Cougars' bowl hopes end with 30-27 overtime loss to Utah
The Cougars fell 30-27 in overtime to Utah before a thoroughly entertained — and drenched — crowd.
The Associated Press
PULLMAN — There is almost no way Washington State could have come closer to a game-winning touchdown with less than 20 seconds remaining at a snow-covered Martin Stadium on Saturday.
But an inch or a foot or a yard makes no difference when the clock is winding down, so the Cougars settled for a game-tying field goal and eventually fell 30-27 in overtime to Utah before a thoroughly entertained — and drenched — crowd of 16,419.
It was Coleman Petersen's 38-yard field goal that made it official, but WSU's bowl hopes died in the waning seconds of regulation and its only overtime possession.
Trailing 27-24 with no timeouts and 23 seconds left in regulation, freshman Connor Halliday completed his 21st pass, this one a 6-yarder to Marquess Wilson, who, at one point, was past the snow-obscured goal line.
However, as Wilson came to meet the ball, his momentum — and Mo Lee's tackle — carried him back to the 2.
The officials raced in and marked the ball inside the 1 as the clock ticked. WSU had no choice but to spike the ball, which Halliday did with three seconds remaining. The play seemed close enough to a touchdown to warrant a replay, which had already occurred a handful of times.
"If they had called it a touchdown on the field, they would have reviewed it," WSU coach Paul Wulff said.
Wulff said he then contemplated going for the game-winner, but instead sent out kicker Andrew Furney, who knocked through a 17-yard field goal to force overtime.
"(I) just thought we needed to go do the right thing and kick it at that point," Wulff said.
The way the Cougars (4-7 overall, 2-6 in Pac-12 play) handled overtime, he probably wishes he hadn't kicked.
Utah won the overtime toss and gave the Cougars the ball first. After an incompletion, Halliday was called for grounding, and WSU faced a third-and-25 at the 40.
Halliday's 48th pass of the day — a prayer, really — was aimed at Jared Karstetter. It came up short, and Lee picked it off for the Utes' fourth interception.
Utah then gained 3 yards in three plays before Petersen's winning kick.
"From the situation we were in, to get it into overtime was great, but we were all disappointed because we had a shot to win it right at the end there," said Karstetter, whose 44-yard reception had put the Cougars at the Utah 7 right before Wilson came up just short.
Utah's John White ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns, gaining the majority of his yards in the second half.
"I've never been in a game like that in my life," White said. "We made the last play and we won the game."
Utah was up 27-17 after White's 56-yard run with 6:38 left, but the Cougars weren't done. Halliday, making his first start after throwing for 494 yards last week against Arizona State, threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Karstetter with 3:14 remaining. WSU then fell less than a yard short of winning on the next drive.
Halliday was taught a few lessons in the first half by a tough Utah defense. He tossed two interceptions in the first quarter and threw another one early in the second.
But the mistakes didn't show on the scoreboard, because the Cougar defense was nearly impenetrable.
"We were dominating the line of scrimmage," said defensive end Adam Coerper, who had seven tackles and a fumble recovery before being forced off just before halftime with a knee strain.
Utah (7-4, 4-4) scored first late in the second quarter on a 49-yard pass from Sean Sellwood to Luke Matthews on a fake punt.
"We had a blown assignment," Wulff said. "A player didn't stay with his man on that play."
A little over a minute later it was 7-7 as Halliday shook off the interceptions and connected on four consecutive passes, the last a 6-yarder to Wilson for a score. Wilson, who didn't practice most of the week with a hip problem, had eight catches for 83 yards.
Halliday completed 21 of 48 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns. Karstetter caught six passes for 111 yards.
"He made some mistakes, but he made some great plays, too," Wulff said of Halliday.
Being knocked out of the bowl picture was hard for Washington State senior linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis.
"I'll never really know what a bowl feels like as a player," Hoffman-Ellis said.
Washington State closes its season Saturday against Washington at CenturyLink Field.
"That's going to be our bowl game," Hoffman-Ellis said.
Snow fell heavily on Martin Stadium overnight but it was hard to tell by kickoff.
Some 70 people, including 27 prisoners from Airway Heights, labored all morning to clear the field and the aisles.
The field looked good until about halftime. That's when the snow began to fall with a vengeance.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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