In 2011 Washington State football fans got their first taste of meaningful November football since 2006, and that came against the Utah Utes at Martin Stadium. The Cougs were 4-6 heading into that game — after an upset of Arizona State — and needed to win out to get to a bowl game.
This game was Connor Halliday’s first start of his collegiate career, and it was against one of the better defenses in the conference. In 2011 , Utah gave up 20.2 points per game (1st in the conference), 350.9 total yards per game (3rd), 237.4 passing yards per game (4th in conference), and 113.5 rushing yards per game (3rd in conference).
Not exactly the easiest team for a redshirt freshmen to go up against in his first start.
The first half ended in a 7-7 tie and (despite being frozen) the Coug fans that were at the game were feeling pretty optimistic; that optimism was buoyed when Glen Johnson said that UW had lost to Oregon State in Corvallis. This meant that if Washington State beat Utah, then the Apple Cup would be for a bowl game.
What we [the fans in the stands] didn’t know was that Connor Halliday had lacerated his liver in the first half of this game. Yet Halliday came in the second half, and engineered WSU’s a game winning/tying drive as time ticked off the clock in the fourth quarter. And then Pac-12 refs happened.
Halliday found Marquess Wilson in the end zone — both of Wilson’s feet landed inside the chalk lines and he had possession of the ball — but the Utah CB made a heads up play and drilled Wilson in the chest. Marquess fell out of the end zone and he landed just shy of the one yard line; and that’s where the official marked the ball.
Utah won on a field goal in the first over time.
Two years later, the Cougs and Utah face off at Martin Stadium again. This time the WSU’s bowl hopes aren’t entirely on beating Utah, but the Utes bowl hopes are entirely dependent on beating the Cougs — Washington State enters this game with a 5-5 record, Utah enters with a 4-6 record.
Connor Halliday is again starting for WSU, and is looking to show improvement through the 2013 season. These improvements really shined through in the upset victory of Arizona this past Saturday; and he gets to face a weaker Utah defense than he did in 2011: Utah is allowing 27 points per game (8th), 387.3 total yards per game (6th), 142.5 rushing yards per game (4th), and 244.7 passing yards per game (8th).
That being said, I’m not watching for how Halliday matches up against the Ute secondary. I am watching for the Cougs to get revenge for the loss in 2011, and to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2006.