Welcome back. As you can probably guess, this weekly feature is much more enjoyable to write after a win than a loss. It may be more difficult to figure out who stood above the rest, but trying to relive the game's biggest plays and players after a good result puts us all in a better mood. This week is no different.
One good sign is that we had candidates from all three phases of the game. WSU passed relatively well, and Luke Falk took everything ASU threw at him. On defense, the Cougars bent, but did not let a shaky freshman quarterback gain any sort of rhythm. Outside of one poor run fit, they limited ASU to 61 yards on 34 carries. That's damn impressive.
The special teams had its moments as well. What moment was the best? You all know the answer, so let's get to the honorees.
2nd Co-Runner-Up: Gabe Marks
I couldn't decide between Gabe and Shalom Luani in this spot, so I took them both because free country and all. Marks had probably his best game all season. He was his dependable self when it came to moving the chains, and made one of the night's biggest plays when he hauled in a deep pass and embarrassed a defender with a great stiff arm on the way to the endzone. When it was over, Marks led the team with eight receptions for 107 yards. That touchdown was absolutely gorgeous.
2nd Co-Runner-Up: Shalom Luani
Luani once again showed why his position switch changed the defense. On ASU's second series, he teamed up with Peyton Pelluer for a crunching hit on Manny Wilkins. Wilkins didn't return, which really helped WSU's cause. Luani showed his incredible run support skills throughout the night. His stat line shows five tackles (all solo), but among those are three tackles-for-loss and a sack. I don't think it's a stretch to say that he's easily the defensive MVP so far this season.
1st Runner-Up: Luke Falk
Falk has had better games in terms of yards and touchdown passes, but I think this was the best he's been all year. That's even with a few drives where he looked lost (which is a pattern, especially early in games). Falk didn't have anything resembling a rushing attack, which may be partially on him, but ASU was blitzing often, and the offensive line wasn't nearly as good as it has been thus far.
All of that made for an ugly recipe, but Falk still threw for nearly 400 yards, averaging 7.5 yards-per-attempt. He also led WSU on a clock-killing drive at the end of the game, eating up the final four minutes, and preventing ASU from getting the ball back. Once again, Falk looked to be ready for a stretcher at various points following sacks and/or knockdowns. Somehow, he kept getting up. Even his teammates take notice.
Morrow on Falk: "You go back and watch some of those hits... Ooouuu, I don't know how he got up from that one."— Jacob Thorpe (@JacobThorpeSR) October 24, 2016
Winner: Robert Taylor
Any time a player does something (good) that has not been done in a dozen years, his chances to end up in this space go way up. That's the case here. It's not only that Taylor spun/tiptoed/headfaked his way to a kick return touchdown. It's also that it came at a time when WSU really needed it, having just given up a 52-yard touchdown and facing a 14-3 deficit. The offense hadn't quite found its legs, so Taylor did the scoring for them.
Taylor also had a good night on defense. He picked up four tackles from the safety spot, and broke up a pass. That pass break-up came in the fourth quarter on third down, so yeah, Taylor picked a good time to do that, too. Hopefully "Run it back" Rob gets a couple more chances to take kicks back to the endzone, provided those chances come at the beginning of the first or third quarters. Congratulations, Robert, hopefully we won't go another dozen years until we see one of those.