Welcome back. When the first half ended and I headed to bed Saturday night/Sunday morning, I was thinking that I might not be writing this column this week. Things were going that poorly. The offense either stalled or turned the ball over, while Marcus McMaryion had passed for more yards in one half against the WSU defense than he ever had in an entire game. Needless to say, nobody was standing out for their great play.
The second half changed all of that, as we all know, and suddenly there were candidates all over the field. Tavares Martin was making more great catches along the sideline. Cody O'Connell was back in the game and mashing people. Isaac Dotson was lowering the boom on the Oregon State quarterback. BOOBIE was doing BOOBIE things and gashing the Beaver defense. While all of those performances were essential in WSU's win, there were a few others who stood out.
2nd Runners-Up: Garrett McBroom and Ngalu Tapa
Now wait a minute. Collectively, these guys had two tackles. Why the hell are they being singled out? Well, it was the timing of those tackles that is the key here. McBroom broke through and collected a sack shortly after Kyle Sweet's ill-fated fake punt attempt. McBroom sacked McMaryion on second down, and effectively knocked OSU out of field goal range. Given that WSU was facing a 24-6 deficit at the time, it was a huge play.
Tapa made a huge play at a critical time as well. As the only nose tackle left on the roster, Tapa has the defenses's spotlight squarely on him. OSU took over on downs with six minutes left in the game, and faced a third-and-one at the WSU 34. The Beavers gave the ball to Ryan Nall, but Tapa burst through the line and stonewalled Nall in the backfield, preventing a first down. WSU bowed up once more on fourth down, and Oregon State didn't get the ball back until there were just four seconds remaining. Cougs win.
1st Runner-Up: Luke Falk
Aside from the fact that Falk once again took a cheap shot from a defender, and aside from the fact that he looked ready to lay in an ice bath for a few days, Falk showed tremendous leadership and toughness down the stretch. He did get away with a couple bad throws and, in what is officially a pattern, looked flat out bad for a decent stretch of the first half.
Despite all that, Falk led the offense up and down the field in the third quarter, turning an 18-point deficit into a lead. In the third quarter alone, Falk was 10-11 for 200(!!!) yards, three touchdowns and a two-point conversion. The third of those three scores was an absolute beauty of a throw to Gabe Marks. For the game, Falk threw for 415 yards and five touchdowns, averaging over nine YPA. If he ever gets the first quarter figured out, the sky is the limit for the offense.
Winner: Gabe Marks
Speaking of that third quarter, Marks had a decent one as well. He caught three passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns. Yes, in one quarter. The first of those two touchdowns was an incredible play, and really bailed Falk out of what looked to be a bad decision. Falk pretty much heaved up a prayer, and as the ball came down, I thought for sure it would be intercepted. Somehow, Marks adjusted to the ball between two defenders and made the catch. I still don't know how he did it.
One thing I noticed a couple times is that Marks is uncanny at subtly creating space a split second before the ball arrives. It is too quick to draw a flag, but very effective. If you watch his second touchdown catch, you'll see what I mean. For the game, Marks led WSU eight catches for 110 yards and the aforementioned scores. He is now WSU's all-time leader in touchdown receptions with 33. That's also good for second place in Pac-12 history. Congratulations, Gabe.