WSU upsets Arizona, 24-17

Halliday throws for 319 yards

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Updated: November 16, 2013, 4:26 PM

 

TUCSON, Ariz. — After giving up 169 points in their previous three games, the Washington State Cougars came to Arizona as 12-point underdogs.

They left one win shy of being eligible for their first bowl appearance in a decade.

Connor Halliday threw 25 yards to Isiah Myers for the tie-breaking touchdown with 2:15 to play and the Cougars held off a final Arizona threat to upset the Wildcats 24-17 on Saturday.

Washington State (5-5, 3-4 Pac-12) hasn't won this many games in a season in six years, and the Cougars still have two left — at home against Utah and at Washington.

"What this team wanted to do was start something new at Washington State," Halliday said, "and that's still well within our reach."

Halliday completed 39 of 53 passes for 319 yards and two scores, the junior's seventh 300-yard passing of the season.

The Cougars hadn't played since Halloween night and had played just once since Oct. 19.

"I've never seen a team off as long as we were," Washington State coach Mike Leach said.

When they did play over the past six weeks, it hasn't been pretty. The Cougars have lost by consecutive scores of 52-24 to Oregon State, 62-38 to Oregon and 55-21 to Arizona State.

"We've kind of been through the ringer and we kind of understand what that entails," Halliday said. "I think the leaders of the team did a good job of keeping everybody up, keeping everybody positive and realizing that, yeah, we win three games and we're 7-5 and a team hasn't won seven games here for you know how long."

That would be 2003, when the Cougars went 10-3 and played in the Holiday Bowl.

Washington State's defense played well in this one.

Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey did score two touchdowns, one on a 30-yard run and one on a 7-yard catch, and he had his 13th consecutive 100-yard rushing game, gaining 132 yards in 26 attempts. But he was held to 42 yards in 13 carries in the second half.

Still, Arizona (6-4, 3-4) had its chances. The final play came from the Cougars 13, when B.J. Denker's pass to the end zone was caught by Samajie Grant but well out of bounds.

"Even as poorly as we played, we still had opportunities," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "That makes it even harder to stomach."

Halliday's first touchdown pass, 23 yards to River Cracraft, came after Arizona's botched punt attempt at the start of the second half.

"It was a comedy of errors at times," Rodriguez said, "things that we hadn't done all year."

Jake Smith missed field goals of 40 and 34 yards for Arizona. Washington State's Andrew Furney had a 46-yard attempt bounce off the left upright.

The Cougars' winning 80-yard drive came after Smith missed the 34-yarder with seven minutes to go.

The big play came when Halliday threw 19 yards to Teondray Caldwell, who was able to gather it in and just keep his feet inbounds at the Arizona 31.

"The best catch I've seen in a while," Halliday said.

Then on third-and-four at the 25, Halliday threw to the wide open Myers, who dodged a tackler and ran a few steps to the end zone.

The Wildcats moved downfield and, on fourth and seven from the 28, Denker scrambled nine yards to the 19 for the first down. But Denker was caught at the 13 on third and six and Arizona, without any timeouts left, rushed to the line to get off a final play. Denker lofted it to the end zone and Grant hauled it in, but was a step out of bounds and the Cougars rushed the field in celebration.

Marcus Mason's 15-yard touchdown run put Washington State up 7-0, then Furney's 24-yard field goal made it 10-0 with 2:05 left in the first quarter.

Arizona struck quickly after the subsequent kickoff, Carey breaking a series of arm tackles on a 30-yard touchdown run to cut it to 10-7 with 47 seconds still left in the opening quarter.

The Wildcats took the lead with a 15-play, 90-yard touchdown drive. Denker threw wide to Carey, who broke two tackles on a 7-yard scoring play to put the Wildcats ahead 14-10 with 7:37 left in the half.

It was Carey's first touchdown catch of the season.

Arizona threatened again late in the half, but Smith's 40-yard field goal try was wide left as the second quarter ended.

The Wildcats took the second-half kickoff and went three-and-out, then Drew Riggleman dropped the ball trying to punt and Washington State recovered at the Arizona 31. On second-and-18, Halliday threw over the middle to Cracraft for a 23-yard touchdown and the Cougars were back on top 17-14.

The Wildcats moved down the field on their next possession, but drive stalled at the WSU 8 and Smith's 25-yard field goal tied it at 17-17 with 6:36 left in the third quarter.

The Cougars, in their first game in 16 days, had a chance to take the lead with 10:24 left in the third quarter but Furney's 46-yard field goal attempt bounced off the left upright.

Arizona took over and moved it downfield but Smith's 34-yard field goal try was wide left.

And Washington State was off on its game-winning drive.