WSU PRESIDENT ELSON FLOYD
PULLMAN – Connor Halliday came off the bench to throw five touchdown passes in one of the most stirring comeback attempts in recent Washington State football history, but standout wide receiver Marquess Wilson managed to steal the spotlight Saturday night without playing a single down.
Wilson’s scathing indictment of the coaching staff created a media firestorm nationwide. Toss in school president Elson S. Floyd’s request for an internal and external review of the football program, and WSU’s 44-36 loss to then-No. 17 UCLA – after trailing 37-7 at halftime – almost became an afterthought.
Wilson’s decision to release his statement to the media a few hours prior to kickoff forced WSU coaches and players to wait until after the game – and after deadline for many newspapers – to respond.
Coach Mike Leach “absolutely” denied Wilson’s most damning accusation, that players had been subjected to physical abuse.
“Honestly, it’s kind of laughable,” said Dennis Simmons, Wilson’s position coach.
Floyd released a statement to the media Sunday morning.
“After consultation with WSU Athletic Director Bill Moos, I have asked our athletic department to fully review recent allegations raised concerning the football program and report their findings and conclusions as soon as possible,” the statement read. “Simultaneously, I have asked the Pac-12 (Conference) to independently do the same.”
None of the three WSU players made available to the media after Saturday’s game said they have seen any physical abuse of players.
“I haven’t, no,” Halliday said.
“I don’t think so,” linebacker Cyrus Coen said.
“No comment,” said wide receiver Dominique Williams, who quickly brushed off all comments concerning Wilson.
Simmons offered the first extensive comment from the WSU camp on Wilson’s decision to walk out of an intense conditioning workout last Sunday. Wilson’s suspension was announced the following day. Wilson said Saturday he has quit the team.
“We had a drill,” Simmons said. “There were 64 guys out there. One guy chose to leave. Three minutes after the drill started.
“I ask you, how did I fail him? He wasn’t yelled at. He wasn’t cursed at. He wasn’t chased after.”
One week after Leach publicly called out his players for poor effort in a 49-6 loss at Utah, Leach raved about his team’s effort level against UCLA.
“We played hard the entire game,” Leach said. “Really hard.
“I mean, that is the hardest I’ve seen this team play. Harder than, really, most teams I’ve coached.”
Leach said he was delighted with WSU’s effort level even in the first half, when the Bruins blocked four kicks – two field goals and two punts.
Halliday replaced senior Jeff Tuel late in the first quarter after Tuel took a hard hit. Leach, as usual, declined to comment about player injuries after the game. Tuel may have re-injured the collar bone that sidelined him most of last season.
Leach said he’s “not sure” if he’ll give Halliday another shot at starting if Tuel is healthy enough to play Saturday at Arizona State (noon, Pac-12 Networks).
The Bruins had to recover an onside kick with 90 seconds left in the game, after Halliday’s third touchdown pass in 15 minutes, to secure the victory.
Despite a slow start, Halliday completed 26 of 43 passes for 330 yards, a career-high five touchdowns and a costly end-zone interception with 5:50 left. Tuel went 11 for 14 for 127 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.