ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Washington State didn’t unleash much in the way of trick plays that the Cougars had hoarded especially for the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
Just a trick player.
Little-used running back Theron West was a surprise weapon the Cougars decided to spring on Colorado State. The redshirt junior had a big impact in the early going before things unraveled on the Cougars in a shocking 48-45 loss at University Stadium.
West had a big third-down reception that kept the Cougars rolling toward their first touchdown, juking two defenders on a 12-yard screen pass. He came back midway through the first quarter to score his first Cougars touchdown on a sensational 28-yard pass after quarterback Connor Halliday had bought some time against the CSU pass rush.
“We call it an outside zone,” West said. “It’s a screen to me, but they read it very well — I guess they learned from the first time. Then it was just a scramble drill, and I got up the middle and had a one-on-one with a linebacker. I felt that I could beat him, and (Halliday) got it to me.”
In between those two passes, West blocked a CSU punt in the end zone, sending the ball skittering out of bounds at the 5-yard line and setting up WSU’s second touchdown.
“That goes back to technique and coaching,” said West, diverting credit to special-teams coach Eric Russell. “I was coached up very well. A guy chipped me. We had two guys to that side, and he tried to get both of us, but it left me free a little bit.”
West had played in all 12 regular-season games, but mostly on special teams — getting just a single carry for 1 yard in the win over Southern Utah. But he said he had a feeling from about the Cougars’ third pre-bowl practice that he would have a bigger role Saturday. He finished with three receptions for 50 yards and three carries for 17.
“I was just put in a position where I was able to make plays,” West said. “I can’t wait to get back to it next year.”
After Washington State scored its first touchdown on a 25-yard pass from Halliday to freshman wide receiver River Cracraft, Colorado State defensive line coach Greg Lupfer was yelling at the quarterback.
Halliday walked over to Lupfer and responded before another CSU assistant intervened.
After the game, Halliday said: “(He) grabbed me and said some profane things to me, and that’s all I’ll say about it.”
Immediately after the game, Lupfer issued a statement apologizing for the outburst and remarks.
“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,” the statement read. “I apologize for this embarrassment I caused Colorado State University, this team and my family.”
Halliday’s six touchdown passes tied the school record set by Jason Gesser in 2012, and they tied the all-time FBS record for bowl games. Halliday’s 449 completions and 714 pass attempts this season are Pac-12 Conference records. ... Senior safety Deone Bucannon had five tackles, bringing the All-American’s season total to 114, the most by a WSU player since James Darling’s 136 in 1996. ... The 35 points WSU put up in the first half were the team’s most since it played UNLV in 2011. Before Saturday, the most points WSU had scored in a bowl game was 33 in the 2001 Sun Bowl.