Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Tale of the tape: WSU 48, Southern Utah 10


FROM PULLMAN -- Here's our usual postgame tale of the tape, this one coming after the most lopsided victory of the Mike Leach era at Washington State.


OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME -- Hard to argue against Connor Halliday here. He completed 32 of his 41 pass attempts (that's 78 percent) for 383 yards (that's 9.3 yards per attempt) and five touchdowns, and threw just the one interception. This was the kind of performance he really needed after a couple of shaky outings to start the season, and it should serve as a pretty clear message -- albeit against a Big Sky team -- that he's still capable of making clean reads and taking care of the ball.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME -- Kache Palacio said he found out he was going to start on Wednesday, as Destiny Vaeao has been sidelined by an apparent ailment (he rode the bike during practice on Thursday, but he did suit up Saturday). Palacio filled in nicely, making six tackles and a sack. His speed at the buck linebacker position adds a different element to WSU's defense, and his sack of Aaron Cantu came at a time when the Cougars were getting very little pressure on the quarterback.

PLAY OF THE GAME -- For the second consecutive week, Damante Horton is involved in this selection. He returned another interception for a touchdown, this one 72 yards, and it gave WSU an insurmountable 28-10 lead with 38 seconds remaining in the first half. That really felt like the back-breaker for SUU.

STAT OF THE GAME -- 7.1. The Cougars averaged 7.1 yards per play throughout the game, and that's a pretty strong indication that the offense is clicking the way it's supposed to. WSU's 48 points are the most it has scored under Leach, and its 38-point margin of victory is also the highest of Leach's WSU tenure.

QUOTABLE -- "We come out and we’re coached to respect every team because we know that when you don’t, teams will come back and smack you in the face. That was prevalent last year. Eastern (Washington) and Colorado ended up coming back from a big deficit. Eastern slipped the ball out of his fingertips at the end and almost scored a touchdown to beat us. That’s just us not being able to respect our opponents. That’s a big step for us. We’re going to play Cougar football. That’s what we put a big emphasis on this year, being able to play through and through." -- defensive tackle Toni Pole

"That was probably the first time since I’ve been here at WSU that we’ve been able to step on their throat, keep the gas pedal down and not give them any chance of coming back in the game. That was another step for us as a team." -- Halliday, on WSU handling its business as expected

WHAT IT MEANS -- That's a good way to put it -- another step. This is the Cougars' fifth win under Leach, and the previous four were nail-biters -- one was decided by eight points (UNLV), one by four (Eastern Washington), and the other two by three (Washington and USC). So despite the fact that victory was expected over a team the Cougars obviously had outlcassed across the board, it's still significant that it came by this margin. Halliday summed that portion of it up pretty well. A more cynical view would be that it's a little silly to assign much importance to a win over an FCS team. But Big Sky teams have given the Cougars trouble in Martin Stadium before. That SUU didn't is further proof that WSU is cleaning up the inconsistencies, both mental and physical, that hurt it in these kind of games before.

Christian Caple can be reached at Twitter: @ChristianCaple

SportsLink is your portal into sports news around the Inland Northwest and beyond. You'll find updates, notes and opinions, and plenty of reader feedback.

Looking for a Grip on Sports?

Vince Grippi's daily take on all things regional sports has been moved to our main sports section online. You can find a collection of these columns here.