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Sports >  WSU football

Best of the Mountain West: Looking back at Washington State’s five best games against the conference this decade

Dec. 24, 2019 Updated Tue., Dec. 24, 2019 at 4:24 p.m.

By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

Even when Washington State tries to take a break from the Mountain West, the Cougars just can’t seem to get away.

Most years, a date with an MWC team is set from the start. Washington State has scheduled regular-season games against at least one team from the conference in seven of the last nine seasons.

But in each of those other two, the Cougars have ended up with a bowl-game date against an MWC squad. The first was in the 2013 New Mexico Bowl against Colorado State (more on that later) and now this year when the Cougars play Air Force in the Cheez-It Bowl on Friday.

Ten times this decade the Cougars have played a Mountain West team, winning six times. Here is a look back at five of those games:

2011: San Diego State 42, Washington State 24

Though the Cougars finished the 2011 season at 4-8, a showing that ended Paul Wulff’s tenure in Pullman, they arrived in San Diego in mid-September with a 2-0 record and a high-scoring offense.

The game had been arranged by Jim Sterk, WSU’s former athletic director who was in his second year in the same position at San Diego State.

Marquess Wilson set a sophomore record that still stands with 236 receiving yards against the Aztecs, including an 80-yard score on WSU’s first offensive play and a 78-yard score two plays into its opening possession of the second half. That second score gave WSU at 24-14 lead. Wilson finished with 236 yards, then the fifth-highest single-game total in WSU history.

Then the Aztecs took over.

The Cougars gained just 96 yards on their final six drives. The Aztecs gained 317 and scored four unanswered touchdowns during that span. Future NFL running back Ronnie Hillman gained 191 yards on 32 carries and scored four times.

WSU senior Marshall Lobbestael completed 20 of 42 attempts for 368 yards, three scores and two second-half interceptions.

2018: Washington State 41, Wyoming 19

Gardner Minshew was still an unknown when he took the field in Laramie, but he led the Cougars to a field goal and a touchdown on his first two drives. While the Cowboys recaptured the lead before halftime, Minshew and the offense recovered.

The Cougars scored the game’s final 28 points, and a 14-yard touchdown on Max Borghi’s first collegiate carry clinched the game midway through the fourth quarter.

Minshew finished with 319 yards on 38 of 57 attempts. Washington State’s defense held Wyoming to just 206 yards of offense.

2016: Boise State 31, Washington State 28

The Cougars headed to Boise with hopes of rebounding after a season-opening loss to Eastern Washington. They eventually did turn around their season, but not before losing to the Broncos for the first time in program history.

Led by quarterback Brett Rypien, a Shadle Park High graduate, the Broncos scored the game’s first two touchdowns. Early miscues cost the Cougars: A Luke Falk interception on the game’s first drive and a missed field goal in the second quarter squandered scoring opportunities.

Boise State led 17-7 at half and 31-14 early in the fourth quarter before the Washington State offense – and defense – kicked into gear.

Falk, then a junior, attempted 71 passes, the third-most in his career, and completed 55 for 480 yards. He found Jamal Morrow on fourth down for a 14-yard touchdown. After a Shalom Luani interception, he hit Gabe Marks for a 33-yard touchdown on the next play that drew the Cougars within a field goal (31-28) with 4:17 left.

WSU’s Charleston White picked off Rypien in the end zone with 53 seconds to go. But starting from its own 20-yard line, the Cougars offense only gained 25 yards, and the comeback fell short. WSU won its next eight games, then lost its final three.

2013: Colorado State 48, Washington State 45

WSU’s first bowl game under Mike Leach proved to be unforgettable, though surely not for the reason the Cougars would have liked.

The Cougars led the Rams by as many as 22 points. With 9:35 left in the fourth quarter, Connor Halliday hit Isiah Myers for a 22-yard touchdown, stretching WSU’s lead back to 45-30. It was Halliday’s sixth touchdown pass of the game, setting a WSU bowl record. No one else has thrown more than two against an MWC team.

After that score, the Cougars fumbled away what looked like a certain victory.

The Rams’ comeback started with a nine-play, 72-yard touchdown drive to make it 45-37 with 2:52 left. The Rams kicked off, and the Cougars took over at their 18. The Cougars got a first down and the Rams exhausted their timeouts.

But on a second-and-10 play with 1:51 left, Jeremiah Laufasa fumbled, and the Rams recovered at the Cougars’ 33-yard line.

Colorado State scored a touchdown. After initially being ruled short of the end zone, the Rams’ game-tying, 2-point conversion was ruled successful. The game was tied at 45 and looked destined for overtime.

But Teondray Caldwell fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Jared Roberts hit a 41-yard field goal with 3 seconds left that gave the Rams a 48-45 win.

The loss sunk the Cougars’ record to 6-7, extending their streak of losing seasons to seven.

2017: Washington State 47, Boise State 44 (3 OT)

Almost certainly the Cougars’ most memorable game of the decade against a Mountain West team came in the rematch with Boise State, this time in Pullman, where sophomore Tyler Hilinski led one of the great comebacks in school history.

Falk, a senior at the time, had one of his poorest statistical showings of his career, completing 24 of 34 passes for 193 yards, though that was enough to break Halliday’s record for career passing yards. It was one of only three times in his final 36 games that Falk failed to throw a touchdown pass.

Falk left the game after fumbling early in the fourth quarter, a fumble that Boise State returned for a touchdown and a 31-10 lead.

After that, though, the Cougars shined. Hilinski led an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to pull within two scores. Peyton Pelluer intercepted a pass and returned it for a 36-yard touchdown with 5:51 left to make the score 31-24, the defense’s second touchdown of the game.

The Cougars’ defense forced a three-and-out, but their offense stalled and also had to punt the ball away. Erik Powell’s short punt hit a Boise State player, and Dillon Sherman recovered the ball inside the Boise State 25.

Hilinski found Jamal Morrow for a 6-yard touchdown in the left flat with 1:44 left, and the score was tied at 31.

After trading scores in the first two overtimes, Boise State settled for a field goal in the third overtime. Hilinski again had an answer, hitting Morrow for a 22-yard winning score.

Hilinski finished with 240 yards, a career-high three touchdowns and one interception on 25 of 33 attempts.

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