David Hawbaker / The Daily Evergreen
It took the Washington State Cougars almost 70 minutes to put a touchdown on the scoreboard, but when they did it opened the floodgates in a tense 24-20 victory against Eastern Washington University on Saturday afternoon at Martin Stadium.
The Cougars weren’t great, but they were efficient in front of an electric crowd at Martin Stadium in the first sold-out home opener since 1952.
WSU’s offense shook off the rust in the first half as quarterback Jeff Tuel connected with wide receiver Isiah Myers for two first-half touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the defense played with a'bend-but-don’t-break'approach, giving up 479 yards of total offense, but also responding with key stops at critical points in the game, including the final play.
With three seconds left in the fourth quarter, Eastern quarterback Kyle Padron heaved a pass to the end zone that was knocked down by wide receiver Marquess Wilson, who was put in the game for that very reason.
“I feel like my heart stopped. I probably should be in a hospital somewhere,” freshman linebacker Darryl Monroe said about the play. “I’m just glad that ball was deflected and we won the game.”
Though Cougar fans got what they wanted with three offensive touchdowns, the most showstopping play of the game came from kicker Andrew Furney at the end of the first half.
The junior kicker boomed a 60-yard field goal to send the Cougars into the half with a 24-14 lead, securing momentum going into the half.
“Time definitely slowed down for a little bit,” Furney said. “I hit it and it felt perfect, and I took a peek at it, and I knew it was down dead center, and I knew it had a chance and I thought'Oh my God. This actually might go in'."
The Cougars, however, didn’t come out of the game unscathed.
After completing a pass to Andrei Lintz in the fourth quarter, Tuel went down with an apparent knee injury after an Eastern defender fell into the back of his legs. He was able to walk off the field of his own accord after receiving medical treatment from the WSU training staff, but did not return to the game.
“We don’t have injuries around here,” Leach said about Tuel's hit. “He’s a 100 percent and (I) think he can run a 4.5 right now instead of a 4.7.”
Tuel was efficient before the injury, completing 20-26 passing with 171 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The victory was the first for Leach as head coach of the Cougars.