Luke Falk found River Cracraft in the back of the end zone for a touchdown with 13 seconds left as WSU completed a come-from-behind, 37-34 victory over Rutgers to pick up its first victory of the season.
The play was a fitting end to what was a wildly sloppy game for both teams. Following a 13-yard rush by Falk to convert a 3rd-and-5 with about 20 seconds to go, the Scarlet Knights attempted to substitute -- the last in a series of inexplicable mistakes by both teams. The confusion allowed Cracraft to run free across the field and into the back of the end zone, where Falk eventually found him for the tip-toe catch and the game winner.
It appeared the Cougars had taken a lead a couple of plays before on a screen pass to Keith Harrington that ended with him eluding about half the Rutgers defense on his way to the end zone, but he was ruled to have stepped out of bounds upon review.
Falk pulled it together, though. He was very good at times in this game and shaky at others, throwing for 478 yards on 47-of-66 passing, but he was plenty good enough on that eventual game-winning drive; after being pinned at the 10 following a terrible decision to bring the ball out of the end zone by Tavares Martin Jr., Falk covered 47 yards with his first two passes of the drive, both to Cracraft. He later converted a crucial 4th-and-5 to Robert Lewis to get to Rutgers' 26 before he found Cracraft a few plays later for his fourth passing TD of the game.
Gabe Marks led WSU with 14 catches for 146 yards and TD, while Cracraft finished with 121 yards on 8 receptions. Gerard Wicks is proving he's a beast with the ball, gaining 43 yards on 7 carries and adding another 41 yards on 5 receptions. WSU rolled up 559 yards of total offense, but perhaps most importantly, the Cougs scored 24 points in their five red zone trips. It helped offset a poor day on third and fourth down, where WSU converted just 4 of 16 chances on those downs -- with half of those conversions coming on the final drive.
The Cougar defense was again leaky, giving up 402 yards to the Scarlet Knights, but for the first time in what seems like forever, fortune smiled on WSU, which took the ball away three times -- including a pair of fumble recoveries. All were big, but none was bigger than Peyton Pelluer's.
WSU had just taken the lead, 30-27, on a tremendous catch by Gabe Marks, who was obliterated moments after toe-tapping for the TD. Rutgers was driving again, and in what would have surely been a huge gain and even perhaps a touchdown, Pelluer fought through three offensively linemen to blow up a running back screen and strip the ball, which Isaac Dotson recovered.
It almost was all undermined by the special teams, which were once again horrendous. The Cougars gave up two more kick returns for touchdowns -- one on a kickoff, the other on a punt, the latter of which put Rutgers up 34-30 with just 1:31 to go.
Rutgers also had a pair of touchdowns wiped off the board by penalties, and it's likely the Scarlet Knights will rue their missed opportunities.
But from WSU's point of view, especially after last week's nearly inexplicable loss to Portland State, and last year's mistake-filled loss to the Scarlet Knights?
We'll take it.