Paul James ran for 173 yards and three touchdowns as the Rutgers Scarlet Knights surprised the Washington State Cougars, 41-38, at CenturyLink Field in the first-ever meeting between the programs.
James ran the ball 29 times for the Scarlet Knights (1-0) as they picked up their first-ever win against a Pac-12 Conference opponent. Quarterback Gary Nova converted 16-of-27 passing for 281 yards and two touchdowns, against one interception. Leonte Carroo reeled in six passes for a game-high 151 yards and a score.
The Cougars (0-1) were paced by Connor Halliday who connected on 40-of-56 for a staggering 532 yards and five touchdowns, as well as an INT. Vince Mayle accounted for a game-high 12 catches, leading to 124 yards and a score. The running game for WSU took a back seat to Halliday as the team generated a meager six net yards on 14 attempts.
The lackluster rushing attack is nothing new for the Cougars, having averaged a feeble 53.4 ypg in 2013 to rank last in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The Knights wasted no time going on the attack as Nova hooked up with Carroo for a 78-yard touchdown on the very first play from scrimmage, giving the visitors a 7-0 advantage a mere 16 seconds into the action.
Later in the quarter Nova made a huge mistake, throwing from his own end zone he was picked off by Tana Pritchard at the 11-yard line. The ball was brought back to the two, but Rutgers escaped with minimal damage as the Cougars settled for a 22-yard field goal by Erik Powell, the first of his career.
The teams traded touchdowns in the second quarter, beginning with a one-yard scoring run by James for the Knights barely two minutes into the frame.
Washington followed about six minutes later with a four-yard TD pass from Halliday to Isiah Myers, but again it was countered by a 56-yard scoring run by James for the visitors.
Trailing 21-10 with time winding down, Halliday orchestrated yet another scoring drive for the Cougars, culminating with a 26-yard TD pass to Mayle to cut the deficit to just four points at the break.
Halliday continued to attack the Rutgers defense in the third quarter, combining with River Cracraft and Myers on TD passes of seven and 14 yards, respectively. However, in between the Knights broke in with a 36-yard field goal by Kyle Federico.
The Rutgers kicker added a 25-yard field goal moments into the fourth quarter, while Nova hooked up with John Tsimis on a 29-yard TD pass play shortly thereafter, giving the visitors a 34-31 edge.
The quick-strike Washington State offense was back at it midway through the period with Halliday and Rickey Galvin combining on a five-yard TD play, giving the Cougars the lead once again, but with plenty of time left on the clock.
Matching his career-high for touchdowns in a single game, James bulled his way into the end zone on a three-yard run to give the Scarlet Knights a three- point advantage yet again.
The Cougars had a chance to play for the win in the final minute of regulation, but on 4th-and-13 Halliday's pass over the middle fell incomplete, giving the ball back to Rutgers.
Last season WSU ranked fourth in the nation in passing with 368.0 ypg, but at the same time the squad was 112th in the country in stopping opponent passing attacks, giving up 270.8 ypg.