PULLLMAN, Wash., Sept. 14 – Southern Utah went nearly two-and-a-half games without turning the ball over in 2013 but when the Thunderbirds finally did it cost them as Washington State was able to take advantage of three SUU turnovers, including a 72-yard interception return for a touchdown near the end of the first half, in a 48-10 win.
WSU improved to 2-1 while SUU dipped to 2-1 on the season.
With his team down 21-10 but driving late in the second quarter SUU quarterback Aaron Cantu threw a pass just a bit long for Griff McNabb at the WSU 28 yard line. The Cougars’ opportunistic cornerback Damante Horton was there to make the Thunderbirds pay, as he reeled in the pass and had clear sailing 72 yards into the end zone and a 28-10 WSU edge that would stand at halftime.
Horton was the hero of the Cougars’ 10-7 win at Southern Cal last week with two interceptions, including one he returned 70 yards for WSU’s only touchdown.
“At that point our margin for error was zero and we just didn’t explode out in the second half,” SUU Coach Ed Lamb said. “We had a game that we might have had a chance to wrestle around a little bit more and get a chance to get back in the game but that pick-six made it so our margin for error was zero coming out at halftime.”
“I was really impressed with the way their offensive line held out and their quarterback was able to sit in there and really slice us up with accurate passes in the first quarter, got us on our heels a little bit,” Lamb went on to say. “We should have had the option to play some man-to-man coverage but we’re missing some corners that should be eligible right now and we weren’t able to match up in any man-to-man. We had to challenge them to play zone and run the ball but they really didn’t choose to run the ball. Halliday was very good at finding the open man with accurate passes. “
SUU’s defense held Washington State to field goals on the Cougars’ first two possessions of the second half, but Deone Buchanon intercepted a Cantu pass the SUU 41 yard line and returned it to the 18, setting up a one-yard Connor Halliday-to-Gabe Marks touchdown pass and a 41-10 Cougar advantage.
WSU tacked on another score on a 3-yard pass from Halliday with 11 minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
After falling behind 14-3 in the first quarter SUU pulled within 14-10 on a 3-yard Raysean Martin run and appeared to be in position to be down by less than a touchdown at the break before Horton’s pick-six.
SUU had dodged a bullet when LeShaun Sims intercepted a Connor Halliday pass in the end zone but the Thunderbirds weren’t able to turn the possession into points. .
WSU got another second quarter score when on third-and-18 Halliday found Dominique Williams down the left sideline for a 55-yard touchdown pass and a 21-10 lead with 4:22 to play in the half. It was the duo’s second long scoring pass as that same combination led to the first score of the game on a 43-yard hook-up.
Halliday wound up completing 32-of-41 passes for 383 yards and five touchdowns before being pulled in favor of Austin Apodaca in the fourth period. Canto completed 22-of-30 passes for 146 yards.
NOTES: Griff McNabb had his longest punt return of the season, an 18-yarder … It was the Thunderbirds’ worst loss since a 48-10 setback at Northern Iowa in the final game of the 2007 season …