Welcome back to our player of the week feature. If you're like me, Saturday's game was a little strange. WSU beat Colorado by 24 points, yet it was a largely unremarkable affair, seemingly. Instead of getting out to a huge lead and coasting, like they did against OSU, or starting slowly and exploding late, like they did against ASU, this game was more of a slow burn. That doesn't mean there was an absence of great performances, however.
Once more on Saturday, offense, defense and special teams all turned in solid performances. This is probably one of the most encouraging signs we've seen as the season has progressed. While none of the units have turned in amazing, four quarter performances, they also have not been completely inept for more than a series or two. That is the hallmark of a well-coached and prepared team. So even though these guys are all-for-one, one-for-all, let's recognize some standout performances.
Honorable Mention: The Offensive Line: Yes, I know that Colorado isn't exactly the Steel Curtain, but for the second straight week, they had to break in a new starter. Not only that, but Sam Flor plays center, possibly the most difficult position along the line. Those five guys paved the way for 156 rushing yards gained, which translates to 7.1 yards per carry. In case you were wondering, that's pretty good.
2nd Runner-Up: Gabe Marks
Ho hum, just another night at the office for Gabriel. 11 catches for 110 yards would be a great night for nearly every other receiver in the country. Marks does it so often, and makes it look so easy, that it's almost a disappointment if he doesn't have that kind of a game. Marks also caught a touchdown pass from Peyton Bender that sealed the game. It wasn't exactly an easy catch either, as he had to adjust to the ball by contorting his body toward the sideline. In the process, Marks became the 12th Cougar receiver to top 1,000 yards in a season, and he did it in 10 games. Man I hop he stays for his senior season.
1st Runner-Up: Destiny Vaeao
The more I see Vaeao play, the more I realize how good he really is. Like most linemen, his stats don't do his performance justice. Vaeao was a disruptive force along the line all night. If there's one area where WSU has been deficient this season, it's rush defense. That wasn't the case Saturday, as Colorado rushed for just 2.8 yards per carry.
If you take out the one explosive run for Colorado, their longest rush was nine yards, and the average drops to 1.8. Vaeao was a big reason for that. He finished with three tackles, but all three were for losses. Among those was a sack that forced Colorado from 3rd and seven into 4th and 19. On the next play, Cade Apsay forced a desperate pass that Taylor Taliulu intercepted. We are really going to miss Vaeao.
Winner: Gerard Wicks
There's no way we could give this award to anyone else, as Wicks made history Saturday night. He became the first 100-yard rusher since Mike Leach became head coach in 2012. Not only that, but he only needed 13 carries to amass 123 yards. If you're scoring at home, that means Wicks nearly averaged a first down every time he carried the ball. I don't care who is playing defense, that's damn impressive.
Wicks and his fellow backfield mates, Jamal Morrow and Keith Harrington, combined to gain 153 yards on just 19 carries, yet again providing evidence that they're willing and able, if only they can get some more carries. Hopefully Peyton Bender keeps that in mind in the Apple Cup. The best part is that we get to see Gerard play for a couple more years, along with both of his backfield teammates. They even add Thursday Night Football star James Williams next year. Even with all that talent, I have no doubt that Mr. Wicks will be the tone-setter. Congratulations, Gerard. You had an outstanding game.