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Cougars defeat Buffaloes, send seniors off in style

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Instead of an explosive win, it was more of a slow burn, but it was more than enough.

William Mancebo/Getty Images

Good morning, Cougar fans. That was quite the Saturday night, in several aspects. What started off with the typically emotional Senior Night ceremonies ended with the Cougars exiting the Martin Stadium turf with their eighth win of the season, something unthinkable after Labor Day weekend. What took place between those two bookends is the real story, as is so often the case.

Like last Saturday, Luke Falk sustained an injury after hitting his head on the turf. Unlike last Saturday, Falk was unable to move, and a scary scene ensued. It was probably a case of the medical staff (rightly) taking every necessary precaution, but it was still sickening to watch a kid lay there on the turf, motionless. Aside: Can whomever is in charge of picking the uniform combination never ever ever ever pick that one again?

Peyton Bender came in and started off quite well, getting WSU in field goal position on his first series, and leading the offense to a touchdown on his second. The touchdown drive culminated in a beautiful Bender throw to the corner of the endzone, and an even more beautiful catch by Gabe Marks. That touchdown also put the final nail in the coffin, and guaranteed WSU's eighth win of this ever-more remarkable season.

Falk's injury overshadowed some great performances by WSU Saturday night, especially those of Gerard Wicks and the bend-but-don't-break defense. Wicks, along with some great blocking, produced the first 100+ yard rushing performance of the Leach Era at WSU, and the defense picked off two passes, sacked Cade Apsay four times and stiffened every time Colorado crossed the 50 yard line. This was the first time in nearly 20 years that WSU held a conference opponent out of the endzone. It was also the first time since 2012 that Colorado was held without a touchdown.

In a season that has now produced eight wins against just three losses, the Cougs sent their fans home happy four times, and very nearly did so all six times. This is the first time since 2003 that WSU won four or more games at Martin Stadium. They won four of their last five, and were a missed field goal from winning that one, too. Those four wins all came by at least 14 points, and the two losses were by a combined nine points. That's yet another symbol of what has been an incredible year.

With that, let's get to some likes and dislikes from Saturday night:

Likes:

  • Next man up on the offensive line -  This time it was Sam Flor stepping in for Riley Sorenson. Hopefully Sorenson is ready to go next Friday.
  • Taylor Taliulu getting his first interception on Senior Night - Had a pretty good return as well.
  • The last-second defensive line shifts, which seem to be causing the opposing offensive line to jump early.
  • Gabe Marks, again.
  • Dom Williams' catch along the sidelines on fourth down - That was a huge conversion, and it got the offense rolling after another slow start.
  • The series where Colorado had third-and-one, then fourth-and-18 inches, then WSU had the ball.
  • Peyton Bender's first two drives
  • Cade Apsay's chutzpah - He said this after the game:

"Those dropped balls, they were key on third down," Apsay said. "I feel like I didn't look at (Spruce) enough. There were a lot of dropped balls in other places, so I think I should have gone to him a little bit more. He's a playmaker and reliable."

That ought to be a fun offensive meeting room this week.

  • Eight wins - Man, what a feeling.
  • The students who stayed - It'll be a night you will look back on fondly forever. Kudos for trying to send off the seniors in a manner they deserved.
  • Jeremiah Allison's moment in the sun, along with Carmento Floyd - Two outstanding people.
  • Pac-12 South Champs!

Dislikes:

  • The quality of the broadcast, from A to Z. The commentators were awful, and the camera angles were so tight that one would have thought the teams were playing without receivers and defensive backs.
  • The students who left - You'll never get a night like that back. Hope the extra night in your old bedroom was worth it.
  • The line judges and their inability to, ya know, judge where the line was.
  • Peyton Bender's last few drives - Too many risky throws, probably could have checked to the run a little more, but that's nitpicking, considering he's barely played.
  • Gotta make those kicks this Friday, Erik Powell.

With that, it's Apple Cup week. How do we know this? Well, besides looking at the schedule, jack Huskies everywhere are once again proclaiming that WSU is not their true rival. What is a jack Husky, you ask?

