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The Good, Bad and Ugly of No. 25 WSU’s 24-21 domination of Stanford

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WSU owned the Cardinal

Stanford v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

Good morning! Just one week after Khalil Tate and the Arizona Wildcats ran over, around and through our Cougar football team, WSU rebounded and beat Stanford on Senior Day (If you need proof that football is a week-to-week venture, just give Ohio State a ring). Despite collecting their eighth win in 10 tries this season, the Cougs didn’t make it easy on themselves or their fans, accelerating the human aging process exponentially during the second half.

So, how exactly did WSU make it tougher than it should have been? Well, just take a look at the stat sheet. If you did that, and didn’t see the score, you’d probably think the Cougars won the game by double digits. To boot, WSU had the following edges:

  • Total yards: 430-198
  • First downs: 25-9
  • 3rd down conversions: 7/16-3/12

Alas, figures often lie, and WSU needed a fourth quarter rally - one that was looking pretty bleak after Jamal Morrow fair caught a punt at the WSU six yard line - and a couple huge defensive stops to put the game away. But put Stanford away they did, ensuring that their trip to Utah next week will carry with it a chance to remain the Pac-12 North race.

Good

  • I really really really like those uniforms.
  • Jahad Woods’ speed is incredible. His third down tackle of Bryce Love on Stanford’s first drive stopped a potentially explosive play.
  • Hercules Mata’afa is just amazing, man. He practically took a K.J. Costello handoff but instead buried Love for a five yard loss.
  • Kyle Sweet’s 62-yard punt was out of nowhere, and helped flip field position early on. If only there were a modicum of consistency there.
  • Answering Bryce Love’s touchdown with a touchdown drive of its own was critical, and WSU put together a nine play, 75-yarder that did just that.
  • Speaking of Love, other than the explosive play, he gained 17 yards on 15 carries. Outstanding defensive effort. When you stop him, Stanford has virtually no chance.
  • Falk’s TD throws to Tavares Martin, Jr. and Renard Bell in the back of the endzone were absolute beauties.
  • Justus Rogers had a semi-breakout game, collecting a sack and 2.5 tackles-for-loss.
  • Erik Powell’s lone field goal try turned out to be kind of important, no?
  • One could argue that Falk-to-Tay Martin on third-and-14 was the play of the game. It might not be over if WSU doesn’t convert there, but it would have been much, much more difficult to win.
  • Jamal Morrow’s blitz pickup third-and-five was outstanding. He gave Falk an extra second to find Jamire Calvin, and WSU was able to drain all but about 35 seconds because of that conversion.
  • Luke Falk’s second and fourth quarters: 20-24, 230 yards, three touchdowns. That’s pretty good!
  • Frankie Luvu gets an interception to seal the game, on Senior Day, in front of his family, including his dad who had never left Samoa. Storybook stuff.

Bad

  • Luke Falk’s first and third quarters: 14-24, 107 yards, no touchdowns and one INT. That’s pretty bad!
  • One of Falk’s first quarter incompletions was a result of Isaiah Johnson-Mack’s lack of effort. Falk threw a great pass and Johnson-Mack gave no effort to stay inbounds. WSU had to punt.
  • The announcer said Stanford was on the “51 yard line” after the opening kick. I guess he thought Pullman is located in Alberta?
  • Pretty bad fumble luck Saturday. Really, REALLY bad fumble luck to be exact.
  • The screen game is a huge part of this offense, but is currently inept due to poor blocking.
  • I love you, Jalen, but you have to bring down Love on that first touchdown. Come on, man.
  • Andre Dillard has had better games. First he got run over by a blitzing DB, then drew a holding penalty at the Stanford 10.
  • On WSU’s last punt, it was pretty obvious that they should take a delay of game and drain more time. So of course they snapped the ball with six seconds on the play clock. ?????

