No clear starter at QB for Cougs heading into Apple Cup
TEMPE, Ariz. — Which Washington State quarterback Washington will face in the Apple Cup on Friday is anybody’s guess after the Cougars once again used both Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday in their 46-7 defeat Saturday against Arizona State.
WSU coach Mike Leach was predictably noncommittal about that, after neither quarterback was particularly effective against the pressure of the Sun Devils. Halliday played the bulk of the game after Tuel was replaced early in the second quarter, and was 13 of 33 for 173 yards — 54 of it on a final-minute middle screen to Kristoff Williams that broke for WSU’s only touchdown.
Both quarterbacks have at times expressed frustration at the switches Leach has made.
“Obviously, it is (frustrating),” said Tuel. “You’d like to have some consistency. (But) it’s not our decision to make. You’ve got to try to make the most of it.”
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Last week, after Halliday came on for an injured Tuel in the UCLA game, Halliday was even more outspoken about the changes, saying, “We’ve played musical chairs with the quarterbacks all year. It’s been frustrating as all get-out.”
On this day, it didn’t seem to matter who was taking snaps. The Sun Devils got pressure (seven sacks), and WSU receivers didn’t seem to get good separation against an ASU pass defense that has allowed the fewest yards in the Pac-12.
Asked about the rush, Halliday said, “It definitely gets frustrating. You’re trying a quick (passing) game, you get three or four drops … and you get two or three people coming untouched through the line, it makes it tough on the whole offense and puts a lot of pressure on our defense, too.”
A season in which the Cougars felt bowl-worthy has devolved into one in which they’ve lost eight in a row and surrendered 40-plus points in their past three games.
“I don’t think you could write a movie for the way the season’s gone,” Halliday said. “Our best player (Marquess Wilson) leaving the team, everything that’s transpired … all the drama, all the outside hoopla … all the plays I haven’t seen in junior high, YMCA GridKid-kind of games.
“I don’t think a Hollywood writer would write something like this.”
On a day when ASU ran 93 plays to 68 for the Cougars, there were some defensive highlights for WSU. Safety Deone Bucannon had 17 tackles, equaling a career high, and cornerback Anthony Carpenter played a physical game with a career-high 12 tackles.
Linebacker Cyrus Coen, who has turned in one of the best seasons among WSU defenders, had four tackles for loss among the Cougs’ 10.
Bucannon lamented a special-teams blunder that gave ASU its first possession at the WSU 6, saying, “That kind of had the sideline morale go down. The great teams need to bounce those off your chest. We need to learn that.”
Bucannon conceded the investigation of player abuse charges against Leach constituted a “distraction” for WSU, but added, “Everybody knows the Marquess thing, and that takes a toll on people. People see what’s happening, but it’s not anything that’s going to keep us from playing as hard as we can.”
• The Cougars were only 1 of 16 on third-down conversions.
• WSU broke team season records for completions (330) and attempts (571). Previous records were 309 and 525 in 2007.
• Bucannon, on preparation for the Apple Cup: “We’re coming hotheaded as ever. This whole week of practices is going to be the most intense we’ve had all year. We have nothing to lose.”
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org