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2016 in Review: WSU is tougher than UCLA (again)

Luke Falk throws for zero touchdowns in an ugly, plodding, 27-21 victory in the rain.

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NCAA Football: UCLA at Washington State
Charleston White’s interception sealed the game for the Cougars.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 season is just a month or so away. Let’s pass the time by rewatching last season’s conference games.

BA: Before we get into this, wanna say I remember only two things from this game; River Cracraft had a clear touchdown negated by #PAC12refs and Gabe Marks called the Bruins “kinda douchey” in one of the most real pressers from a dude notorious for them.

Nuss: We didn’t know it, but this was in the back of our guys’ minds the entire game.

BA: So, Mora tried this thing last season where UCLA was gonna be “tough” and “physical” and “hard-nosed” and whatever else. That apparently means warming up on the wrong sideline for...intimidation?

Nuss: It wasn’t even new!

BA: It’s weird for me that WSU can beat UCLA at home and the only memorable thing is how much of a jackass Mora was. Says something about the game or Mora or both, not sure what, but something.

Nuss: Probably both.

If you want to watch along with us and you have a Pac-12 Network subscription, here’s the link for the video on demand.

Drive 1

BA: Cougs in their “special uniform outfit” according to Allen Bestwick of ESPN.

Nuss: Bestwick and Bellotti — ESPN sent their best crew to Pullman! Also, lol at Pac-12 in 60 skipping the first play, a four-yard stuff by Shalom Luani. And then Luani forces a fumble on the second play! (Sorta)

BA: I now also remember seeing that back-up QB’s name all game made me want falafel real bad.

Nuss: I honestly couldn’t stop thinking about it. Also, this was somehow “roughing” the kicker.

BA: That was a horrible call. It was bad in the stadium, worse watching it now. No way that’s roughing, it’s barely ‘running into’.

Nuss: It was sort of a harbinger of how much of a visit to the dentist this game was going to be, I think — necessary, but generally unpleasant. Also, with UCLA putting the ball on the ground twice in the first drive, gotta think the coaches saw something with the Bruins’ ball security.

BA: Dylan Hanser read that the whole way. Backside DE, read play-action away and dropped immediately to the flat. He almost had a hand on that pass before playing catch-up and punching it free.

Drive 2

Nuss: Not a super fan of throwing the ball four times, including twice on 1 to go with the way we’d been running the ball.

BA: Yeah, slants were there on fourth down and Sweet just couldn’t make the catch.

Nuss: Falk also threw to the wrong guy on the mesh on 3rd. Martin was off to the races.

BA: Kind of a rough start offensively.

Nuss: Like I said. Dentist appointment.

Drive 3

BA: UCLA tried chop-blocking zone running plays, which is sorta weird. Mostly see that on the backside of stretch zones if teams do it at all on running plays. Usually a thing you do for quick slants and other 1-step passing or RPO plays. It hasn’t worked for them at all. Maybe they can’t run the ball cause they don’t even try blocking, just diving at knees and hoping for the best.

Nuss: Aw man — Pac-12 in 60 didn’t show Mora yelling at his punter! Here, let me help you.

BA: A negative yardage punt that wasn’t blocked. Not exactly a maximum effort play.

Nuss: TBH, the punter should have gotten a forever pass after the acting job on his first kick. If I believed in karma, that’s what I would have called that punt.

BA: #neverpunt

Drive 4

Nuss: Oh hey lookie there it’s the entire UCLA defensive gameplan laid bare on the first play — clutching and grabbing River Cracraft to try and disrupt his route while also hitting Luke Falk in the helmet as he throws.

BA: Yeah, they rather obviously went after Falk in Pasadena last year and I was curious if that was something they’d try to do again. Kinda douchey.

So, there’s no way that’s not a touchdown right?

Nuss: Kinda wishing maybe I would have advocated for revising the catch rules in this post, because it’s totally a joke that this isn’t a TD when it’s a TD if a runner does the same thing.

BA: In college, unlike NFL ‘What Is A Catch?’ rules, a receiver needs one foot and clear possession. He doesn’t have to control all the way through going to ground, like the NFL kinda-sorta describes a receiver as needing to do.

