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2016 in Review: WSU wakes up in time to sneak past Oregon State

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After falling behind 21-0, the Cougars storm back to win 35-31 as Luke Falk throws for 415 yards and five touchdowns.

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NCAA Football: Washington at Oregon State Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 season is almost here! Let’s pass the remaining time by rewatching last season’s conference games.

Nuss: I’m glad I know how this one ends, because it was very uncomfortable watching it live.

BA: Falk threw for 415 yards and five TDs and I was still nervous about the outcome for most of the game. Gary Andersen is building a solid team in Corvallis, I wasn’t really mentally prepared to have this game be the time they jump up and steal one.

Nuss: I remember being torn as the game unfolded between my natural Coug tendency to be like “welp this is how it happens, of course the worst team in the league would be the one that gets us” and the rational part of my brain that had watched us come back a number of times over the past season and a half.

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

Nuss: Lol. The very first play. Insert the Yakkety Sax.

BA: Victor Bolden terrifies me. Seems like OSU has had a fast guy like that on their roster every season going back to James Rodgers, even Sammie Stroughter.

It’s never too early in a game to #PAC12ref and call defensive holding on two players, get the crowd excited, then say you beefed up and it’s actually on the offense.

Nuss: How in the actual heck does this play still work on us? And how in the actual heck did this play not die with Mike Riley leaving Corvallis?

BA: They love that little Jet sweep and always will. Just can’t quit it, helps when Bolden is the guy screaming toward the edge of a defense too. Couple nice plays from their quarterback on that drive but the defense did what’s it’s gotten comfortable doing, allowing a couple big plays in the middle of the field and shutting things down to force a field goal.

Nuss: #CollegeKickers, still the best.

Drive 2

Nuss: JUST RUN THE STUPID BALL ON THIRD AND SHORT.

BA: Good screen on first down, Williams gets uncharacteristically stuffed on second and Falk short-hops an outlet to the running back on third. Not the greatest of starts.

Drive 3

Nuss: Gonna be honest — I hadn’t paid enough attention to OSU to even know who Ryan Nall was before this game. This was Nall’s recruiting profile.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER?!?!?!!?

BA: Photo looks accurate.

BA: This is what can happen when you commit safeties to primary run support. Taylor (No. 2) sucked up to fill backside “alley” with the motion away from him to the field. Thompson (No. 34) filled playside (with the motion) “alley” which already had the OLB/Nickel walked up to the line of scrimmage. Line hits their blocks and there’s no second-level. House call.

Nuss: Not the strongest safety play to start — if you go back and watch the jet sweep, Taylor missed a tackle in the backfield. Fortunate that play didn’t go for more.

Drive 4

BA: Offense seemed to come out rolling and sputtered to a stop after a false start. Falk dropped a dime to John Thompson that he wasn’t able to bring in.

Nuss: Side note — I think all broadcasters should have to attend some sort of Air Raid class before calling our games so they know what the difference is between a bubble screen and a tunnel screen and a jailbreak screen and ... anyway, moving on.

Drive 5

BA: Pippins knocked some wind out of Victor Bolden’s sails. Good lord.

Nuss: Oh hey our turn to get Pac-12 Reffed. This was somehow roughing the passer for “contact below the knees.” Drive extended when it should have been dead deep in OSU territory.

Then Bolden pulls in a crazy grab with Molton completely draped on him, and Nall makes us look slow again. The 90-yard TD was incredible, but this is actually where I thought to myself, “Holy crap, how have I not heard more about this guy?” after watching him make Peyton Pelluer look like Mike Ledgerwood trying to catch Reggie Bush ... or any other Pac-10 running back. Or fullback.

BA: Yikes, that’s a painful flashback. The Wrecking Nall is my secret guilty pleasure, love watching that guy play. He’s a Mike Alstott throwback when you kinda figured that type of back was phasing out of football. I have no idea how Bolden caught that over Molten, if he’d done anything more defensively, Molten would’ve been accused of mugging.

