Welcome back. When I first started writing this weekly dispatch back in 2014, it wasn’t the easiest thing to do because oftentimes it involved sifting through the rubble of another loss, trying to find a couple gems. With Connor Halliday setting records and Mike Breske coaching the defense, most of those great performances were from the offense. Well my my my, how things have changed.
That year involved one particular game in which some freshman named Falk absolutely shredded Oregon State in his debut. He played so well that he won several honors, and in this space we honored other guys who contributed (Tyler Baker was #1) because Falk’s dominance was so far beyond anyone else’s. I considered doing that again this week, but decided against it.
Honorable Mention: Tavares Martin, Jr. had a solid, if not spectacular game. He made some tough catches in traffic, and got the scoring started with a touchdown catch from Luke Falk. His best catch was one that didn’t even count, as he was interfered with so badly that the defender pushed him out of bounds. He caught the ball anyway, and almost got a foot down.
2nd Runner-Up: Hunter Dale
Dale continues to be a playmaker who kind of emerged out of nowhere this season. He made five tackles Saturday, including four solo stops and a sack. Dale also intercepted a Tyler Huntley pass, and man oh man did it come at a huge moment. Falk had just thrown an interception, and Utah had great field position. Not to worry. Dale sat in a passing lane, snagged the ball and returned it 34 yards, setting up what felt like Erik Powell’s twelfth field goal.
1st Runner-Up: Erik Powell
There were several times Saturday night where it felt like Powell was WSU’s best offensive weapon. That will happen when the offense continually stalls deep in the opponent’s territory. Not only did Powell hit four of five field goal tries (one of them looked super close but who cares it still counted), he continually kicked balls through the end zone, preventing a probably-inevitable #Forces gaffe. Powell is currently tied for fifth nationally with 19 field goals made, converting at nearly an 83% clip.
Winner: Hercules Mata’afa
Not only is Mata’afa the honoree here, he also won the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week. He also should have won whatever awards are given for national player of the week, but didn’t because reasons. Anyway, there’s no doubt in my mind that Mata’afa had the most dominant performance of any player in the nation.
There have been games this season where Hercules didn’t register a statistic, despite making a major impact. Saturday was not one of those games. He was a one-man wrecking crew, continuously disrupting plays in the Utah backfield and making life miserable for Tyler Huntley.
For starters, Mata’afa led the team in tackles with eight. All of them were solo tackles. It is beyond remarkable for an interior lineman to lead a team in tackles. Of those eight tackles, five (!!!) of them were behind the line of scrimmage and three were sacks. One of those sacks also included a forced fumble that Hercules also recovered, as he basically just took the ball from Huntley and kept it, setting WSU up at the Utah 19.
Mata’afa would have probably had twice as many tackles, but the officials decided that this was a “huge kid playing little league” situation, and let Utah do whatever it took to keep Hercules from causing more havoc, such as when he drilled Huntley, forcing a bad throw that Hunter Dale picked off.
Congratulations, Hercules. Yours was the best performance by any Cougar player this season.
Who was Cougar Football’s Player of the Week?
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