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The good, bad and ugly of WSU’s win over Oregon State

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

Good morning. I don’t know about you, but after the stress we experienced during last week’s triple-overtime come-from-behind win over Boise State, we all needed a bit of a breather. The first good sign was that the sun was high in the sky at kickoff. The next great sign was WSU was playing a much worse team. Put those together and voila, a relatively stress-free win, injuries aside.

That doesn’t mean the game was flawless, however. Hoo boy, was it far from flawless. As is my wont, I tend to focus of the things that need to get better more than the things that went well. This is a product of 15 years spent in aircrew debriefs, both in training and overseas. We could have the greatest flight ever, but if one little thing went wrong, that’s what we’d talk about more than anything else. That’s the best way to improve.

I’m not dumb enough to think that some old guy yelling at them on the internet will help WSU improve (it definitely will not) but it makes me feel better, even if it’s mostly an “old man yells at cloud” situation. But enough about that.

The Good

  • Gotta start with the man pulling the trigger. Luke Falk seemed to have a bit of an awakening Saturday, finally realizing that he has legitimate weapons on the outside who are pretty good when thrown the ball. Falk’s first TD to Martin was about as perfect a throw as you can make. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that OSU players and fans won’t be upset to see someone else behind center for WSU next season.
  • Speaking of those weapons, the starting X and Z receivers were incredible. Tavares Martin and Isaiah Johnson-Mack combined to catch 19 passes for 273 yards and five touchdowns. Johnson-Mack’s physicality was impressive on 50/50 balls, and Martin delivered the dagger with his 57-yard catch-and-run score.
  • Credit where it’s due: I don’t know how well Marcellus Pippins did in coverage (though I can speculate). I do know he delivered a perfect hit on Jake Luton that resulted in another scoop-and-score for the Cougs, this time by my man-crush Frankie Luvu.
  • Actual exchange between my nine year-old and myself following a WSU sack: (him) “Who is number 43 dad? (me) I don’t know. (him) I thought you knew who all the Cougar players were.” I had no comeback because there is no excuse. Turns out that player is Mason Vinyard, who knifed through the middle and sacked Jake Luton for a loss of seven. Welcome, Mason.
  • Always good when you only punt twice. Even better when your punter averages 53 yards on those two punts, including one that’s downed inside the 20.
  • Elsewhere on special teams, it’s always nice to be on the receiving end of a derp-fest from the other side. This time, it was OSU punter Nick Porebski dropping a good snap, which gave WSU a short field and a pretty easy touchdown drive.
  • Love love love the new anthracite jerseys.

The Bad

  • Oregon State hadn’t registered a sack in three games. It took them three plays to sack Falk. Three. Plays. They sacked Falk three times in all. The last one, which came with about six minutes left in the third quarter, was an absolute embarrassment to anyone who has ever played offensive line. If I’m Leach, I make the entire line watch that play repeatedly for an hour. Just a complete lack of effort.
  • Along those lines, I don’t know if it was by design or what, but WSU passed on every play until the second quarter. WTF? One of the offseason storylines revolved around the horses in the WSU backfield, yet they didn’t bother to run the ball. That doesn’t even include the exercise in futility that has become WSU’s offense near the goalline. On a series late in the second quarter, they passed twice from the OSU two yard line. You might recall that OSU gave up an average of 245 yards-per-game on the ground before Saturday. WSU couldn’t even muster four yards-per-carry, and the offensive line continues to be the most disappointing position group this season.
  • I’m thrilled that Nate DeRider got a scholarship. It was a great story. But DeRider is not nearly the player Peyton Pelluer is, and if Pelluer is out for an extended period, the defense is in serious trouble.
  • I’ve wondered why WSU hadn’t run many wide receiver screen plays, but one screen in the second quarter made it pretty obvious. Kyle Sweet completely whiffed on a block that ruined the play. The inside receivers have to get better at blocking or that chunk of the playbook will go back to mothballs.
  • I know Ryan Nall is a beast, but there was some truly awful tackling on his long TD run. OSU gained 189 yards rushing (before sacks). WSU has to shore that up.
  • Erik Powell had another chip shot field goal blocked. That cannot happen. Ever. (this came after WSU threw three passes from the OSU nine. You’ll recall that OSU is really bad at defending the run)
  • This would normally be in the “ugly” category, but not today for a reason which will become obvious - I will go to my grave wondering what Luke Falk was thinking on the play that resulted in a safety. What on earth would possess someone to throw sideways when you’re five yards deep in the end zone? That’s the kind of thing that would get a Pop Warner quarterback benched. There’s no excuse for such a stupid play. Again, I’ll point to the fact that WSU opted for a pass from their one yard line instead of trying to run and give themselves a little room.
  • EDIT (I really need to start taking notes during the game. I probably won’t start taking notes during the game): I guess I wasn’t paying close enough attention, but how the heck did WSU get to their final drive of the first half with no timesout? I understand taking the one with a minute left, but man, I’ll never understand why they waste them when the other team is driving. That rarely seems to have any impact. In this case, WSU took a timeout as OSU reached the WSU 13 yard line. Two plays later, OSU was in the endzone and the timeout was wasted. WSU really could have used that timeout when they were trying to score at the end of the 1st half. I know it worked out, but still.

The Ugly

  • Just a horrific scene when Jake Luton went down, and was taken off the field on a cart. The great news is that Luton seems to be ok, even though he may have a spinal fracture.
  • Related: If you’re a WSU fan who disparaged Luton at all, or cheered when he stayed down, do the rest of us a favor and stay away from Martin Stadium forever. There’s a special place in hell for you.

All in all, a 29-point victory over a Pac-12 team is never a thing to take lightly. The Cougs showed little sign of a hangover from last week’s marathon, and never let OSU within a score in the second half. That’s how you close out a game.

The Cougs are 3-0 for the first time in over a decade with a really good chance to be 4-0 for the first time since 2001, when they started 7-0. Now Nevada comes to town. WSU should get a measure of revenge from their 2014 no-show, especially since Nevada lost to Idaho State Saturday. Not Idaho, Idaho State. I think lots of players will get time, and I hope that anyone who is 50/50 sits and rests. There are bigger fish on the horizon. Much, much bigger.


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