Never let up. The more you can win by, the more doubts you put in the other players’ minds the next time out.
Washington State’s season opening win over the Montana State Bobcats was fine. That’s about the best way I’ve found to describe it in the five or so days since it happened; the Goldilocks of football wins. Not too big a margin, not too small of one, just right.
Ultimately, any margin would’ve been fine by me last Saturday. The Cougs haven’t won an opener under Mike Leach and, as we’ve explored with plenty of digital ink and a podcast, had lost two straight games against Big Sky opponents. A 2-0 win with a safety in the closing seconds probably would’ve been good enough.
But as we’ve all come to realize in the last couple of years, raised expectations have a funny way of creeping into your psyche. A few years ago, I would’ve been thrilled to have a running back like James Williams lead the team in yardage, be it on the ground or through the air (though shovel passes and dump offs may not qualify as “air” but still).
Against Montana State, that strategy is fine! If a team that’s clearly inferior to you athletically is going to give you the short field and you have the athletes to make up yardage, go for it. Especially if your defense is going to be absolutely stifling and you needn’t worry about having to score to retain a lead.
The problem is ... that’s probably the last team on the schedule you’ll be able to do that against. Even the truly awful teams in the Pac-12 this year have FBS athletes and defenses that aren’t going to be willing to just constantly cede half the distance needed to pick up a first down.
That includes the Boise State Broncos. BSU only gave up six points to the Troy Trojans (I’m not counting that pick-six against the defense) and although it’s a one game sample size and a Sun Belt team, they still looked pretty damn good. Dinking and dunking your way to a victory just isn’t going to work this weekend.
It’s why I would’ve liked to see Luke Falk go down field more against Montana State. Take those shots knowing that your receivers can out-athlete anyone on the field, knowing that even if you make a mistake, your defense isn’t letting MSU go anywhere. It’s fine to take what the defense is giving you but in what is the closest equivalent college football has to an exhibition game, the time is right to iron out inefficiencies and build the confidence you need to take those shots the rest of the fall.
Luke Falk didn’t do that last Saturday. It is, unfortunately, the same Luke Falk we saw at the beginning of 2015 and 2016; a quarterback unwilling to take the appropriate risks and one who would ... not ... throw ... the ... football.
Falk’s best asset, by far, is his accuracy. It should be something, at this point, he can completely put his trust in. For whatever reason, at the beginning of each of his three seasons as a starter at WSU, he hasn’t. Hesitant to go downfield, hesitant to throw the ball at all, Falk doesn’t truly look like the Air Raid savant we know he is until the end of September.
Luke Falk is one hell of a quarterback and by the time his career is over at the end of 2017, he’ll stand among the pantheon of great quarterbacks to come through Pullman. Every quarterbacking record at Quarterback U will be practically out of reach and it will have his name on it. But his early season bug-a-boos need to get figured out, and fast. Boise State won’t always afford him the luxury of rushing three and dropping into a zone. Falk is going to have to throw into tight coverages and will have to unload the ball quickly at times, whether he wants to or not on Saturday.
We’ve seen that Luke Falk before. Now, we just need to see it a little ahead of schedule compared to recent years.
Tear ‘em up on Saturday, 4. They can’t camouflage themselves on that God-awful turf this time.
How much you wanna make a bet I can throw a football over them mountains?... Yeah... Coach woulda put me in fourth quarter, we would've been state champions. No doubt. No doubt in my mind.
Luke Falk, the most important person vs. Boise State.