Why Paul Why?
One yard That was all difference that stood between a WSU Cougars victory, which would’ve extended our bowl hopes, and a loss.
Standing at the one yard line with all the motivation on the Washington State side, Paul Wulff elected to take Conner Halliday, who just drove the offense 74 yards in 5 plays, and his offense off the field in favor of PK Andrew Furney.
As we know, Furney hit the 17 yard FG, and the Cougars would eventually fall to Utah in overtime 30-27.
With the game starting out very poorly for the Cougars on offense, the Cougars still managed to put themselves in a position to win the game at the end.
All day long the Cougs were unable to execute at certain points of the game. That left Conner Halliday on an island to make plays by himself.
The lack of a stable running game didn’t help matters. With the inclement weather putting a heavy premium of net yards on the ground, the Cougs managed to put up only 62 yards on 23 carries. (compared to Utah’s 50 carries for 186 yards)
That ended up putting the offense on the shoulders of Halliday, who was under a constant Utah pass rush all afternoon.
Consequently, Halliday began forcing plays into receivers, which resulted in three costly first-half interceptions.
Halliday finished the game 21/48, 290 yards, 2 TD’s, 4 INT’s and a 43.8 com%.
Despite the Cougars only converting 33% of third-down convertions (6-18), and the team turning the ball over 5 times, the Washington St. Cougars were still able to put together enough offense when they needed it the most.
We see this happen every season at all levels of football.
When head coach’s across the nation are constantly put under pressure to make a snap or rash decision when the games outcome is on the line. They are never right or wrong, but it seems that way if you are on the losing end of one of those decisions.
In that one split second, Paul Wulff made a decision he felt he could give the Cougs the best chance to win. During his first post-game interview of the week, Wulff never second guessed his decision.
“We needed to kick the FG, which we did. To put ourselves into overtime, which balanced things back up. Gave us the opportunity, and we didn’t win.”
He’s right though. In a normal situation when home teams are facing that very predicament, the odds are always in the home teams favor if they kick the FG and go into overtime.
Nine times out of ten the home team will come away with a victory. But this was hardly anything but a “normal” situation. The Cougars haven’t been in a position to be bowl eligible since 2006, and knowing Wulff could greatly affect the Cougar rebuilding/recruiting efforts with a win, this one decision seemed to lack that sense of urgency the situation required.
It seemed almost like Wulff wasn’t allowing himself to be great.
That was his first real opportunity to seal his Cougars legacy. Those are the great plays that stand the test of time. They are the ones where people look back and say “Hey, do you remember that time when Wulff decided to go for it?”
People would automatically know what they were referring to because it got us back into our first bowl game in nearly a decade.
I understand why Wulff elected to do what he did, but this only adds to why this loss stings so badly.
We had the game in our hands. The ball was in our possession with three seconds left, and ball spotted at the one-yard line. You couldn’t ask for a better scenario.
If Galvin or Winston gets stuffed, or Halliday wildly fires a pass that sails through the back of the endzone, so be it.
At least we went out trying to win the ball game.
Never is it a good thing when a loss has you asking “what if”?
It’s not supposed to work that way. Unfortunately for us, that IS what happened, and for the rest of this winter, while we watch another Pac-12 team play in our bowl game, we will be asking “what if“.
What if we went for that one yard…