Strange games and Mike Leach seem to go hand-in-hand but even he would have to admit that what happened Saturday night on the Palouse was bizarre even to him.
That No. 20 Washington State went to overtime against regional rivals Boise State is not exactly surprising as each are pretty evenly matched teams and they played a close thriller last year. That the Broncos were even in a position to win the game was the result of 21 straight points in the third quarter using an, ahem, Kansas transfer Montell Cozart at quarterback was a bid odd though. So it was probably appropriate (and equally bizarre) therefore, that the Cougars used their own 21 point run to tie the game, force free football and eventually secure a 47-44 triple overtime victory in a manner only possible well after midnight has rolled around across most of the country.
Hey, it was one of those games.
Cozart was in the game as part of the team’s normal rotation but took over full-time after Broncos’ starter Brett Rypien (7/8, 76 yards pre-injury) was knocked out with a concussion. He returned in street clothes after halftime while his understudy returned to lead the team’s charge, rushing for one touchdown from 14 yards out and then hitting a 47 yard bomb for another score to finish the game with nearly 300 yards of total offense off the bench.
Leach and the Cougars understand what it’s like to send in the backup too, although the first time the team went to second string QB Tyler Hilinski it was a head coach’s decision after starter Luke Falk was simply ineffective. The second time came after Falk was slammed to the turf and injured, though the senior managed to set the school record for passing yardage before doing so.
But to get back to things being strange in this one, both backup signal-callers managed to score for both themselves — and the opponent — in the fourth quarter. Hilinski’s error came on an attempted (and ill-advised) shuttle pass that was returned by BSU’s Curtis Weaver 55 yards the other way. As if to one-up his opposite number, Cozart came right back and threw a pick-six off a shuttle/flip pass that wound up in the hands of linebacker Peyton Pelluer all the way to the end zone.
But let’s take it to another level with the Broncos leading by a touchdown. That’s when they forced a stop and appeared to get the ball back with a tad less than three minutes to go to try to ice the game. But of course the ball hit a Boise punt returner and Wazzu recovered in the red zone, setting up a game-tying score four plays later. File it under #Pac12AfterDark or just plain weird football but it certainly was something late into the night of a wild day in college football.
And that’s not even getting into overtime.
Eventually Hilinski dumped it off to Jamal Morrow for a 22 yard touchdown in the final extra frame, a play that included the tailback soaring over the pylon to score the game-winner. It was a fitting ending to a game full of moments that only college football could produce.
The Cougars and their pirate-loving head coach will wake up Sunday with their team likely remaining in the top 20 of the polls but certainly capable of making more noise out West in the wild Pac-12. And, oh yeah, plenty of weirdness.