Washington State backup safety Deion Singleton was about to have career day. But it came as a result of a rather bizarre play: a fumble review that resulted in the ejection of starter Skyler Thomas.
Early in the 28-24 come-from behind victory against Utah Saturday, the Cougars looked like they had flipped the script on an earlier turnover when the Utes’ Britain Covey caught a pass and fumbled after a hit by WSU’s Thomas.
But after a lengthy review, the Cougars not only did not get the ball, they lost Thomas after he was called for targeting even though no penalty was called on the field.
In came Singleton, a redshirt junior who grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, but played his senior season at Chiawana High School in Pasco. He finished the night with eight total tackles, including five unassisted stops.
“I though Singleton did a good job replacing Thomas, for sure,” Coach Mike Leach said. “He’s been doing some good things this year.”
Singleton, a 6-2, 195-pound defensive back, kept humble about his big night, saying coaches instill a “next-man-up” approach to make sure players are ready to step up.
“I didn’t actually see the play, the targeting that was called,” Singleton said. “My mentality was, just do my job and stay focused and be a team player. And, be around the ball. It definitely feels good to be out there.”
His play got notice from his teammates. Will Rogers, a 6-3, 250-pound sophomore defensive lineman, who was credited for three tackles against Utah, said Singleton played well.
“Deion came in and he did his job. He had a couple big hits filling his holes,” Rogers said. “The dude played well. Hats off to him.”
The defense got tested early with the legs of Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley, who rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns in addition to throwing for 118 yards.
“He’s a gifted guy,” Leach said of Huntley. “He’s kind of a key to their offense … because you’ve got to keep your eye on both things.”
Leach said the defense struggled at times in the first half to contain the mobile quarterback.
“I thought we played better in the second half on defense, especially in the fourth quarter,” he said. “I thought the fourth quarter we played together and battled away. It was one of the more physical games I’ve been involved in.”
The biggest stop of the night came on the second-to-last drive for Utah. On second and 12 from the Utah 37-yard line, Huntley dropped back to pass and was sacked for 14 yards by WSU linebacker Peyton Pelleur, who led the team with 13 tackles.
“It’s just a special feeling, making a play like that and just hearing the crowd erupt,” said Pelleur, 6-foot, 230-pound senior from Sammamish. “It’s something that you really will remember for the for the rest of your life.”
On the very next play, Utah running back Zack Moss scampered for 16 yards, but he was stopped 10 yards short of a first down by Singleton.
After the win, Skyler Thomas was waiting to celebrate with his victorious Cougars.
“We always all talk as a team and we always congratulate each other and whoever gets in,” Singleton said. Thomas “came up, not just to me but everybody else, and said, ‘You guys did a good job.’”