The Washington State Cougars were looking to get a huge win in Pac 12 play on Saturday night against the Oregon State Beavers and get one step closer to returning to the bowl season in 2013. For three quarters, the Cougs were competing step for step with the Beavers and looked to be in a position to defend their home field in Pullman. All of that unraveled in a hurry, however, as a disastrous fourth quarter buried WSU and cost them any chance for a win.
With 4:50 to play in the third quarter, WSU actually took a 24-17 lead as Connor Halliday appeared to have an efficient command of the Air Raid attack on Saturday. Vince Mayle was dominating the man-to-man coverage off the line of scrimmage and the Cougar defense was making the Beavers work for every yard they got. But Oregon State answered with a touchdown of their own to tie the game at 24-24 late in the third and then the wheels completely fell off for the Cougs.
Things actually started to fall apart with less than a minute to go in the third quarter. WSU lined up to punt the football away when the long-snapper hit the up-back square in the chest with a pass. WSU would recover the ball but turned it over to Oregon State deep in their own territory to start the final frame and Sean Mannion took advantage. Brandin Cooks found the endzone for the first time in the game on the very first play of the quarter to give OSU the 31-24 lead.
Then Halliday fell into his old habit of forcing plays and throwing interceptions. On three straight possessions in the fourth quarter, and on two straight throws, Halliday found the Oregon State secondary, putting his defense on the field in a bad situation against a high-powered Oregon State passing attack with all of the momentum. In all, the Beavers wound up scoring 28 points in the fourth quarter and the final 35 points of the game to end up winning in a walk 52-24 over Washington State.
The loss was yet another disappointing finish for a WSU program trying to get over their history of struggles over the last decade. The loss may have been one of the tougher ones to swallow, however, because they were in this game before imploding in the fourth quarter. Finding a way to finish games and win these tough back-and-forth contests is key for Mike Leach to get this program out of the Pac 12 cellar. Can they get out of their own way, however, to get it done?