Christopher Smith

Epic Meltdown Costs Washington State In New Mexico

Created on Dec. 21, 2013 6:58 PM EST

In a meltdown that even "Breaking Bad" character Walter White/Heisenberg couldn't concoct, Washington State lost two fumbles in the final two minutes to lose to Colorado State, 48-45.

Washington State had the ball, an eight-point lead and three downs. Colorado State had no timeouts and less than two minutes left.

Worse, quarterback Connor Halliday had fumbled and the Rams recovered, but a replay review reversed the call. Coach Jim McElwain and CSU were that close. But now Mike Leach would remind his players to keep two hands on the ball. Worst case, the team would run the clock down under 40 seconds, punt and make CSU drive a long way.

Instead, Shaquil Barrett, the Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year, stripped the ball a second time — this one clearly a fumble — and the Rams recovered.

Capri Bibbs, playing through turf toe with a metal plate in one of his cleats, hammered the ball into the end zone with 33 seconds left, but CSU (8-6) still needed to convert a two-point try to force overtime.

McElwain dialed up the famed "Statue Of Liberty" play Boise State used to topple Oklahoma in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, one of the most iconic moments of the BCS era. Still, Bibbs lunged at the pylon and the official ruled him short.

Heisenberg, perhaps from his perch in one of Albuquerque's famed air balloons or hiding behind Sandia Peak, again intervened as a replay review overturned the call, this time in favor of the Rams.

With overtime looming, the ESPN broadcasters warned that Washington State was capable of getting into field goal position and ending the game in regulation with a decent kickoff return.

But the "Breaking Bad" character's apparent voodoo — what other explanation is there? — wafted through university stadium. Teondray Caldwell fumbled. Colorado State recovered.

Jared Roberts made a 41-yard field goal as time expired, capping an 18-point outburst in 2:52.

Again, Colorado State trailed 45-30 with 4:17 left. Washington State had possession and an eight-point lead with less than two minutes left and the Rams unable to stop the clock. And the team that tied for the fifth-best record in the Mountain West Conference managed to win the first of 35 bowl games this year.

CSU trailed 35-13 in the second quarter and overcame a blocked punt for a touchdown, three turnovers and six passing touchdowns by Halliday.

Washington State's quarterback threw it 58 times for 410 yards, but when the Cougars (6-7) needed to run out the clock, the team forgot the cardinal rule of tough yardage: Keep two hands on the football.

Bibbs, who ran for a 75-yard touchdown earlier in the game, finished with 169 yards and three scores. He'll be a strong contender for next year's Doak Walker Award and an exciting remedy to the void created by talented quarterbacks like Derek Carr and David Fales' expiring eligibility.

There are 34 bowl games remaining, two of which are in progress as of the New Mexico Bowl ending, but the next two-plus weeks will be hard-pressed to produce the kind of mayhem we saw Saturday.

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