Nuss: Molten probably committed DPI as it was. Also, on the TD, you’ll notice Taylor biting on the WR post, putting him out of position to help Pelluer. Not Taylor’s finest quarter, especially since it includes the beginning of the next drive, where he picks up a short kick off that probably was bouncing out of bounds and gets buried at at the 5.

BA: I think they liked their backers on backs match-up defensively, and had the secondary keying on wide receivers off their motions. Nall had a different opinion of how that match-up would go.

Drive 6

Nuss: Once again, moved the ball a little then stalled. Also:

BA: A 90-yard rushing play will do weird things to statistics. I actually think Nall’s runs in this game skewed things enough to have PFF label him among the “most elusive” backs in college football. If “elusive” means treating defenders like bowling pins I guess that’s sort of accurate.

Nuss: Take out that run and they’re still outgaining us nearly 2-to-1. Second week in a row we started slow. Thank goodness this team had enough firepower to overcome that against everyone but Washington.

BA: Yeah, this one was a weird start. The offense didn’t look ‘out of sync’ like they can tend to do sometimes, things simply weren’t working. Like they were in a feeling out process to see what would be effective that lasted a few drives too long.

Nuss: This includes the fact that the rugby punt worked three times in a row — 50-yarder, inside 20, 50-yarder that’s inside the 20. I’ll bet Eric Mele points to this game when he makes the case for continuing to use that stupid thing.

BA: #neverpunt and don’t worry about it. Nine plays and 35 yards isn’t very productive.

Drive 7

Nuss: After that stupid jet sweep got us again, nice job by the defense to finally buckle down.

BA: Yeah, immediately after that play you can see the adjustment they made to the field side, having Luani crash the motion receiver. He locked on that motion a couple plays in a row after that one, and having Luani out there crashing is probably a better idea than having a backer chasing...which is what they tried to do with Dotson on that Bolden Jet sweep on the first play.

Nuss: OSU tried to run a little play action off the sweep to get us out of position, but it didn’t work. Well done.

BA: Secondary looked like they had every option bottled up on those pass attempts. All of them were in good position. This drive had a little bit of a “light switch came on” feeling for the defense.

Drive 8

Nuss: Offense looked like the light came on, too. River Cracraft hits that patented Y-Cross, and then Gabe Marks is well behind the defense before Luke Falk gets away with underthrowing the TD as the defense mugs him near the goal line. Cracraft converts the third down with a perfectly execute mesh, then ... dammit.

BA: Pretty much were able to do everything they wanted to. Unfortunate.

Drive 9

Nuss: WELP.

BA: Goddamnit.

Nuss: If there’s one thing the defense has to do better this year, it’s get off the field on third down. Yeah, they got burned by a dumbass trick play, but that came after giving up 3rd-and-4 and then 3rd-and-9. The Cougs were 70th nationally last year in third down conversions against (39.88 percent) and were 65th in third down S&P+. I didn’t doubt we could outscore OSU by more than 21 the rest of the way, but ... I mean, at some point, this catches up with you. Or, at least, that’s what I thought. Shows what I know.

Drive 9

Nuss: BIG SEXY TUNNEL SCREEN.

Two things I love the most about this play: 1) I will never get tired of watching Martin’s smooth acceleration. 2) The offensive line actually sells some zone action to the right — which really sells the play fake on 3rd-and-short, to the point that the defenders who think they’re backside sell out, only to realize they’re actually front side and completely out of position — before coming all the way across the field to the left to just make a wall.

BA: Love seeing the big guys get downfield on “Larry”. Martin runs this play so incredibly well, he reads the blocks and hits the gas pedal up his lane. Randy and Larry can get blown up by an ambitious linebacker but when you can catch teams, Martin could house it from anywhere on the field.

Nuss: When this play is done right, I feel like it’s the epitome of the Air Raid: Every guy on the field has a really important role to play in its success. Of course, we couldn’t feel toooooooo good ...

