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Cougars hang on to defeat Bruins, remain unbeaten in Pac-12

The Cougs made it interesting late, but ultimately prevailed.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning. For the third straight week, the Cougars and their fans are waking up to see their favorite team unbeaten in Pac-12 play. Man, we've come a long way, haven't we? I'm not sure even the most optimistic among us would have forecasted WSU running the Oregon-Stanford-UCLA stretch unbeaten, especially given the way this season began, but here we are.

To call Saturday's victory over UCLA not the prettiest this team has put together would be a dramatic understatement. This certainly did not look like the same WSU team we saw in the previous two weeks, especially the offense. The opponent and the elements played a pretty big part in that, as it's never easy to play in the rain. And while UCLA might be underachieving this season, their defense is no pushover.

Throughout the course of the night, the game just seemed to move in fits and starts. Some of that was WSU-induced, with external factors also chipping in to ruin the typical flow of the game. The second half was especially painful, particularly the fourth quarter, which was considerably less fun than the third quarter as we watched UCLA stage a rally that sent the pucker factor north. In the end, though, it was a conference win. That is never to be taken for granted, especially given how WSU started this season.

The Good

  • Let's hear it for Erik Powell. The kicker found his accuracy again, going 2-2 on field goals. Maybe he prefers kicking in the rain? Either way, it turned out that WSU really needed those six points. Very happy for Erik.
  • The run defense was especially salty, allowing less than two yards-per-carry. Jim Mora brought in a new offensive coordinator this year, with the goal of installing a more physical, pounding rushing attack. So far, not so good. The WSU front seven completely stymied UCLA's running backs, who ran the ball 22 times, and collected 41 yards.
  • Along with that, the young guys got alot more playing time than they had so far this season. Ngalu Tapa, Derek Moore and Nnamdi Oguayo held up pretty well. It was Oguayo who almost cut Mike Fafaul in half near the end, forcing a poor throw that Charleston White intercepted, sealing the game.
  • Jamal Morrow averaged over six yards-per-carry, and I wish he'd have gotten a few more chances.
  • River Cracraft is still incredible, making a jaw-dropping one-handed catch. He also caught a touchdown pass that didn't count because rules.
  • Dylan Hanser can really hustle. Hanser chased two guys down and stripped the ball, forcing two UCLA turnovers. The second was particularly crucial, and may have saved the game.

The Bad

  • I wouldn't call Luke Falk's performance bad, per se, but it certainly wasn't what we've seen of late. He threw a brutal interception that cost WSU a scoring chance, and did his best Dave Krieg impersonation in the third quarter. The fumble gave UCLA a short field, and life.
  • Shalom Luani's move to Nickel has breathed life into the defense, and changed its entire complexion. The issue is that WSU is now playing true freshman Jalen Thompson at Safety. Thompson was a major liability Saturday night, especially late in the game.
  • The punting game was careening toward the "Ugly" category after that ghastly Kyle Sweet 18-yarder in the third quarter. Sweet redeemed himself late, though, as he helped pin UCLA deep, leading to the game-clinching interception. Still, WSU is 94th in the NCAA in net punting average. Hopefully that improves.

The Ugly

  • The pre-snap penalties have to stop. I know Leach was saying that UCLA was simulating the snap, which was causing Riley Sorenson to flinch, resulting in several flags. Either way, WSU has had pre-snap issues all season. It can't all be the fault of the opponent.
  • So. Many. Reviews. I'm still completely baffled as to how anyone would think Jordan Lasley was down before he fumbled. He was practically standing when he lost it.
  • The play selection was certainly curious early on, as WSU passed almost exclusively. Given the run production of late, one would think the Cougars would have tried the ground game a bit more.

All in all, there is no such thing as an ugly win. WSU has now won four in a row. That's better than good. Go Cougs


Washington State takes messy win over UCLA, 27-21 | The Spokesman-Review
On the heels of a similar toughness-measuring contest at Stanford, the Cougars beat up, then outlasted UCLA, 27-21, on Saturday in Martin Stadium.

John Blanchette: Lets not get ahead of ourselves, Cougs still have a lot to learn before Apple Cup | The Spokesman-Review
This thing lasted so long, Luke Falk was on the phone to upstairs, not to get the eye-in-the-sky read on the UCLA defense but to buy a reverse mortgage from Tom Selleck.

Don’t overlook that other Washington team – the WSU Cougars are making noise in the Pac-12 too | The Seattle Times
Buoyed by a newfound rushing attack and a big play defense, Washington State has shown that it can hang with, and defeat, the best teams the Pac-12 can throw at them.

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