Cougars avoid being burned in the desert

DESPITE THROWING A pair of interceptions – one on the opening drive of the night – Connor Halliday kept the Cougars from getting burned in the desert with a 35-27 win over UNLV tonight in Las Vegas.

Halliday's first stint of the season as starting quarterback got off to a shaky start, but the redshirt sophomore rebounded quickly on an eight-play series that intensified with a 47-yard reception by freshman wide receiver Gabe Marks on third-and-3, and a 4-yard touchdown by junior Marquess Wilson two plays later.

The Cougars struck again a little more than four minutes later on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Halliday to sophomore wide receiver Isiah Myers to give them a 14-0 lead.

By the time Halliday threw an 81-yard touchdown pass to Wilson to put WSU up 28-10 with about five minutes left in The Opening half, it was clear that Mike Leach's Air Raid Offense had taken flight.

However, Rebels quarterback Nick Sherry then threw the first of two touchdown passes, a 75-yarder to Marcus Sullivan, to narrow the margain to 28-17. The play highlighted one of the game's lowlights – a sloppy defensive effort that repeatedly faltered at pass coverage throughout the night.

It could have been a much closer game in the second half, as UNLV squandered back-to-back opportunities to score in the fourth quarter. Halliday threw his second interception of the game to give the Rebels the ball back at the WSU 41-yard line, but they were unable to convert.

The Cougars avoided going scoreless in the half with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Halliday to Wilson with about 10 minutes left in the game. But with WSU leading 35-27, Halliday nearly threw a third interception with less than a minute left.

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Play of the game: Wilson's 81-yard touchdown catch put the Cougars up 28-10 with about five minutes left in the first half.

Key moment: UNLV went for it on fourth-and-3 at the WSU 25, but the play was incomplete. Halliday's ensuing interception on an underthrown pass gave the Rebels the ball back, but were unable to convert.

Key stat: Both teams racked up more than 300 passing yards, with Halliday and the Cougars outhrowing the Sherry and the Rebels 378 to 365.

They said it: "This may be the beginning of the Air Raid the Cougars are looking for." – Rod Gilmore, after the Cougars went up 14-0 in the first quarter.

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