Nuss: You sure about that? Brandon Gibson would beg to differ — we’ve gotten nailed on this “failure to maintain control through the process of the catch” before.

BA: Cracraft had secured possession and taken two steps, first of all. Second, he broke the plane of the endzone while having clear possession of the ball, after clearly getting a foot down. That’s all he needs. Possession was established from the catch outside the endzone and he carried it in.

This is a catch.

Nuss: By the way, Leach’s postgame quote is pure gold.

“Look, you guys are going to have to look at that, and you look at it veeeeery, very, very carefully, and you write whatever is in your heart and in your mind. But for the time being, all I’ll offer is, did I think it’s a catch? Yes. OK? But, the rest of that, that’s all up to you. Do whatever you think is fair, right and correct in such a situation.”

BA: I’m just here so I won’t get fined.

Nuss: This game was just so weird — Falk was kind of all over the place with his accuracy. But hey ... Erik Powell field goal!

BA: First time for everything. (Literally his first of the season).

Nuss: The derisive cheer from the crowd was pretty funny.

Drive 5

Nuss: The Cougs were really all over those run blitzes on early downs. WSU brought five a few times here and UCLA couldn’t even get hat on hat.

BA: UCLA’s offensive line was terrible. There’s no way to sugar-coat that. They just flat out aren’t blocking people.

Nuss: The Bruins tried to go with the Oregon strategy of using half-rolls with the QB. Didn’t work out any better. Uh oh ... WATCH OUT FRIENDLY FIRE

BA: UCLA should consider arm-punting.

Nuss: Hey man, 26 yards is a 27-yard improvement over the previous punt.

Drive 6

BA: Now is as good a time as any to mention this was Falk’s worst game, statistically. And that UCLA didn’t really have anything to do with it.

Nuss: This whole game, from start to finish, was just awkward — refs blowing calls, the rain and wind, Falk and his receivers just being a little out of sync.

BA: Missing pretty badly on everything underneath than popping a dime to Sweet on a corner route falls into the “weird” category.

Nuss: Makes me wonder if there was something a little sideways mechanically, like failing to get “on top” of the short ones, because most of the bad throws were sailing high.

BA: Bad nights happen. And Falk has played well in poor weather conditions before so we can’t really point at that too much. Just an off-kilter night.

Nuss: By this point in the game, I was just hoping we’d figure out a way to survive it, because it seemed pretty clear that it was just going to be one of those kinds of games. I also was pretty confident we would, because I was 100% sure that we were the tougher team, and I was like 90% sure UCLA wasn’t going to really be able to move the ball much — provided we didn’t do anything dumb to screw it up.

BA: Yeah I don’t recall being too concerned about the game. Receivers were open and Falk wasn’t hitting them, or they weren’t catching them. Both of those issues can resolve themselves. Forcing that post to Martin at the goaline when Gabe Marks and Gerard Wicks were both open to the near sideline was real uncharacteristic for Falk. There were a lot of plays this game that weren’t characteristically Falk.

Nuss: You could make a pretty good case that Marks cruises into the end zone with a block from Wicks.

BA: Yeah, a very good case.

Nuss: Really cool flood concept. UCLA had six of its defenders occupied by the mesh and the front-side post. Too bad Falk missed it.

Drive 7

Nuss: Couple of little chunk plays here, but nothing of substance. UCLA still can’t block and was able to hit a couple of passes by showing zone action to one side before bootlegging the other way. In a 3-0 game, flipping the field probably felt like a win for the Bruins. Moving on?

BA: Little nekkid bootlegs are about all they had going for them.

Drive 8

Nuss: And Falk follows up his worst throw with his best drive. I love that about him.

BA: That wasn’t exactly a great showing of efficiency on that drive but they moved the ball down the field. I mean, 18 plays is about five or six too many, if we’re getting nitpicky.

Nuss: I don’t think it’s ideal, but after what Falk had done previously, watching him pick apart the Bruins with 7 consecutive completions to start the drive and 9-of-11 overall made me feel a lot better about the direction the game was heading. These slants had been there all game, and they finally got one when they really needed it with a great throw and catch.

