Washington State wrapped up the nonconference portion of its schedule with a win over Wyoming, pulling away in the second half for a 31-14 victory.
Like last week's win over Rutgers, this one wouldn't be called a work of art. Las Vegas had instilled the Cougars as a 24-point favorite, but for the second time this year at Martin Stadium, the offense sputtered; WSU gained just 378 yards against a team that had allowed about 470 a game in its first two losses.
But where the offense struggled, the defense was there to pick it up, especially in the second half. The Cowboys had little trouble moving the ball before the break, racking up 263 yards and trailing by just a touchdown, 21-14. Wyoming had success both on the ground and through the air, as WSU again had a hard time both winning at the line of scrimmage and then making tackles.
Things changed dramatically in the second half, which had been the Cougars' achilles heel through the first two games. WSU would allow just 146 yards for a paltry 3.7 yards per play as the defensive line started holding up at the point of attack, freeing up linebackers Jeremiah Allison and Peyton Pelluer to make plays. Pelluer would finish with a team-leading 14 tackles -- including a team-leading 3.5 for loss -- while Allison would make six of his own.
It wasn't the tackles, though, that allowed Allison to put his imprint on the game. With WSU holding on to a 24-14 lead after Erik Powell hit a 22-yard field goal with just over 10 minutes to play in the game, Allison did this:
A few plays later, Luke Falk found Dom Williams in the corner of the end zone to provide the final margin and finally remove all doubt that the Cougars might figure out a way to blow another game at home against what was supposed to be an overmatched opponent.
Falk finished with 303 yards after completing 37 of his 45 passes; he had two touchdowns and one interception, which came about when Falk threw the ball directly to a defender when he and Gabe Marks appeared to have a communication issue as WSU was pushing the pace early in the second half. While the completion percentage is stellar, the 6.7 yards per attempt is pretty underwhelming -- especially against a defense that had allowed greater than 10 yards per attempt in its first two games -- and the lack of big plays was a big reason why the Cougars had a hard time surpassing the 30-point barrier until the very end.
That's not to say WSU was devoid of big plays. After giving up a couple of early TDs to Wyoming to fall behind 14-7 in the first quarter, Falk found Williams for this tremendous 35-yard TD:
WSU would take a lead it wouldn't relinquish on its next drive when running back Keith Harrington busted off a 36-yard run for a TD. Harrington finished with 68 yards rushing to lead the team, while River Cracraft led all receivers with 83 yards. No WSU player totaled more than 100 yards from scrimmage.
While nobody would describe this as a convincing win, the play of the defense in the second half was definitely encouraging. All told, WSU racked up 14 tackles for loss, five sacks -- led by three from Ivan McLennan -- and three more turnovers. While Allison's interception was the most important, Shalom Luani's forced fumble might have been the most fun:
WSU has next week off before traveling to Berkeley to take on Cal, which survived a wild game with Texas down in Austin.
Summary stats below; full stats here.