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56-21 drubbing of Cal gives WSU sole possession of first place in the North.

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Cal was overmatched from start to finish Saturday night as Washington State scored eight touchdowns to improve to 8-2, 7-0.

NCAA Football: California at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Last night may have been as complete of a victory Washington State has seen all season in its 56-21 shellacking of California, perhaps the only team in the Pac-12 we thought could keep up with the Cougars offense.

As Roy Manning would say, we saw the #AirRaid, the #SpeedD, and a lot of #SpecialForces. Tick, tick, boom, baby.

Saturday night’s game was a special one to be at. Kaleb Fossum, a preferred walk-on from Lake Forest, California, returned a punt 75-yards for a touchdown to start the scoring for the WSU early in the first quarter. It almost feels like a treat to watch WSU return a kick to the house in person, since it’s been such a long time coming. Two kick returns for scores in the last four games isn’t bad, and after being dominated on special teams for so many years, it’s refreshing to see the Cougars return the favor.

Luke Falk was masterful, per usual, completing 36 passes to eleven different receivers (12 Cougars caught at least one pass in total) for 373 yards and five touchdowns. His lone blemish came in the first quarter when Cal’s Khari Vanderbilt intercepted an overthrown ball, but that would be the only takeaway the Bears got all night.

Defensively, the Cougars held Cal’s Bear Raid offense to 21 points, its lowest point total of the season. WSU also forced a takeaway when Nate DeRider, a perennial special teamer, intercepted Davis Webb in the end zone, the first of his career.

Oh, and that Gabe Marks guy? He’s pretty damn good. Marks caught seven balls for 87 yards and two touchdowns. At one point, he tied former Colorado receiver Nelson Spruce for the all-time leader in Pac-12 receptions with 294. Catch number 295 came minutes later and of course it was a touchdown. With at least three games left in this season, Marks’ reception record will climb above 300 and I’m sure that’s a record that will be untouched for a long, long time.

The only thing to be disappointed about was seeing River Cracraft leaving the field after being tackled on what looked to be a fairly routine hit. Cracraft had a monster performance: nine catches, 87 yards, and three touchdowns. He’ll have an MRI on his left knee today at Pullman Regional Hospital but watching him limp off the field, combined with his body language on the sideline and his teammates reactions, didn’t look promising. It’s very well possible that Cracraft could have played his last down of collegiate football and after missing large chunks of his sophomore and junior seasons, you can only hope that somehow Cracraft is able to see the field one more time this year.

Oh yeah. One final thing. With Washington's 26-13 loss to USC, the Cougars are now in SOLE possession of first place in the Pac-12 North. If WSU takes care of business next week in Boulder and somehow Arizona State hands the Huskies a second straight loss, the Cougs will clinch the North as a spot in the Pac-12 Championship. However, it'll likely come down to the Apple Cup on November 25.

Links:

Cougars in first place after easy win over Cal | The Spokesman-Review
On a night when No. 23 Washington State took sole possession of first place in the Pac-12, the Cougars looked every bit of a conference champion as they hummed along to a breezy 56-21 victory over visiting California.

Gabe Marks gets Pac-12 receiving record and makes sure he gets the ball | The Spokesman-Review
Gabe Marks, Luke Falk and the rest of the Washington State offense knew that Marks needed just one more catch to become the Pac-12’s all-time receptoins leader when they took the field halfway through the fourth quarter of WSU’s 56-21 win over California.

WSU 56, Cal 21: Players of the game | The Spokesman-Review
Jacob Thorpe’s players of the game from Washington State’s 56-21 victory over Cal on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016 in Pullman.

With 56-21 win over Cal, WSU Cougars now in driver’s seat of Pac-12 North | The Seattle Times
Luke Falk throws for five touchdown passes and the Cougars smash California 56-21 to remain the only unbeaten team in the Pac-12 and take over the North lead from Washington.

WSU linebacker Nate DeRider has breakout game against Cal’s Bear Raid | The Spokesman-Review
Prior to Saturday night’s game, the majority of junior linebacker Nate DeRider’s career had been spent making an impact during Thursday Night Football scrimmages and on special teams.

Key moments in Washington State’s win over Cal | The Spokesman-Review
Key moments from Washington State’s 56-21 victory over Cal on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016 in Pullman.

Holiday Bowl keeping an eye on the Cougars | The Spokesman-Review
The college football postseason picture was thrown into chaos on Saturday as the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 teams in the country all lost. But the bowl game executives are already in process of vetting teams and figuring out which programs they should prepare to host in the coming weeks.

WSU safety Shalom Luani’s family in Samoa loses their home to a fire | The Seattle Times
Shalom Luani's uncle and aunt lost their house to a fire in Samoa last Sunday

Cal’s Slide Continues With 56-21 Loss to Washington State - California Golden Blogs
These aren’t the lowly Cougars of yesteryear. Luke Falk and River Cracraft dominated the Bears, handing them a third straight blowout loss and jeopardizing any hopes of a bowl game.