A week ago, Washington State didn’t allow a sack in its victory over Utah, which came into that game leading the nation in quarterback takedowns.
Friday, in Washington’s 27-17 Apple Cup victory, the Huskies sacked Connor Halliday five times and intercepted him twice in the final five and half minutes at Husky Stadium.
“We did a pretty good job getting in the pocket and making him feel uncomfortable,” UW defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha said.
Kikaha, a junior, continued his remarkable comeback from two major knee injuries to finish with a career-high 11 tackles. He had two of UW’s five sacks, giving him 10 for the season to move into a tie for sixth on the career list at 14.
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“Unbelievable,” UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. “First and foremost, he obviously has talent and skill. But just the type of kid he is and the way he plays — he plays so hard and with so much effort. It matters to him.”
The five sacks matched a season high for UW against a Pac-12 opponent. Evan Hudson, Cory Litton and Travis Feeney were credited with one sack each.
Halliday finished 32 of 59 for 282 yards with two touchdowns and late interceptions to UW’s Greg Ducre and John Timu.
“I’m happy to help any way I can and continue to do so,” Kikaha said. “The team, the defense, my D-linemen put me in those situations, and sometimes I’m able to capitalize.”
Timu, UW’s junior middle linebacker, was nearly ejected for “targeting” WSU receiver Dom Williams after Williams’ fourth-down catch in the fourth quarter.
Officials initially ejected Timu for what they said was an illegal hit to the head. However, after a review, it was determined that Timu lead with his shoulder on the hit, not his helmet, and was allowed back onto the field. The personal-foul penalty still stood, and WSU scored a touchdown two plays later to close to 20-17.
Washington has not had a player ejected under the new targeting rule.
Washington’s Marcus Peters, who has established himself as one of the better cornerbacks in the Pac-12 this season, said he didn’t need any more time to ponder the NFL draft.
“Man, nothing’s going to change,” said Peters, a draft-eligible third-year sophomore. “I’m coming back to UW. I’m not ready (for the NFL) right now.”
Washington State linebacker Darryl Monroe jawed with a couple of UW players on the field after the game. Asked about the exchange, Monroe said, “I mean, you guys won the game. We feel bad enough. Have some class, that’s all I’ve got to say. We won last year and still shook hands and went to our fans and celebrated. But when things started to get out of hand, trash-talking and disrespectful terms, I really didn’t appreciate it.
“Some guys have class, like Keith Price and (Bishop) Sankey and (Jaydon) Mickens.”
The Cougars repeatedly used the word “hope” on the question of whether they think they’ll get a bowl bid at 6-6. The Pac-12 has seven bowl affiliations but nine teams eligible, so two programs figure to have to search out spots left by other leagues that can’t fill their allotments.
“I just feel blessed to have the opportunity to play in a bowl game,” said senior safety Deone Bucannon.
“Whichever works for us,” said fifth-year senior cornerback Nolan Washington of Kennedy High. “Me not ever having gone to one, I’ll take any.”
• Halliday on the redone Husky Stadium: “That stadium’s beautiful. But we’ve handled noise at Auburn and Oregon … so I don’t think that was a problem.”
• Halliday said on his sack to end the first half that slot receiver Rickey Galvin had run off the field, leaving only 10 Cougars out there.
• Halliday’s 412 completions and 656 attempts are each the most in Pac-12 history.
• The Cougars seemed to have Price unnerved in the first half, as he fumbled and threw an interception, turned in by Nolan Washington
on an attempt to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. WSU LB Justin Sagote said he sensed Price was uncomfortable, saying, “There was one time when we were rushing, and he was looking around, and I hear him saying, ‘Oh man, oh man … ”
• Cougars coach Mike Leach: “I don’t think anybody’s improved in the last three weeks as much as we have.”