Also would have had a TD on the next throw to make it 10-of-11 if UCLA hadn’t gotten away with pretty blatant pass interference on Marks. Regardless, nice touchdown for “Gerald” Wicks.

BA: Whenever the offense gets a little out-of-rhythm they usually start hitting shallow cross and screens. Quick, easy completions to get things rolling downhill.

Drive 9

BA: Not much of anything really happened there. UCLA successfully made the field long for WSU before half. About it.

Nuss: It was fun to watch Frankie Luvu recognize and foil a screen, then watch Isaac Dotson dismiss a half-hearted block from a WR to make a stop on 3rd down.

Drive 10

BA: Some nice running lanes and Falk looked a lot more comfortable throwing. Good zip on a couple of those. Didn’t seem terribly interested in trying to get into field goal range.

Nuss: At the point they looked like they were opening it up a bit, Andre Dillard held, and that was that.


Drive 11

BA: How cool is it to have a legit return guy like Robert Taylor? Forgot what that was like for a while.

Nuss: No kidding. I was kind of thinking the same thing after this play.

I know we talk a lot about James Williams’ athleticism, but it wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t have anyone who could even do what he did on this play — beat a guy to the edge and then shoot up field for like seven extra yards. It was a fairly innocuous play, but it’s still attention grabbing for those of us who haven’t quite gotten over the scars of 2008-2012.

BA: Gotta love the mindset of running verts right after a big kick-off return.

Nuss: Also gotta love how the line flawlessly picked up consecutive blitzes.

BA: Man, if Falk keeps his cool a little better on that 3rd down scramble, he had cleared the pressure and BOOBIE had just blown past his defender. Couldn’t exactly see where the safety was playing but I think he could’ve just floated that down the numbers for Williams and he would’ve been gone.

Nuss: Don’t gotta love the rugby punt. Kill it with fire.

BA: Whatever about the punt, not like we got a Basler — Defensive Player of the game in the Holiday Bowl — suited up on the sideline. Just don’t fumble on a fake and I’m cool. Also never punt.

Nuss: I think you mean #neverpunt.

Drive 12

BA: It’s nice facing back-ups. First time UCLA shows any intention of being interesting on offense and he comically underthrows a well-covered post route. Live your best life, Falafel.

Nuss: He actually didn’t look half bad at times, but then he’d make an inexplicably bad throw into coverage. I guess that’s why he was always the back up! Really cool to see Marcellus Pippins pick up an interception, though.

BA: Pippins ain’t easy.

Drive 13

Nuss: Oops.

BA: Man, talk mess about the opposing QB and the Football Gods respond quick, don’t they?

Nuss: This game deserved that play.

Drive 14

Nuss: And then he makes a throw like that.

BA: Those bootlegs were about all they had going for them. Move the pocket and rip the front pylon. Luani was a day late and a dollar short of stepping in front.

Nuss: Were you at all nervous at this point? I actually wasn’t. Felt like it was a lucky throw after being put in scoring position by a fluke play and that he was probably going to make another mistake before it was over.

BA: Not really nervous, no. Still figured on six or so possessions this half and really only needing to score on half of them to put it out of reach for UCLA’s assy offense. The weirdness of the game was palpable though, I do remember a sinking feeling of what if dumb stuff keeps happening?

Drive 15

Nuss: Oh hey another nice return!

BA: If you won’t say it I will; Robert Taylor was tackled by the kicker twice.

Nuss: He probably got killed for that in the film room. Probably should take one to the house some point to make up for it. Also, River Cracraft will not be upstaged.

BA: That was one of the most phenomenal Cracraft catches I’ve ever seen.

Nuss: It was like every time UCLA started to make a little bit of a move, WSU hit the gas just enough to keep the Bruins at arms length.

BA: That right there was beautiful execution. UCLA shows pressure and clamps down to bump-n-run man coverage. Falk gets a singled up vertical to the outside and puts it only where Martin can make a play on it.

Drive 16

Nuss: UCLA continues to be unable to string together positive plays. Moving on?

