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Slow start, missed opportunities doom No. 23 WSU in Apple Cup loss

WSU scored on just three of its six trips to the red zone in its Apple Cup loss Friday to UW. (AP)

By the time WSU’s offense looked like it was getting started, it was too late.

It took the No. 23 Washington State Cougars almost 24 minutes of game time before they found the end zone in their 45-17 loss in the Apple Cup to No. 6 Washington on Friday. They had opportunities before that 1-yard Jamal Morrow touchdown run in the middle of the second quarter, too, but needed five drives before finally getting more than three points. And by that point, the Huskies had already built a 25-point advantage.

“We came close early in the game to doing some good things until we let them off the hook,” WSU coach Mike Leach said. “I thought we started pressing and doing too much.”

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Before Morrow’s touchdown, the Cougars had three drives that started at their own 33 or better. The best they could do was a 37-yard Erik Powell field goal that cut UW’s lead to 14-3 in the first quarter. The real kicker was their fourth drive of the game, which began at the UW 6 thanks to a 64-yard punt return by Morrow. Uncharacteristically, Washington State ran the ball four times on their drive, getting stuffed at the goal line to turn the ball over on downs to the Huskies.

At the end of the game, Washington State had made six trips to the red zone, but it scored on only three of them. Leach owned up to the mistakes made not just in the red zone, but elsewhere on the field.

“I think as coaches we have to get this out of them on offense, defense, and special teams,” Leach said. “I thought we were too quick to press and made more out of it than it was. We tried to do too much and tried to do all of the extra stuff. We have to have the discipline to do our job and I don’t think we did.”

The Husky offense made it a long day for the Washington State defense, which allowed several big plays, including a 61-yard touchdown pass from UW’s Jake Browning to Dante Pettis.

“We missed some tackles, no question. But I think we put ourselves in a position where they are harder tackles than they need to be,” Leach said. “We could have executed better. We should have covered them and pressured them better.”

The loss prevented the Cougars from winning their first championship since 2002, and now they’ll await word on what bowl they’ll be heading to while having to watch UW in the Pac-12 title game next week.

“We are anxiously looking forward to our bowl game,” Leach said, “but I just wish we had another game before.”