Connor Halliday has set a handful of passing records in his time at Washington State, but they only seemed to serve as prelude to what he did Saturday night at Martin Stadium.
If you ask him, the senior quarterback will probably say the only numbers that mattered were 60-59, the final score of the Cougars loss over California before a stunned crowd of 30,020.
The Cougars had a chance to win with 19 seconds left but Quentin Breshears’ 19-yard field goal was wide right and California had survived.
But still, Halliday’s passing numbers were too huge to ignore.
How huge? How about 734 yards passing, breaking Houston quarterback David Klinger’s 24-year-old record of 716 set against Arizona State.
Heck, Halliday, who was 44 of 62 passing on the night, blew past his old Pac-12 single-game mark of 557, set last season at Oregon, by the end of the third quarter.
Not surprisingly, the Cougars needed just about every one of those yards. And, actually, one more.
Trailing by the final score, Halliday and the Cougars took over at their 30 with 3 minutes and 17 seconds left.
A 21-yard toss to Vince Mayle got the drive started. A 5-yard pass to River Cracraft picked up a fourth down inside Cal territory. A long pass to Calvin Green fell incomplete. The passing record fell on the next play, a 14-yard completion to Green that put the ball to the Bears 21.
Three plays later the ball was on the 1-yard line, 19 seconds remained and the Cougars were out of time outs. On came Breshears. The kick, from the right hash, stayed wide right and California was 4-1 overall, 2-1 in the Pac-12.
That’s partly because California set a school record itself – and also put up more than 500 yards of offense.
The record was set by Trevor Davis, who became the first Bear to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in one game. Davis put together 100-yard and 98-yard returns on back-to-back returns in the third quarter.
Those returns were part of a 56-point quarter, which included four touchdowns for each team.
Halliday had three of his school-record-tying six touchdown passes in the quarter, the teams combined for 539 yards of total offense and Cal’s Jared Goff, who finished with 527 passing yards on 37-of-53 attempts, completed seven consecutive passes for 211 yards.
All that scoring did, however, was set up a climactic fourth quarter, which started more than three hours after the opening kickoff.
The Cougars (2-4 overall) led 52-41 as the final 15 minutes began. Less than a minute in, though, Cal had pulled within four when Goff hit Bryce Treggs on a 5-yard scoring toss.
An offensive pass interference penalty killed the next WSU drive and Goff wasted little time in marching the Bears 95 yards for the go-ahead score, hitting Treggs on a 21-yard strike. The extra point was blocked by Ivan McLennan and the Bears led by just two, 54-52.
No matter. The Cougars marched down the field, received some help from the Bears with two defensive penalties in the end zone, and scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard Gerard Wicks run with 4:19 left.
California answered. Davis beat Daquawn Brown down the boundary for a 51-yard score, putting the Bears back on top, 60-59 after a two-point conversion failed.
With 3:17 remaining, Halliday and the Cougars (1-2 in Pac-12 play) got the ball back.
After WSU had built a 24-10 lead in the first half, the Bears scored the next 17 points, taking a 27-24 third-quarter lead. California’s two touchdown drives to open the third quarter took all of 1 minute, 27 seconds combined.
The Cougars’ response? The same one they had to open the scoring, a deep pass. And then a trick play added on.
WSU’s first touchdown came on a Halliday to Mayle 90-yard toss in which Mayle blew by a Bear safety before hauling in Halliday’s toss.
The third-quarter response was a bit different. Cracraft, usually WSU’s third-down possession receiver, freed himself with a double move and outran a couple Bears on an 86-yard lead-restoring score.
Cracraft, Mayle and Dom Williams all finished with more than 100 yards receiving, with Mayle hauling in 11 for a WSU-record 263 yards.
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