BA: Gotta be frustrating to watch a sputtering offense burp out a few plays then shank a punt every series.

Nuss: We would have absolutely no idea what that’s like, would we?

Drive 17

Nuss: Game over. Falk’s locked in now — his first incompletion to Cracraft was thrown into the tiniest window and is usually caught, and the second one was because of pass interference. Even our dumb stuff is turning out good. Second week in a row this happened!

Third rushing TD of the game — I guess maybe we should show one? Watching Cody O’Connell — who left earlier in the game with an injury, I should add — is awfully fun here. Poor Jayon Brown (6-foot/230) doesn’t stand a chance.

BA: After a fairly miserable first quarter, Falk really got into the zone these last two drives. He hit all those spots on the money. After the goaline plays last series and this series, you could tell the OL was having fun being the more physical side of the ball against UCLA’s front.

Nuss: But I was told that UCLA was SO TOUGH and SO PHYSICAL.

BA: They were told that too. Doesn’t make it true though.

Drive 18

Nuss: This drive probably pissed off Alex Grinch something fierce. Just couldn’t make the big stop to get off the field, then had a total breakdown to give up the TD.

BA: If drives had themes this one would be “UCLA probably got away with a bit of a hold there”, as our astute broadcast team noted at one point.

Nuss: Definitely happened more than once. That said, our offensive line got away with a lot of grabbing, too. Ref just decided he wasn’t going to call holding.

BA: Holding is one of those things I don’t really bitch about because it could be called on literally every single play, but there were a couple of real bad ones on that drive. To McBroom and Hercules on separate plays in particular. Credit where it’s due though, that was Fafaul’s best drive of the game and the receivers were beating the secondary all over the field.

Nuss: Derek Moore got it bad once, too.

BA: That TD was just a good Bunch play design at the goaline, had a lot of crossing mix-ups and a WR managed to squirt free and clear past a freshman safety that didn’t recognize to pick up an in route out of the bunch.

Drive 19

BA: At this point you’re thinking salt the clock, right?

Nuss: Yes. But then, of course, PEAK PAC-12 REF had to do something.

BA: Made a great play on the ball in space.

Nuss: Bummed to only get a field goal, but yeah — taking 6:30 off the clock was reaaaaaaal nice.

BA: Wanted to get another here but the red zone offense really didn’t click.

Drive 20


BA: I don’t know who that girl is but she’s given us the perfect reaction to a lot of things that happen on Cougar Football Saturdays. DBs got worked for the second drive in a row.

Nuss: They’re kinda picking on Jalen Thompson at this point.

Drive 21

Nuss: This drive was less than ideal. Now I’m wondering if some weird juju is going to pay us back for last season in Los Angeles, especially after UCLA recovered a damned muffed punt.

BA: Was starting to legit worry a backup was gonna dice our secondary for three consecutive series. They were steps behind everything.

Drive 22

Nuss: We’ll never find out. Thanks again, Dylan Hanser!

BA: Takeaways are great.

Drive 23

Nuss: See? Mike Leach can learn some things about CLOCK MANAGEMENT, even mid-game!

BA: I’m more in the mold of do what you do and try to score all the time but three straight runs and a punt inside the five showed a greater level of strategery.

Nuss: Shout out to all the MIKE LEACH CLOCK MANAGEMENT homies.

Drive 24

Nuss: It was only a matter of time before Falafel made another real dumb throw.

BA: Too many yards, too little time put pressure on an inexperienced guy to force something to happen.

Nuss: Also didn’t help him that his five couldn’t block our four for more than two seconds.

BA: The magic fairy dust they used to hold up the pass rush the last couple series ran out.

Nuss: My guess? The Bruins didn’t want to get called for using Magic Fairy Dust in the end zone and give up a game-ending safety.

Drive 25

Nuss: The best drive of the game right here.

BA: Victory formation is the best formation.

Nuss: One last parting shot.


We moved the play-by-play to the end of each drive. You like better?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    (44 votes)
  • 15%
    No, move it back to the beginning of each drive.
    (12 votes)
  • 30%
    What were we talking about again? I think I just skipped over them.
    (24 votes)
80 votes total Vote Now