Drive 10

BA: Pretty huge of the defense to hold them to a field goal on that drive. Another seven doesn’t make things insurmountable but it would’ve been infinitely more deflating heading into the locker room. I mean, tackle better and that drive doesn’t go anywhere. That’s a fixable problem.

HALFTIME

Drive 11

Nuss: Disappointing. Weird for Marks and Falk to not connect on that third down — the opening was there on the sideline, but it looked like Marks was a little later coming out of his break than Falk expected.

BA: Yeah, Marks pushed it just a couple yards further past the sticks than what Falk was thinking.

Nuss: I’d like to point out that Falk’s current stat line is 19-of-27 for 164 yards and a TD. Not terrible, but it’s about to get a looooooot better.

And then ... no. Just no.

This is what irritates me to no end about the rugby thing with Sweet back there, beyond the generally poor results. There’s always the temptation to do something with it. I’m guessing Sweet had an automatic read here — OSU overloaded WSU right side of the line presnap, where Sweet would normally roll to kick. He probably was taught to take off with it. And I mean, if he could have made just one guy miss, he gets it. But he didn’t, and we give the ball away deep in our own territory in the second half of a game in which we’re already trailing by three TDs. Brutal mistake.

BA: What you’re really hoping for is good hat-on-hat blocking — or at least getting in the way — from these three guys boxed below. I think you’re right about this being a greenlight call by Sweet.

Even if they all make blocks, you’re still needing to run 20+ yards in the time defenders need to realize your running, that’s near impossible. They didn’t get everyone blocked and Sweet couldn’t make a play in open field.

I get needing to steal a possession and this actually set up pretty well for them to do it, but damn, I tend to be more in the school of thought that if you want to go for it on fourth down, just run your offense.

Nuss: That’s what led me to think it was a read by Sweet, though. Those guys didn’t look to me to be blocking — seems like they were just running to coverage, and the hope was that the defenders would just follow, clear out the space, and Sweet would run unabated to the marker. Unfortunately, one guy was spying, and Sweet couldn’t make him miss. Regardless, that’s not a chance you take from your own 20 in a game you’re down by three TDs.

Drive 12

Nuss: Incredible effort by the defense here. OSU had to be thinking this game is over if they can just move the ball 30 yards into the end zone, and instead of getting even a field goal out of it, they go backwards and punt. If I believed in momentum and turning points, this would be it, because things are about to get rough for the Beavers.

BA: This might’ve been the drive of the game for the defense. Stepping up right there the way they did to keep points off the board gave the offense a chance to close the gap.

Drive 13

Nuss: How many times last year did Jamal Morrow do this? Poor linebacker never stood a chance.

BA: Love this little wrinkle they throw into things. Running backs run center of the field option routes in the vertical passing game. Every time the Cougs run Verts, a running back in hunting the middle of the field about five yards past the line of scrimmage.

Here, they bunch to the boundary (tight splits between the receivers) and run a variant of Shakes they like to do. Marks sits at the line of scrimmage to hold the corner and create space for Sweet to work a safety to the sideline. They’re probably doing something similar to the field side off screen. Morrow dekes that little option route right in the face of the defender and gets him flat-footed. Toast.

Nuss: Also, very nice job by Sweet to battle into the end zone for the two-point conversion.

Drive 14

Nuss: OSU’s last two drives have now totaled minus-8 yards on six plays.

BA: DEFENSE (clap clap) DEFENSE (clap clap)

Nuss: That jet sweep stopped fooling us.

Drive 15

Nuss: Well that escalated quickly.

BA: Throw it up to No. 9. That play would be ‘walk yourself into the pass rush then back peddle into the clean pocket then chuck it 50 yards into triple coverage’ if it was written in a playbook somewhere. It probably isn’t written in a playbook somewhere.

Nuss: This might be the worst decision Falk has ever made. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Drive 16

Nuss: After losing yards on each of their previous drives, the Beavers finally pick up two this time. Progress! Total from the last three drives: 9 plays, minus-six yards. The defense is all over everything OSU is trying to do — the second down play was supposed to be a screen to Nall, and the Beavers were fortunate that it was incomplete, because he would have been buried for a loss.

