|Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday scrambles away from UNLV defensive lineman Jordan Sparkman in the third quarter Friday night. (AP Images)|
Connor Halliday may not be the Washingon State starting quarterback when the Cougars host Colorado next Saturday, but the WSU backup made a strong case for the starting job against UNLV on Friday night. Playing in relief of injured starter Jeff Tuel (knee), Halliday threw for 379 yards and four touchdowns as WSU topped UNLV 35-27.
Coach Mike Leach's Air Raid offense, which hasn't had much air in it this season, finally found some success on Friday, totaling 461 yards and 35 points against the Rebels. However, as successful as the Cougars' offense was on Friday, the same couldn't be said for Washington State's defense. The WSU defense surrendered 466 yards in the game with UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry accounting for 374 of those. Sherry threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns while almost leading UNLV to the upset. Although WSU came away with the win, the Cougars were outgained for the third time in three games this season.
Halliday was on fire early, throwing first-half touchdown passes of 4, 18, 52 and 81 yards as WSU jumped out to a 28-10 lead. UNLV cut the lead to 35-27 late in the fourth quarter though and had a chance to win on the final play. However, a 42-yard Hail Mary pass by Sherry was batted down by the WSU defense.
Washington State is now 2-1 for the second straight season. Cougars fans will be keeping their fingers crossed that 2012 doesn't end up like 2011 when WSU went 2-7 over its final nine games.
Making his Marks: Freshman Gabe Marks impressed the Washington State coaching staff in fall camp and Friday against UNLV, he showed a national television audience why. The first-year wide receiver caught six passes for 126 yards and a touchdown. This comes on the heels of Marks' performance last week against Eastern Washington when he caught three passess for 77 yards. The emergence of Marks should take some pressure off of No. 1 wide receiver Marquess Wilson as the Cougars head into Pac-12 play.
Wilson comes alive: During the 2011 season, Wilson was only held under 75 yards once in 12 games, but the preseason All-American hasn't had the same success in 2012. Before Friday's game against UNLV, Wilson was only averaging 54 yards through two games. The senior came alive though, catching five passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns against UNLV. Wilson's 110-yard performance was the 12th time in his WSU career that he's gone over 100 yards receiving, setting a school record.
Not Tuel Time: QB Jeff Tuel didn't start Friday after spraining his knee late in the game against Eastern Washington last week. Leach left everyone in the dark about who would start Friday, even telling an ESPN reporter "the element of surprise will be great for you guys," when asked before the game who WSU's starting quarterback would be Friday.