PULLMAN — Coach Mike Leach said that there is no quarterback controversy.
Neither backup Austin Apodaca nor freshman Tyler Bruggman will take over as signal caller, and Connor Halliday will continue to manage the team even after Washington State fell 52-24 to Oregon State on Saturday night. He doesn’t have to worry about anyone taking his spot.
It was one of few positive sentiments from the coach, whose team allowed 35 unanswered points to end the game. Halliday threw three interceptions in five plays during the fourth quarter, giving the Beavers excellent field position as they quickly turned a tight game into a blowout.
“I thought he gave in,” Leach said. “We had adversity — and it certainly wasn’t just Connor — I thought we came out storming in the third quarter. For two-thirds of the game we played about as well as we can play. And then the last third we faced adversity and waved the white flag.”
What had been headlined as an important game between equal opponents lived up to the billing, as Washington State and Oregon State battled to a standstill entering the fourth quarter.
Then everything fell to pieces for the Cougars. When it came time for one team to seize the game and will itself to victory, OSU flourished and WSU wilted.
“I thought for two-thirds of the game they played really well,” Leach said. “For one-third of the game they played about as bad as it is possible to play.”
The Beavers outscored the Cougars 28-0 in the fourth quarter as WSU ended the game with five consecutive turnovers. But before those turnovers came the game’s turning point late in the third quarter.
With the game tied at 24 late in the third quarter, the Cougars were forced to punt. Andrew Maughan unwittingly snapped the ball into upback Jared Byers, giving OSU the ball at the WSU 27-yard line.
“Basically, it was my fault,” Leach said. “We had two things going there and I allowed it to happen and shouldn’t have allowed it to happen.”
Beavers safety Rashaad Reynolds picked off Halliday on the WSU side of the field on the next two drives and the Beavers promptly scored each time. OSU scored three touchdowns over 2:16.
“It’s a lot of communication breakdown,” safety Deone Bucannon said. “We went out there and we just didn’t get the calls the right way. Our checks weren’t right, they weren’t on time, and when they went into motion a lot of the times we were late on our checks to the cornerback and it caused them to have a late reaction.”
The bulk of the damage was done by heralded OSU receiver Brandin Cooks. Cooks scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter — two receiving, one rushing — against a defense that had spent most of the game holding him in check. Doing so, however, had allowed meant allowing other Beavers to hurt them, such as Richard Mullaney, who finished with 122 receiving yards, and tight ends Connor Hamlett and Caleb Smith, who combined for 73 receiving yards and a touchdown.
“I don’t really think we overcompensated,” Bucannon said. “When they called a play that was focused on him, we ran it. When they didn’t, we didn’t. They still got a good chunk of passing yards and that’s on us.”
After an impressive victory over California last week, it’s back to the drawing board for the Cougars. After the game, Leach said that he was welcome to any player from any position group stepping up and filling the leadership void.
It’s not like they’d be taking anyone’s spot.