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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Connor Halliday threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winning score to Vince Mayle, and Washington State overcame a 17-point halftime deficit to shock Utah 28-27 on Saturday night.
Rain fell steadily throughout but Halliday heated up in the second half, throwing for 267 yards in the final two quarters and the WSU defense came up with key stops to give the Cougars (2-3, 1-1 Pac-12) a big road victory.
On a drive they started on their own 8, Halliday connected with Mayle in full stride across the middle. Mayle, who had eight receptions for 120 yards, sped untouched 81 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 4:58 remaining.
On the ensuing possession, the Utes (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) converted one fourth down on a Devontae Booker run but Charleston White broke up a long pass to give the ball back to the Cougars at the WSU 49 with 2:30 play.
Aided by two timeouts, the Utah defense held and the Cougars punted after consuming just 1:04. Again, White broke up a fourth-down pass intended for receiver Dres Anderson, who didn't have a catch after compiling 252 in the first three games.
In stark contrast to Halliday, Utah's Travis Wilson completed 18 of 38 passes for 165 and consistently overthrew receivers or rifled the ball too hard. Booker rushed 24 times for 178 yards but the Cougars outgained the Utes 495-357.
One week after falling just short to No. 2 Oregon (38-31), the Cougars saved their best for last against the previously unbeaten Utes.
On fourth-and-14, Halliday waited for Williams to clear to the back of the end for a 20-yard touchdown with 8:08 to play. Halliday and his coach, Mike Leach, who is known for taking risks, scored two TDs on fourth-and-long situations.
Jason Fanaika, who spent much of the game in the WSU backfield, wrestled away a loose ball after it slipped out of Halliday's hands just before he wound up to throw a pass. Halliday had completed eight straight passes before the rain-soaked ball squirted up into the air and glanced off the quarterback's helmet and onto the ground.
The Ute offense, on the other hand, sputtered when the ball wasn't in Booker's hands but moved enough for Andy Phillips to kick a 43-yard field goal with 14:13 remaining to make it 27-14 for Utah but the Utes couldn't get close enough again to get Phillips a chance at a game-winner.
After a fumble recovery by Kache Palacio in the third quarter, Halliday finally looked like he was in rhythm and marched the Cougars down the field with passes to the right, left and middle. Halliday hit Mayle on a 11-yard touchdown strike to draw WSU to 24-14.
Halliday escaped the Ute rush on fourth-down-and-9 and lofted a 35-yard touchdown pass to Dom Williams with 6:54 left until halftime. Phillips added a 46-yard field goal with five seconds remaining in the second quarter and the Utes looked to be in command with a 24-7 lead at halftime.
Eric Rowe jumped a quick slant, grabbed a tipped ball for an interception and returned it 11 yards for Utah's first touchdown of the game with 10:01 left in the first quarter.
After stopping the Cougar offense again, Kaelin Clay shed a tackle near the sideline and then sped across the field and down the other sideline for a 58-yard TD return. The scintillating run marked his third punt return for a touchdown this season which ties Steve Smith's record set in 1999.
The Utes scored again when Booker scampered 76 yards for a touchdown and made it 21-0 in the first quarter.
165 and consistently overthrew receivers or rifled the ball too hard. Booker rushed 24 times for 178 yards but the Cougars outgained the Utes 495-357.