Cougar quarterback Connor Halliday threw for 389 yards on 38 of 57 passing with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions in a disappointing 24-13 loss to the Nevada Wolf Pack.
Coming off of a disappointing week 1 loss versus Rutgers, Washington State entered McKay Stadium in Reno as 4 point favorites over the Wolf Pack. Along with the minimal output from the running game and lack of run defense in game one, the Cougs added a lack of ability to score in the red zone against Nevada. The Wolf Pack who beat FCS school Southern Utah last week 28-19, seemed to have rattled the Cougs from the early stages. The Cougs defense looked solid the first 3 drives of the game. Early in the first with the Cougs driving, Connor Halliday was intercepted by Kendall Johnson and returned 45 yards to the WSU 12. That was followed by a Don Jackson 1 yard touchdown run to give the Wolf Pack the lead early.
The Cougar offense who was able to move the ball all night, struggled in short field situations. The Cougs were able to get inside the Wolfpack 40 yard line 8 times, and only had 13 points to show for it. Kicker Eric Powell missed 2 field goals and then was pulled in the 4th quarter for Quinton Breshears. Connor Halliday looked to be off on Friday night. He was quick to throw and get rid of the ball and often missed his receivers. Halliday has been in the Leach system for the 3 years, and still struggles in the red zone. The two interceptions that were thrown by Halliday in the first half were momentum killers and helped Nevada gain confidence.
The Cougar run game who was only able to put up 6 yards in 14 carries against Rutgers, mustered only 38 yards on Friday versus Rutgers on 18 carries. In this “Air Raid” system, the run game has been obsolete, but it is apparent this offense needs another dimension. In the years Mike Leach was successful with Texas Tech, he frequently had 100 yards a game of rushing. It is tough to run an offense when there is a consistent lack of running game. On the defensive end, the Cougs allowed 214 yards on the ground and 110 yards through the air. This makes the second week in a row that the opponent pounds the run non-stop and still is able to penetrate the defense. There is going to need to be a concerted effort in stopping the run next week.
The Cougs are starting out 0-2 for the first time since 2009 and are not going to have an easy game next week as they face FCS opponent Portland State next week. After losing two games that should have been large margins of victory for the Cougs, Portland State should not be over looked. The game will be at home, and should be the Cougs first win, but this is another running team, and they need to figure out a way to stop it going into conference play.