Halliday leads Washington State past UNLV, 35-27

LAS VEGAS — Connor Halliday continues to make quite an impact for Washington State.

The backup QB threw four first-half touchdown passes for the Cougars during their 35-27 victory over UNLV on Friday. He has thrown 13 career TD passes in his first six games, which is four more than former NFL star Drew Bledsoe, who threw nine touchdowns in the first six games of his Cougars’ career.

“I’m where I need to be now and that’s all that matters,” Halliday said. “I feel like I made a decent case for myself. I haven’t been told anything (about if he’ll start again in the near future) by the coaching staff. We’ll see what (Washington State head) coach (Mike) Leach says when we come in and watch the game film.”

The 6-foot, 4-inch, 189-pound Halliday, starting in place of the injured Jeff Tuel, completed two TD passes to Marquess Wilson, one to Gabe Marks and one to Isiah Myers in the first half. For the game, sophomore Halliday completed 26 of 45 pass attempts with two interceptions for 378 yards. It was his third career 300-yard performance and second career four-TD game.

“For a guy who hadn’t played football for a long time, I thought he played good,” Leach said. “Obviously, (the two interceptions were) two balls he’d like to have back; one he threw behind the guy and the other one he just threw off his back foot. I thought (Halliday was) really calm for a guy that hasn’t played a lot. I think his demeanor with his team was good.”

Washington State (2-1), which owned a 28-20 halftime lead, never trailed and held off the Rebels, who regained possession with 40 seconds left in the game but were unable to advance past the Cougars’ 42-yard line.

“We got the job done,” Halliday said. “We got that taste in our mouths of winning a game in the fourth quarter, Winning a close game like this will help us in the long run.”

Marks led the Cougars with six catches for 126 yards while Wilson was next with five receptions for 110 yards.

UNLV (0-3) was led by Marcus Sullivan, who caught six passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Nick Sherry, who completed 33 of 49 passes with one interception for 351 yards and three touchdowns. Tim Cornett also rushed 20 times for 97 yards.

Washington State took a 7-0 lead when Halliday threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Wilson with 8:17 left in the first quarter. The eight-play, 70-yard drive was highlighted by a 47-yard pass from Halliday to Marks that put the ball on UNLV’s 4-yard line.

The Cougars increased their lead to 14-0 with 4:25 left in the first quarter, when Isiah Myers caught an 18-yard TD pass from Halliday. The drive was set up by Tyree Toomer’s interception for the Cougars.

UNLV cut the Cougars’ lead to 14-7 when Sullivan caught a 37-yard TD pass from Sherry with 2:36 remaining in the first quarter.

The second quarter featured three long TDs. Marks caught a 52-yard pass that made it 21-7. After a field goal made it a 11-point game, Wilson caught an 81-yard TD pass with 5:27 left in the period.

Just 13 seconds later, Sullivan caught his second TD pass from Sherry — this one for 75 yards — to cut the Cougars’ lead to 28-17.

Following a scoreless third quarter, Leon Brooks completed an 88-yard drive by running three yards for a touchdown with 14:07 in the fourth quarter, giving the Cougars a 35-20 lead.

The Rebels made it a one-possession game in favor of the Cougars at 35-27 when Sherry threw a four-yard TD pass to Jake Phillips with 1:44 left in the fourth quarter.

“We were down by double digits three times and found our way back into it,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “We came down to the last drive again and came up short. We are at 0-3, so obviously we are bitterly disappointed about that.”

The Rebels now have lost eight consecutive games dating back to the 2011 season.

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