A dude who identifies with Pacific Lutheran and has a Seahawk avatar, talks smack about WSU, and says it isn't a rivalry. That, ladies and gentlemen, is Husky fan incarnate.

At the same time, they prefer to think their rival is a team they haven't beaten since I was stationed in Kansas. I've had four different assignments since then, in case you were wondering how long it has been. Also, said jack Huskies apparently think they know who their rival is moreso than the players on the team:

Meanwhile, WSU has won six conference games this season. UW has not done so since two years before they last beat Oregon. Let Hate Week begin.

Football

Cougars earn eighth win by defeating Colorado, but lose QB Luke Falk to injury - Spokesman.com - Nov. 21, 2015
The loss felt bigger than the victory for Washington State, which kept its winning streak rolling along by beating Colorado 27-3 on Saturday night but lost the starting quarterback who led them to their first winning season since 2003.

WSU: Jacob Thorpe’s keys to the game - Spokesman.com - Nov. 21, 2015
Running back Gerard Wicks needed just 13 carries to run for 123 yards, giving him WSU’s first 100-yard rushing game against an FBS opponent since James Montgomery’s 118 yards against Hawaii in 2009.

WSU QB Luke Falk injured as Cougars easily defeat Colorado | The Seattle Times
"Peyton has a quick, flashy arm. The ball explodes off his hand," Leach said. "I thought he had several nice throws. I thought he played good. He had a very impressive first drive when he came out there. I thought he moved the ball pretty well."

After Luke Falk’s injury, Peyton Bender takes reins of WSU Cougars offense | The Seattle Times
On Senior Night, Allison paid tribute to his late mother with the words "RIP MOM" written in Sharpie on his white wrist band. He walked out on the field for the pre-game ceremony flanked by linebackers coach Ken Wilson and Carmento Floyd, the widow of WSU’s late president, Elson S. Floyd, who died of colon cancer in June.

Concerns for Washington State after QB Luke Falk leaves Colorado game - Pac-12 Blog- ESPN
Wazzu's offense gets a lot of credit for its recent turnaround, but the job defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has done in improving the Cougars defense might be more important. Saturday's win marked the first time since 2006 that Washington State did not allow a touchdown in a Pac-12 game.

Colorado Buffaloes miss another opportunity in loss - The Denver Post
Washington State (8-4, 6-2) wasn't dominant, but it was more than happy to capitalize on CU's ineptitude. Redshirt freshman Cade Apsay made his first career start at quarterback for the Buffs, and while he threw for 238 yards, he was also picked off twice and failed to get CU to the end zone.

CU football: Errors doom Buffs in loss to No. 24 Washington State - Buffzone
Defensively, Wazzu came into the weekend with the nation's worst run defense, but held CU to 85 yards on the ground.

CU football: Apsay bemoans drops after loss to WSU - Buffzone
Since 2008, CU quarterbacks have a 1-6 record in their starting debut. The only win came from the man Apsay replaced, Sefo Liufau.

Non-Revenue

Swimming Continues Strong Showing at Ohio State - Washington State University Official Athletic Site
The Washington State University swim team completed the second day of the Ohio State Invitational on Saturday, where they set 10 Top-10 WSU marks.The Cougars are currently in fourth place with 378 points.

WSU Men 26th at NCAA Cross Country Championships - Washington State University Official Athletic Site
The Washington State men’s cross country team placed 26 out of 31 teams at the NCAA DI Cross Country Championships Saturday at the E.P. "Tom" Sawyer Park in Louisville, Ky.

Beer

Best Craft Beers For Your Thanksgiving Dinner - Fortune
You're probably getting together with lots of family members this week. Chances are that you don't want to talk to at least a few of them. These beers should help.

Non-Sports

Joined by blood: A bone marrow donor meets the man whose life she saved - Yahoo News
Every day for a year, Avi Ruderman, 54, of Tel Aviv, Israel, wondered: Who saved my life? Every day for a year, Molly Allanoff, 24, a medical student in Philadelphia, wondered: Who got my stem cells, and is he OK? But the bone marrow registry requires that a recipient survive a year before he can contact his donor. So both waited.