The Washington State Cougars failed to live up to their hype last night, losing a defensive battle to Minnesota in the Holiday Bowl 17-12.
The Washington State Cougars couldn’t take advantage of nearly an entire team of Minnesota Gophers being suspended for the Holiday Bowl. 10 Gophers were suspended for their alleged role in a sexual assault case on Minnesota’s campus this year. Minnesota players almost refused to play in this game because they felt their teammates were being unfairly accused and investigated.
Yet, Mike Leach’s team, with a month to prepare for an inferior opponent, came out flat and couldn’t get its Air Raid offense going against a depleted and much-maligned Minnesota defense. Even though Minnesota’s coach, Tracy Claeys, loves to mold his defense into an aggressive, blitzing unit, they still struggled against the pass all year. With WSU quarterback Luke Falk ranked fifth in the nation in passing yards and completing 71 percent of his passes on the year, it appeared to be a good matchup for the Cougs.
But that matchup that Washington State Cougars fans have been licking their collective chops for was dashed nearly from the opening whistle.
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Minnesota and WSU played a 6-3 first half, with the Cougars leading. It was clear that WSU wouldn’t be able to take advantage of a depleted Gophers defense. Then, on the first Minnesota possession, Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner led his team on an 84-yard, 10-play drive that ended with this. Cougars cornerback Marcellus Pippins appeared to mistime his jump and deflects it right to Shannon Brooks for a go-ahead touchdown.
If you thought that play was ugly for the Washington State Cougars, the fourth quarter got worse. With the Cougs going for it on fourth down with just over three minutes left, still down 10-6, Luke Falk was intercepted by Adekunle Ayinde. The Gophers scored again on the ensuing possession to effectively ice the game.
As if sensing the agony of Cougars’ fans everywhere and wanting to add to it for some reason, after Falk’s 8-yard touchdown, the Cougars decided to get stuffed at the goal line after a series of Minnesota penalties on the two-point conversion, then lose the onside kick.
After a mostly successful season in which the Cougars won eight games and garnered at least some national attention for their high-flying offense, they lost to a team of rapists in the ugliest Holiday Bowl in recent memory. There’s always next year.