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WSU football: Washington State lacking defense in 41-38 loss to Rutgers

In a game reminiscent of the New Mexico Bowl meltdown, a late fumble allowed Rutgers to defeat Washington State 41-38. In a night characterized by poor defense, the Cougars wasted a 532 yard, 5 touchdown night by Connor Halliday, fumbling the game away late in the 4th quarter to Rutgers.

One of several missed tackle in the WSU loss to Rutgers.
One of several missed tackle in the WSU loss to Rutgers.
Otto Greule Jr

Washington State lost Thursday night to Rutgers 41-38. A great offensive night by WSU was wasted by a terrible defensive showing by the Cougars.

Rutgers scored an easy touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. Quarterback Gary Nova hit receiver Leonte Caroo for a 78 yard touchdown pass en route to a 14-3 start for the Scarlet Knights.

In the second and third quarters Halliday erased the Rutgers lead and the Cougars started the 4th quarter with a 31-24 advantage. Rutgers answered and took a 34-31 lead with 10:50 remaining in the game.

Halliday quickly answered with a 5-yard TD pass to Ricky Galvin and a 38-34 lead with 8:13 left in the game.

The Cougar defense stiffened and forced a Rutgers punt. River Cracraft then fumbled the punt, and Rutgers was back in business with 7 minutes left in the game. Rutgers scored on a 3-yard Paul James TD run.

Washington State had one final chance with 4:11 left on the clock, but couldn't score and gave the ball back to Rutgers after a fourth down pass fell incomplete with less than a minute left.

Although extremely early in the season, this was a game the Cougars needed to win if they had any bowl game expectations. It will be very hard to manage six wins this season with the Cougars tough upcoming schedule. With this loss, Washington State may have fumbled away a bowl game.

Washington State Offense

The only good news coming out of this game is the offense. The Cougars had 538 total yards and moved the ball very well. Connor Halliday passed for 532 yards, 5 TD's and 1 INT. He went 40 of 56 for an amazing 71.4% completion rate.

The Cougars had four players with over 80 yards receiving, led by Vince Mayle with 12 catches for 124 yards and 1 TD. Isiah Myers had 6 catches for 94 yards and 2 TD's. Ten different Cougars had pass receptions in the game.

The offensive line played OK, giving Halliday a decent amount of time to pass.

The Cougars only ran the ball nine times for 22 yards.

Washington State Defense

There was none. The Cougar defense was practically non-existent in the game. Rutgers played smash-mouth running football and Washington Sate could not stand up to it. The Scarlet Knights ran for 225 yards, most of it coming after contact and breaking tackles. Paul James finished with 173 yards, averaging 6.0 yards per carry.

The Cougar defensive line, projected to be the defense's strength, was manhandled by Rutgers. Poor tackling was standard by the Cougar linebackers, with most of the Rutgers yards coming after contact. Rutgers controlled the ball for 33:17 of the game.

The young secondary showed potential, despite allowing the early 78-yard touchdown pass. Rutgers finished with 281 yards passing. They will need to improve, but showed some positive signs.

Key play of the game

River Cracraft's fumble of the punt with 7 minutes left in the game gave Rutgers the victory. Cracraft could have called for a fair catch, but instead decided to return the punt and fumbled.

Player of the game

Connor Halliday proved he is Washington State's most valuable player. His 532 yards passing ranks second most yards passing in a game ever for Washington State (Halliday owns the best game ever at WSU, 557 yards at Oregon last season). He also passed for 5 TD's and only one interception while completing 71.4% of his passes.

Next game

Washington State will face Nevada on Sept. 5 in Reno. This is a must win game if the Cougars want to have any chance for a bowl game this season.