SEATTLE -- Paul James ran for 173 yards and scored his third touchdown with 3:24 left to give Rutgers a wild 41-38 victory over Washington State on Thursday night in the Scarlet Knights' first game as a member of the Big Ten.
Rutgers won its opener for the sixth time in nine years and picked up a significant road victory with a challenging Big Ten slate ahead. Meanwhile, Washington State has just one victory in its last nine openers.
Halliday did his part. The senior completed 40 of 56 passes for 532 yards and five touchdowns, but his fourth-down pass for River Cracraft near midfield with 53 seconds left was batted away.
Nova was 16 of 27 for 281 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but the Scarlet Knights rode James and the run game. James had 113 yards rushing in the first half and touchdown runs of 1 and 56 yards as Rutgers built a 21-10 lead.
The Scarlet Knights leaned on James at the end. Cracraft fumbled a punt near midfield with 7 minutes left and Rutgers recovered trailing 38-34. James carried on four straight plays and Nova hit consecutive passes, the second an 11-yard dart to Carroo to the 14 with 4:11 left. James capped the drive with a 3-yard TD run and Rutgers was back ahead.
Washington State couldn't put together one final drive. Halliday was sacked and a pair of incompletions turned the ball over with less than a minute left.
Halliday overcame a shaky start and was nearly flawless in the middle two quarters. After an early interception, Halliday connected on 15 of his next 21 throws the rest of the half, including touchdown tosses of 4 yards to Isiah Myers and a 26-yard flick to Vince Mayle late in the first half to pull Washington State to 21-17 at the break.
He was even better in the third quarter, leading the Cougars to a pair of touchdowns with nearly flawless efficiency. Halliday hit on 13 of 15 passes to start the second half, his only incompletions a throwaway under pressure and a drop in the end zone. Halliday hit Cracraft on a 7-yard strike to give Washington State a 24-21 lead. Myers had his second touchdown catch, taking a huge hit while hauling in a 14-yard strike on third-and-goal for a 31-24 lead.
Just as quickly the lead was gone. Kyle Federico's second field goal, on the first play of the fourth quarter, pulled Rutgers to 31-27 and after a Washington State three-and-out, Nova found John Tsimis for a 29-yard TD and a 34-31 lead with 10:50 remaining.
Halliday answered in a hurry. He found Myers for 43 yards to the 9, then went over the 500-yard mark on a 5-yard TD pass to Rickey Galvin for a 38-34 lead with 8:13 left, the Cougars' final lead.
The game drew 30,927 to CenturyLink Field in what will likely be the Cougars last visit there in the foreseeable future. Washington State athletic director Bill Moos wants all home games on campus beginning next season and the crowd was the smallest to see a Washington State game played in Seattle.
Week 8 college football best bets: Who grabs the Little Brown Jug?
Our college football experts offer their picks on some of the biggest games this weekend, including the Big Ten opener for Michigan and Minnesota.
Can Joe Milton put a stop to Michigan's quarterback carousel?
Through five years at Michigan, Jim Harbaugh has never opened a season with a QB he recruited under center. Joe Milton could be the first.
Bama, Bear Bryant and a trainer's bet: Why the Alabama-Tennessee cigar tradition means so much
Late Alabama trainer Jim Goostree invented the Alabama-Tennessee cigar tradition, and his wider influence on Bear Bryant's entire program is only beginning to come to light.
What to expect between Michigan and Minnesota on Saturday night?
Bill Connelly breaks down Saturday night's prime-time matchup between the Michigan Wolverines and Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Texas president affirms 'The Eyes of Texas' will continue to be played at games
University president Jay Hartzell said in a statement Wednesday that the school never planned for the band to perform at the Baylor game. "The Eyes" has been played over the public-address system this season.
Bobby Bowden, 91, expresses thanks after 'tough' COVID-19 bout
Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, who was released from the hospital last week after a weeklong stay to be treated for the coronavirus, thanked his doctors, family and fans for their support and prayers in a statement released Wednesday.