PULLMAN — A brutal six-minute stretch just when it seemed Washington State was gaining control victimized the Cougars and they fell heavily to Oregon State here Saturday night, 52-24, in a Pac-12 football game.
The Cougars came back from a seven-point halftime deficit to take a 24-17 third-quarter lead, at which point the wheels came flying off, pretty much at once.
WSU made four killing miscues in a quick span of about five minutes and the Beavers took advantage of all of it for 35 consecutive points to breeze to their fifth consecutive victory.
WSU fell to 4-3, and with No. 2-ranked Oregon dead ahead in Eugene, it puts a crimp in the Cougars’ bowl aspirations.
The Cougars had scored a pair of third-quarter touchdowns and their defense stopped OSU nicely, and WSU had a seven-point edge lead. But on third-and-10, the Cougars allowed the first in a passel of pivotal plays, this one a 31-yard pass from Sean Mannion to Caleb Smith to the WSU 41.
A third-down pass for a score, from Mannion to Kevin Cummings, tied it at 24 with 1:03 left in the third quarter.
It would turn disastrous in short order for the Cougars. They went three-and-out on their next series, and, at the WSU 34, deep snapper Alex Den Bleyker snapped the ball off-center, hitting a surprised blocking back Jared Byers in the chest.
That fumble set up the Beavers at the WSU 27, and a couple of plays later, it was Brandin Cooks running it over from 8 yards out to make it 31-24, and OSU would never come close to surrendering the lead again.
On WSU’s next play, quarterback Conner Halliday was picked off by cornerback Rashad Reynolds at the Cougar 45.
WSU, now regularly getting shamed by two plays — screens and fly sweeps — allowed a 14-yard fly sweep by Victor Bolden and a 30-yard Mannion-to-Cooks screen, and Storm Woods’ 1-yard run made it 38-24.
Halliday was picked again on WSU’s next series, leading to another short Cooks touchdown catch, and almost unbelievably, was intercepted for a third time on the Cougars’ next play from scrimmage as he rolled and flung it deep.
That made it three interceptions in less than five minutes for Halliday, and, though the Den Bleyker-Byers punt foible didn’t officially count as a turnover, it was essentially five for the Cougars for the night at that point.
OSU threw a deep ball to Cooks for another score with about six minutes left, making it five consecutive touchdowns, and the next time the Cougars saw the ball, WSU coach Mike Leach had replaced Halliday with redshirt freshman Austin Apodaca.
From there, it was garbage time, although from the Cougars’ standpoint, there was a lot of that when WSU coughed up the lead and ceded the game to Oregon State.