pole has already been mentioned, rightfully so, as he was a force in the trenches again for the Cougars despite just two tackles to show for it on the stat sheet. Nose tackle Ioane Gauta was tremendous as his stats do suggest. Gauta finished with five tackles, including two sacks. Xavier Cooper added three tackles. Their play helped limit the Bears to 79 rushing yards and force three Cal fumbles.
Overall Grade: B+
Linebackers — Cyrus Coen led the group with 10 tackles and helped hold Cal’s Bigelow down, he finished with just 41 yards on 12 carries. Kache Palacio also had a good game, with four tackles and a sack. Mitchell Peterson, a former Cougar baseball recruit now playing for the football team, saw his first extensive game action filling in for Coen who left the game late.
The group probably could have done a bit better in pass coverage as Goff threw for 489 yards with a good portion coming over the middle.
Overall Grade: C
Secondary – Safety Deone Bucannon had another strong game, finishing with 12 tackles and an interception which he returned 47 yards but the rest of the group struggled through an afternoon of ups and downs. Cornerback Daquawn Brown came up with an interception as well, but he was a key part of a secondary that was torched by Goff throughout the game.
Overall Grade: D
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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