(AP) — Washington State coach Paul Wulff had a simple explanation for why freshman quarterback Connor Halliday threw for 494 yards and four touchdowns in a 37-27 win over Arizona State on Saturday night.
"He throws a real catchable ball," Wulff said.
He must. Halliday completed 27 of 36 passes and was not intercepted. His yardage was a freshman record for WSU, and the second-highest total in team history after Alex Brink's 531 yards in 2005.
And Halliday didn't even start.
Wulff said the original plan was to have him play a series or two in relief of Marshall Lobbestael. That plan went out the window when Halliday completed his first pass to Marquess Wilson for an 85-yard touchdown.
"The first play scored a touchdown, so we decided to keep going," Wulff said.
Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said his team couldn't mount enough pressure on the WSU pass attack.
"We didn't put any pressure on them, and he was very accurate," Erickson said of Halliday.
Arizona State (6-4, 4-3 Pac-12) missed out on a chance to regain control of the South Division race after UCLA lost earlier Saturday.
Washington State (4-6, 2-5) needed a win to stay in contention for a bowl and perhaps save Wulff's job.
Despite a mix of rain and snow and temperatures in the 30s, the game featured few turnovers and plenty of offense.
Wilson caught eight passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns as WSU snapped a five-game losing streak.
"Wilson is as good a receiver as there is in our league," Erickson said.
Isiah Barton caught seven passes for 155 yards and a touchdown.
After a WSU fourth-quarter punt, Arizona State marched 58 yards to the Cougars' 9. But quarterback Brock Osweiler and Cameron Marshall were stopped a yard short of a first down, and the Sun Devils turned the ball over on downs. Washington State then drove 89 yards, with Halliday hitting a diving Barton on an 18-yard touchdown pass for a 30-27 lead with 8:55 left in the game.
Arizona State drove to the WSU 5, but two passes and a run failed to produce a touchdown, and Alex Garoutte's 21-yard field goal attempt missed left with 5:45 remaining.
"We couldn't get a yard in two carries and we missed a field goal," Erickson said. "We are very disappointed at this point."
Washington State mounted a drive from its 4, with Carl Winston rushing over from 1 yard out for a 37-27 lead with 1:50 to play.
Arizona State's Jamal Miles returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.
Halliday hit Wilson in stride for an 85-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter, but the extra point failed on a bad snap. The reception pushed Wilson over the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season.
Garoutte kicked a 39-yard field goal for Arizona State early in the second quarter. Washington State's Andrew Furney replied with a 39-yard field goal on the Cougars' next possession.
Arizona State drove to the WSU 6, but a 2-yard run and two incomplete passes caused it to settle for Garoutte's 22-yard field goal and a 13-9 lead midway through the second quarter.
Halliday's 23-yard touchdown loft to Wilson capped a 74-yard drive and gave the Cougars a 16-13 lead with 1:15 left in the half.
But Osweiler marched the Sun Devils down the field, and Marshall ran over from the 2 for a 20-16 ASU lead at halftime.
Halliday and Wilson hooked up for a third touchdown pass, a 19-yarder with 6:40 left in the third quarter that lifted WSU to a 23-20 lead.
Back came Arizona State, with Osweiler throwing a 16-yard scoring pass to Gerell Robinson for a 27-23 lead after three quarters.