ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Connor Halliday had little to show for record-matching performance in the New Mexico Bowl after Washington State’s late collapse.
The Cougars fumbled the last two times they had the ball, helping Colorado State to an improbable comeback in a 48-45 victory Saturday.
Halliday threw six touchdown passes to match the NCAA bowl record and had 410 yards, but it wasn’t enough.
“It hurts that we have to look ourselves in the mirror that we weren’t able to win the game as an offense,” he said. “Just run the clock out and get first downs and keep our defense off the field.”
Washington State (6-7) led 45-30 when it punted to the Rams (8-6) with 4:17 remaining. Colorado State drove 72 yards in nine plays to score with 2:49 left.
And when the Cougars gained a first down with 2:30 and the Rams out of timeouts, it appeared the game was over.
Halliday, however, fumbled on the next play, but it was overturned on replay.
On the very next play, however, Colorado State linebacker Shaquil Barrett stripped Jeremiah Laufasa, who was making his first carry of the game.
The Rams scored with 33 seconds left and Donnell Alexander managed to hit the pylon on a Statue of Liberty play for the 2-point conversion and a tie.
On the ensuing kickoff, Teondray Caldwell fumbled and Colorado State recovered again, setting up kicker Jared Roberts for the winning 41-yard field goal as time expired, converting his fourth kick of the game.
“Colorado State finished the game. We didn’t,” -Washington State coach Mike Leach said. “I think down the stretch they were more consistent on offense. They were more disciplined than we were on defense.”
The Cougars led 35-13 in the third quarter.
“I give Colorado State a lot of credit. They played extremely hard,” Leach said. “They were behind the whole game and they never gave up. They got rewarded for it. We have to be a tougher team. We have to play better.”
Halliday earned offensive honors for his play and freshman receiver River Cracraft turned in his best effort of the season with nine catches for 125 yards and one touchdown.
After the first touchdown pass, Halliday got into a shouting match with Colorado State defensive line coach Greg Lupfer when Halliday ran into the Rams’ sideline. That exchange created a social media buzz and McElwain vowed look into it.
“Coach grabbed me and said some profane things to me and that’s all I’ll say about it,” Halliday said.
After the game, Lupfer issued an apology through Colorado State’s twitter account. “”I am truly sorry for what I said. It was wrong and those words do not represent who I am and what I believe in,” Lupfer said without offering details to what he said. “I apologize for the embarrassment I caused for Colorado State University, this team (and) my family.”
The Cougars’ rushing game was ineffective throughout the game while Colorado State was able to move it well on the ground. Rams back Kapri Bibbs finished with 169 yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns. And Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson, a graduate of Heritage High School in Vancouver, threw for 369 yards and two touchdowns.
“That win right there…it’s pretty amazing how it worked but at the end of the day, it’s about being resilient,” Rams coach Jim McElwain. “It’s about understanding (that) every play has a history and life of its own.”