Welcome to our fourth installment of 2016's Player of the Week. We spent the first three weeks honoring underclassmen, in the form of one freshman and two sophomores. That changes this week, as a senior takes home the ultimate honors. As with last week, there are candidates everywhere. When you beat a Top 15 team by four touchdowns on the road, it means nearly everyone had a really good game.
The defensive line constantly reestablished the line of scrimmage in the Stanford backfield. The linebackers were excellent with their run fits, making Christian McCaffrey a non-factor. The defensive backs made sure tackles and forced turnovers. The offensive line mostly kept Luke Falk upright. The running backs earned tough yards and the receivers made some huge plays, particularly on fourth down. The kicker...let's move on.
2nd Runner-Up: Luke Falk
Falk didn't have his most mistake-free game Saturday night, but he made some crucial throws. Of course, he made a couple awful throws as well, but we'll take the good ahead of the bad here. Falk was nails in crucial spots. He completed a fourth down pass that Tavares Martin turned into WSU's second touchdown. Next, he converted another fourth down to River Cracraft, with Boobie Williams scoring on the next play.
Later, two penalties forced WSU into a 3rd-and-goal from the 17. No matter. Falk found Gabe Marks for a touchdown, and that was that. In all, Falk completed nearly 75 percent of his passes, covering an outstanding 8.7 YPA. He was clearly sick of all the rushing touchdowns against Oregon, so he decided to throw four of his own Saturday.
1st Runner-Up: Hercules Mata'afa
Second week in a row that Mata'afa finds himself in this space. Second week in a row that he practically made a living in the opponent's backfield. Mata'afa was part of a defensive line that simply didn't allow Stanford's quarterbacks and running backs room to breathe. It got to the point that both Ryan Burns and Keller Chryst were clearly rattled, and Mata'afa was a big reason why. Hercules was second on the team in tackles, which is quite impressive for a defensive lineman, and he collected another sack along the way. As the sign read, he is one bad Mata'afa.
Winner: River Cracraft
Here is a breakdown of Cracraft's team-leading seven catches:
- 3rd and 8 - Falk pass complete to Cracraft, gain of 27 yards. First down, WSU.
- 3rd and 10 - Falk pass complete to Cracraft, gain of 19 yards. First down, WSU.
- 2nd and 3 - Falk pass complete to Cracraft, gain of 30 yards. First down, WSU.
- 1st and 10 - Falk pass complete to Cracraft, gain of 12 yards. First down, WSU.
- 4th and 1 - Falk pass complete to Cracraft, gain of 4 yards. First down, WSU.
- 1st and 16 - Falk pass complete to Cracraft, gain of 22 yards. First down, WSU.
- 2nd and 10 - Falk pass complete to Craft, gain of 16 yards. Touchdown, WSU.
That last catch was nothing short of magnificent, as Cracraft overcame some obvious pass interference and made the catch while falling down in the endzone.
In case you didn't pick up on the trend there, every time Cracraft caught the ball, WSU either got a first down or a touchdown. That is both the height of effectiveness and efficiency. Falk had a perfect passer rating when Cracraft was his target. For whatever reason, Falk and Cracraft didn't seem to have much of a rhythm at the start of the season. That is clearly not the case now, and it is a big reason why WSU's offense is humming. Congratulations, River, and welcome back.