Cougs fall in the final quarter

Not even six touchdown passes could overcome two fumbles.

The Washington State Cougars brought the expression “Couging it” to a whole new level when they lost 48-45 to the Colorado State Rams in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl Saturday. 

WSU never trailed until the final seconds of the game, when the Rams recovered a fumble on the final kick return and then kicked the winning field goal from 41 yards away. 

Just before the end, the Rams tied the score with a touchdown followed by a two-point conversion on a fake pass reverse play that confused the WSU defense. The booth officially reviewed the play to see if running back Donnell Alexander stretched out his arm to knock over the pylon in the corner before he was down. He was originally down by rule, but the call was reversed. 

“We just didn’t finish, and they wanted it more than us, so congratulations to them,” senior safety Deone Bucannon said to ESPN 710 after the game. 

WSU Head Coach Mike Leach declined an interview with the radio station.

The Cougars held a 45-30 lead with four minutes left in the game, but the defense surrendered a touchdown pass from quarterback Garrett Grayson to wide receiver Jordon Vaden. The Rams chose to go for the extra point instead of the two-point conversion, which made the score 45-37. 

What followed could be described as heartbreaking to WSU fans.

The Cougars started the drive with less than three minutes to go on their own 18-yard line. They got as far as their own 31-yard line before redshirt junior quarterback Connor Halliday was hit and appeared to fumble the ball. The call was reversed upon further review. However, WSU was far from out of the woods. 

On the next play, redshirt sophomore running back Jeremiah Laufasa ran the ball forward when the ball was wrenched from his arms. The Rams’ own running back Kapri Bibbs eventually finished off the subsequent short drive with a 1-yard run. 

When the two-point conversion tied the score, it seemed that the two teams were headed for overtime in a classic bowl game to kick off the college postseason. They did not make it that far. 

The Rams kicked the ball off with more than 30 seconds to play and waited for sophomore running back Teondray Caldwell to return the ball. Caldwell ran the ball 22 yards, and then fumbled. Colorado State recovered the ball and was immediately in field goal range. The Rams ran two plays before Jared Roberts kicked the game-winning 41-yard field goal. 

The finish spoiled a historic day for Halliday. The quarterback threw six touchdown passes on the day, which set the record for the most ever in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. He had five of those touchdowns in the first half alone, and all six touchdowns were to different receivers. 

The game was all passing for the Cougars; Halliday tallied 410 yards through the air, while the running backs ran for a net total of -10 yards. Bibbs posted 169 yards and three touchdowns for the Rams. 

The Cougars finish the season at 6-7, an improvement from last year’s 3-9 performance.