Washington State's 2015 regular season ended with a dud as the Cougars struggled to finish drives in a 45-10 loss to Washington. The Cougars have now dropped six of the last seven Apple Cups.
The Cougars played without starting quarterback Luke Falk who sat out after leaving last week with an apparent concussion. To make matters worse, Gabe Marks appeared to suffer a potentially serious injury in the fourth quarter when got rolled up by a defender. Marks had to be helped off the field by the training staff after getting his leg rolled up on.
Peyton Bender replaced Falk in the lineup and played as many expected. Flashes of brilliance combined with some troublesome decision making. There was more bad than good against the Huskies, however. Following a promising opening drive that ended with WSU taking a 3-0 lead, WSU struggled to sustain drives. The Cougars didn't move the ball into the UW red zone until late in the third quarter and that was only because the defense set up field position off a turnover.
Turnovers were a colossal problem for WSU with several promising drives getting thwarted by turnovers. A pair of fumbles killed drives early and a Bender interception was costly later. The WSU offense finished with seven turnovers, including three that went for Husky defensive scores. The first pick-six thrown by Bender came on a route the Huskies read all the way and jumped with ease.
Washington's defense was as good as advertised. The Huskies took advantage of Bender's inexperience and forced his hands at times. The Cougars also struggled to hit anything big down the field. Even though that worked at times, turnovers were crushing as WSU couldn't quickly move the ball down the field to make up scoring opportunities.
While WSU struggled to take advantage of its opportunities, the Huskies did not. Washington capitalized on turnovers and limited mistakes. The Huskies jumped out to a 24-3 lead and looked to be in full command of the game. A Marcellus Pippins interception gave the Cougars some life, but it was too little too late. Although the WSU defense didn't play especially bad, the Husky offense did very well to extend drives and chew up clock. The Huskies chewed up possession at times with three drives of at least 10 plays while also turning turnovers into points.
With the loss, Washington State finishes the regular season at 8-4. It's the Cougars best regular season since 2003. Now the Cougars will await to see what bowl they are headed to with announcements scheduled for Dec. 7. There are several options in play as the final Pac-12 standings shake out this weekend.
The Cougars will get an extended break, depending on what bowl they are selected for. They will get to take advantage of the 15 extra bowl practices -- a nice boost for a developing program -- and also use the time to get healthy. That could mean the return of Falk and possibly even starting left tackle Joe Dahl and wide receiver River Cracraft, both of which have been out with presumed injuries.