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When the 21-0 deficit loomed above them, the Washington State Cougars could've rolled over.

The wind and rain, whipping down on the field at Rice-Eccles Stadium, was almost coaxing them to do it.

But Washington State coach Mike Leach told his team the hole was their own doing, and they could get themselves out of it. All they had to do was endure.

"Sometimes a team will unravel, and there will be a whole series of reactions, and we wanted to avoid that," he said. "We created our own adversity, and we had to outlast it. It took nearly the whole game to outlast it, but we had to outlast it, and it wasn't going to happen if we kept letting them reel plays off and suffer from self-inflicted wounds."

The Cougars' 28-27 comeback win seems like a monumental achievement, and It was built on small victories: a completion, a run, a first down. The mistakes that dogged them at the beginning of the game seemed to vanish.

The numbers speak for themselves: Connor Halliday threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns, despite taking three sacks and throwing two picks. Wazzu picked up 27 first downs to Utah's 18, converted 10 of 20 third downs, and scored a touchdown on a fourth down conversion attempt — twice.

The offensive success was in stark contrast to a soggy and sorry first quarter: Washington State managed a meager 78 yards on 23 snaps, and Halliday struggled to complete even close passes against an aggressive Utes defense and the slick conditions. He had thrown one touchdown, but to the other team as Eric Rowe scored on a pick-six.

Desperation is a powerful force, and Washington State entered the game as a desperate team: 1-3, with close losses to Rutgers and Oregon among their disappointments. They had experienced the lows already, so even when it seemed like nature itself was against them - like when a ball slipped out of Halliday's hand for no apparent reason in the second half - they didn't give up.

"Offense is always a little streaky, and you just have to be patient and fight through it," Leach said. "I thought Connor and our offense did a good job of fighting through it and waiting until we got our opportunities"

Twitter: @kylegoon —

Washington State puts up big numbers at finish

• Connor Halliday finishes 39 of 61 with 417 yards and four touchdowns and two picks

• River Cracraft leads receivers with nine catches and 126 yards

•┬áVince Mayle and Dom Willaims each score two touchdowns

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