BA: The second-half adjustment was really well done by Coach Grinch. He’s even got The Bulldog — Parker Henry — out there playing Mike to snuff out those swings and sweeps. Speed D. Vroom.

Drive 17

Nuss: Let’s just @ThrowItUpTo9 again.

BA: Unlike that prayer of a touchdown on the last drive, this was a perfectly thrown football. Gorgeous.

Nuss: That’s one that will be on the NFL scouts’ highlight reel. We are so spoiled. Also, that catch means that, somehow, this catch by Martin earlier was the second-best catch of the drive.

Drive 18

BA: Pretty evident the clock struck midnight for the Beavers’ offense when the halftime whistle blew.

Nuss: If Shalom Luani hadn’t mistakenly thought he had a pick 6 when Nall ended up going for 41 yards, I’m not sure OSU would have gained any yards on this drive, either.

BA: Yeah, same.

Drive 19

BA: After what the defense (and/or OSU’s offense) had been doing the last few series and the way the passing game turned on, I was curious if they could end up making the spread four or five TDs by the end of the game. Totally different feeling at the end of the third quarter than the end of the second.

Nuss: I’d say so.

BA: Life comes at you fast.

Drive 20

Nuss: Just like last week, only a colossal special team blunder can keep the opponent in it.

BA: That one is bad. I enjoyed how reliable — for the most part -- Kaleb Fossum was as a punt returner, but it’ll be nice to see what Special Forces can do with a play-maker type guy back there that’s not just a steady-hands guy.

Nuss: Hey kids — if you have to turn your back to the punt to catch up to it, probably should just peel off and let it go. Like ASU, I just sort of rolled my eyes and felt good about us closing it out, so I wasn’t particularly worried. But man is it annoying that for the fourth game in a row, it was closer than it should have been.

Drive 21

Nuss: Oh hi River

BA: Kid runs full sprint at the sideline and long-steps to toe drag a reception...without shredding his groin into a thousand pieces like I would do if I tried to do this.

Nuss: I almost can’t fault the #Pac12Refs for getting this one wrong at first. And as the drive went on, you could see OSU was finally running out of steam to stop the Cougs. They’d done a pretty solid job against the run throughout the game, but WSU just started pounding them, as James Williams took over. This three-play sequence is as good as you’ll see from any running back, anywhere.

Let’s watch that one more time.

BA: “I was like...where’d he go?” “Where’d whooooo gooooo?”

Nuss: He even got the ball for a fourth time to try and get him the TD, but he couldn’t quite get there. Almost surprised they didn’t give it to him a fifth time, but I’ll take the wide open TD to Robert Lewis.

BA: Robert Lewis; BOOBIE touchdown vulture.

Drive 22

Nuss: This was not a good sequence on fourth down for OSU. Maybe don’t try a fake punt when the other team leaves its starting defense on the field?

BA: Man, is that like the 10th false start penalty or what? They had 13 for the whole game and I swear more than half have been false starts.

Drive 23

Nuss: Can this game just end already?

BA: I was pretty ready for Falk to not get hit anymore.

Nuss: He was carrying himself pretty gingerly throughout a lot of this.

BA: I think he took a rib shot on that prayer TD to Marks. He was grabbing at it all throughout the second half.

Drive 24

Nuss: Stuffing Nall twice on 1-to-go was pretty neat.

BA: Very neat. Took damn near the whole team to do it.

Nuss: I think what McMaryion did to try and drag him to the first down is illegal, but whatever.

Drive 25

Nuss: People are getting themselves ejected, they’re so ready for this game to end.

BA: Exactly when we start thinking it’d be nice for the QB to not take any more shots they headhunt and he gets smoked on a minimal scramble baseball sliding.

Nuss: Not an ideal way to gain a first down while trying to end a game, but whatever it takes, I guess.

Drive 26

Nuss: Finally.

BA: Salting away the clock at the end of the game is becoming a thing.

Nuss: This is #fun.

BA: Print the shirts!