“Devastated,” Price said.
For good reason. Washington State’s comeback from 18 points down in the fourth quarter was the largest rally in the 105 Apple Cups. That the Cougars did it in the fourth quarter and overtime on the way to a 31-28 win is all the more noteworthy.
Just how did the Cougars get there? And, how much help did the Huskies provide? Here’s a closer look at the fourth-quarter meltdown that Washington players and coaches said had everything to do with the Cougars and nothing to do with complacency once ahead by 18 points:
PENALIZED BY PENALTIES
The Huskies provided Washington State a stunning eight first downs by penalty. The opening drive of the fourth quarter was one of the most gift-wrapped of the day for the Cougars. Washington cornerback Marcus Peters was called for pass interference on third-and-10 to give the Cougars a first down. After quarterback Jeff Tuel moved the Cougars to the Washington 8-yard line for first-and-goal, Tuel was sacked but on the next play, Desmond Trufant was called for pass interference. That put Washington State on the 2-yard line. Carl Winston scored a touchdown on the next play.
“It’s frustrating,” Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. “Credit goes to Washington State 100 percent. This is going to be painful for us. We’ve got to learn when those plays, those critical points in the game, third down, those types of things, we’ve got to be able to make a play and they made more than we did. So, credit goes to them.”
TURNOVER TURNS THINGS
Washington still had a solid 28-17 lead following Winston’s score. But Price, who had turnover problems most of the season, fumbled the next possession. Tough to peg that one on him. Washington State defensive tackle Steven Hoffart had perfect timing on the snap and was able to knock the ball from Price as he tried to hand off to Bishop Sankey. Justin Sagote recovered and momentum was beginning to shift.
“I think a D-lineman grabbed my arm from the back,” Price said.
He was then asked if that was faster than he expects a lineman to be in the backfield. He chuckled.
Washington immediately committed another massive gaffe to cap an outstanding play by Tuel. It appeared Washington was going to sack Tuel, but he was able to escape, almost falling down while doing so, before straightening and firing a pass down the middle of the field. He connected with Isiah Myers for 29 yards. Washington defensive lineman Andrew Hudson jumped and connected with Tuel’s head. Another flag.
Hudson explained he was trying to tip the pass.
“Should have been smarter and got out of the way,” Hudson said. “Dumb play.”
The completion and penalty moved the Cougars from the Washington 47-yard line to first-and-goal from the 9-yard line.
But, the Huskies weren’t done. Trufant was called for pass interference on second-and-goal. Shaq Thompson was called for a facemask penalty the next play. The Cougars scored on their sixth play in the goal-to-go situation. Then, Washington committed another pass-interference penalty on the first two-point conversion attempt, which failed. The Cougars converted their second chance to trail by a field goal, which became crucial later in the game.
“I felt I was covering great, honestly,” Trufant said. “Sometimes it doesn’t go your way. It’s bang-bang.”
TYING IT UP
Washington followed with a three-and-out (which included a delay-of-game penalty that put the Huskies in second-and-19 after a loss of 4 on first down). Washington State took over with 5:04 remaining and kicked a field goal on fourth-and-1 from the Washington 28-yard line to tie the game.
Washington State coach Mike Leach said he still wasn’t sure if he should have gone for it.
“If I had, I suspect we would have won in regulation,” Leach said. “It’s easy now to say I did the right thing just because it turns out we won. But ... I maybe should have gone for it.”
The snap for Travis Coons’ winning field goal attempt from 35 yards out was low. Cody Bruns fixed that, but the timing of the process was botched. In the end, so was the kick.
“I’ve been working with Travis and the kickers for a long time,” Bruns said. “I can feel when they don’t get all of it. That one obviously didn’t feel right. Just kind of tailed off, unfortunately.”
A false-start call on third-and-1 just prior to the kick threw off the process. Still, the Huskies were able to manage the clock perfectly, call time out and center the kick. Coons simply missed.
TURNOVER, GAME OVER
Washington State chose to play defense to start overtime. After the first play, it seemed like the right decision.
Price was being pulled down and tried to loft a pass over the Cougars’ defensive line. It was picked off and nearly returned for the winning score by 6-foot-1, 277-pound nose tackle Kalafitoni Pole.
Bruns chased him down. Bruns said he didn’t know what happened, he just looked up and saw the guy heading the other way. He ended up with a clear path to the big man and rode him down prior to the end zone.
That left Price to wonder why he made the throw. Kasen Williams said he was double-teamed on the play and Austin Seferian-Jenkins had multiple defenders around him. So, Price had moved to Sankey, his check-down receiver.
“It’s a tough play to make, but I expect myself to make that play,” Price said. “I probably should have my last option back down to my check down and I just made a poor decision with the ball.”
A few minutes later, Andrew Furney kicked a 27-yard field goal to finish the comeback.
That all led to Price’s devastation and perhaps the most stunning collapse in Apple Cup firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas