Any time a team comes up with a momentous victory as a 17-point underdog, there are almost certainly several players who had excellent performances in order to make it happen. WSU's upset in Eugene was no different. There were enough big contributions on offense and defense to make this article much longer than it needs to be. Heck, eight (!!!) different receivers caught at least four passes. That seems incredible to me.
So before we honor our three standouts, let's take a look at guys who had good performances but didn't quite make the cut:
Gabe Marks: I wrote last week that Marks could easily show up in the top three nearly every time, and the Oregon game is no different. Marks caught another eight balls for 111 yards, and scored two touchdowns. Ho hum, just another day for Gabe. He also had a great press conference Monday, which elevated his performance even higher.
Gerard Wicks: All Wicks did was rush for 64 yards on seven carries, and catch five passes for 30 yards. That's an average of nearly eight yards every time he had the ball. Not too bad for a running back.
River Cracraft: Cracraft caught another nine passes for 85 yards, and on the game-tying drive he came up with two crucial catches. The first one was for 10 yards, getting WSU into a more manageable fourth down distance. Then on fourth down, he caught a 22-yarder to set up the Dom Williams touchdown.
Parker Henry: With Isaac Dotson out with another injury, Henry saw a ton of time at the nickel position. The Redshirt Junior responded with eight tackles, including two tackles-for-loss. Also, anybody with this official team picture deserves recognition.
With that, we get to this week's nominees.
Second Runner-Up: Shalom Luani
As Jeff noted in his Monday After post, Luani had a very good game, and has provided a tremendous upgrade at safety this season. The best part is that he will only get better. Luani posted his second interception is as many weeks (yes, I know INTs on two-point tries don't count, but still...), this one sealing the win.
As I watched that replay for about the 1,457th time, I also noticed that the Oregon receiver appeared to have a good chance to catch that pass if Luani didn't read Jeff Lockie perfectly. Luani also tied for the team lead in tackles, with eight. WSU is very fortunate to have him.
First Runner-Up: Jamal Morrow
I don't know about all of you, but as I watched Morrow get carries and catch passes throughout the game, I kept wondering why the hell he had barely played so far this season. I am continuously impressed with his balance. He bounces off hits that would take many other people down, and keeps going. His 31-yard run late in the fourth quarter was nothing short of amazing. He bounced of three attempted tackles, spun a couple times, and still managed to get out of bounds.
In all, Morrow averaged 8.5 yards every time he touched ball, with a long run of 31 yards and a long catch of 28, which came on a beautiful wheel route. Let's hope we see a lot more of Mr. Morrow from here on out.
Winner: Luke Falk
Falk may have a few issues to clean up, but he was outstanding in this game, especially when WSU absolutely had to have it. Toward the end of the first half, WSU had amassed 240 yards, and had just seven points to show for it. Starting at his own 25 following an Oregon touchdown, Falk led the team on a 10 play, 75 yard drive that took only 1:35. It ended with a beautiful fade pass to Marks, who made yet another great catch. Suddenly, the Cougars were right back in the game, and got a much-needed confidence boost before halftime.
After leading another touchdown drive on WSU's first possession, WSU punted three times, had a field goal blocked and fumbled the ball away on its next five drives. That's when Falk stepped up once again and brought the team back. After a drive to get within a touchdown, followed by a must-have three-and-out by the defense, Falk needed to take his team 70 yards in under two minutes to tie the game. One play later, after a botched call in which Falk nearly had his helmet ripped off, yet was called for grounding, he needed to take WSU 81 yards to tie the game. He did exactly that.
On 3rd and 21, Falk hit Dom Williams for 23. On 3rd and 11, Falk hit Marks for 22. On 4th and three, Falk hit Cracraft for 22. Then came the touchdown to Dom Williams, which came with one second to go. Simply outstanding. Falk wasn't done. In the first overtime, Falk took a hellacious hit while sneaking the ball into the end zone. He made it across, then somehow willed his way to the sideline. All he had to do was go right back out and get WSU into the endzone again, since the Cougars would get the next possession. Guess what? He did just that.
A fortuitous bounce from River Cracraft to Robert Lewis provided the winning margin, and the Cougs pulled off their biggest victory in quite some time. They wouldn't have done it without the toughness and leadership of the guy behind center. In all, Falk threw for 505 yards, threw five touchdowns, ran for another and never turned the ball over. Even better, with the game on the line, Falk was unshakeable. Congratulations, Luke. The conference office may not have given you their award, but we all know you earned it nonetheless.