Ugly

  • Gerard Wicks got injured on what was his last carry in Martin Stadium. Here’s hoping the injury isn’t serious. I don’t want to see another guy who has done so much for this program go out like that.
  • Here’s the problem with special teams: One week it’s punting. Another week it’s punt returns. The next week, like Saturday, it’s kick coverage. Special teams put the defense behind the 8-Ball several times, and it shouldn’t happen. It’s much easier to address one consistent problem than it is to try and fix a new problem every week.
  • WSU needed less than a yard when Falk threw the game-changing interception, after staring down the receiver. Can’t happen.
  • Look, I don’t want to write 1,000 words about how awful the officials were, even though I could. Instead of pointing out all the mistakes (like the reversal of the spot on Falk’s slide, another awful spot on a third down completion to Tay Martin etc. etc.), I’ll just talk about one play in particular. I’m not even going to argue the fumble/incompletion aspect of K.J. Costello’s fumble that probably should have been an incomplete pass.

What is upsetting is the official’s explanation of why the play was upheld. Here’s what he said, “the quarterback was bringing the ball back into his body.” That is patently false, and is proven so by watching the tape. He brought the ball forward, tried to stop and the ball came out. There was not one millisecond of time in which Costello “brought the ball back into his body.” That reasoning is complete nonsense. Think of it this way - if WSU gets that ball and replay confirms that it’s a fumble, David Shaw has a brain aneurism while arguing that it’s a pass.

Either way, ball, game and conference standings don’t lie. The Cougars closed out a 7-0 record in Martin Stadium, which is a first according to preliminary research. (preliminary research was me sitting here and thinking for a minute or two). One of the most accomplished senior classes in WSU history beat former conference bully Stanford for the second time in a row, and WSU still has a chance to play for the Pac-12 title. Go Cougs

Football

Behind inspired drive from Luke Falk, Washington State squeaks past Stanford with 24-21 win | The Spokesman-Review
Luke Falk might as well have been standing 94 yards from the Holy Grail when Washington State’s offense took over on the 6-yard line with 11:52 remaining in the fourth quarter, trailing by three points and needing six to revive any remaining hopes of a Pac-12 championship.

Vince Grippi’s three takes: Luke Falk goes out in style | The Spokesman-Review
Hidden yards. That’s what coaches like to call things like return yards that don’t show up in the offensive or defensive statistics. They weren’t all hidden in this one.

John Blanchette: Cougs didn’t crack while leaving Stanford in rearview mirror | The Spokesman-Review
All the dads in a sellout of 32,952 surely enjoyed the moment, but not nearly as much the audience tuned into the Fox Business Network who saw the moment juxtaposed under a teaser for “Busted and Caught on Tape.”

Difference makers: A memorable Senior Day for Washington State’s Frankie Luvu | The Spokesman-Review
The American Samoan linebacker had a memorable Senior Day, notching his first career interception to seal the win in the final seconds.

WSU outlasts Stanford 24-21 in critical loss for Cardinal - San Francisco Chronicle
After No. 25 Washington State outlasted the No. 18 Cardinal 24-21 Saturday, head coach David Shaw blamed himself for being too conservative with his play-calling.

Pac-12: Stanford Cardinal loses to Washington State
Stanford linebacker Bobby Okereke called it a team loss, the defense and offense collectively not doing enough in light snow and raw temperatures to conjure what would have been a big Pac-12 North win at No. 25 Washington State.

Pac-12 insta-reaction: USC and Washington roll as a playoff path opens (slightly)
Speed D beats Power O, it seems.

Power Rankings Week Canes rising, Big Ten falling
Miami and Oklahoma are among the teams that earned statement wins this week. Ohio State and Penn State made a statement for the Big Ten's playoff hopes, but not the kind they were anticipating.

Beer

Best beer I had this week: Easy

To Pair With That Thanksgiving Bird, Consider Beer - The New York Times
Wine usually takes the spotlight at the table, but beers are just as good at complementing the meal’s rich, bready flavors.

Non-Sports

A Pill to Make Exercise Obsolete | The New Yorker
What if a drug could give you all the benefits of a workout?