The Washington State Cougars scored on all seven possessions of the first half and raced out to a four-touchdown lead at the break before coasting to a 52-31 victory in front of a sold-out homecoming crowd at Martin Stadium.
WSU now heads to the second half of the season at 4-2 overall and needing just two wins in its final six to secure a bowl bid. They're also 2-1 in the Pac-12, tied with Cal for second in the Pac-12 North behind 4-0 Stanford. Oregon State, meanwhile, drops to 2-4 and 0-3.
WSU's first half went about as perfectly as it could go, at least offensively. Luke Falk was exploiting the Beavers' defensive weaknesses all over the field, first by repeatedly punishing OSU's decision to put its corners on an island against Dom Williams and Gabe Marks -- the duo combined for 14 receptions, 214 yards and three touchdowns -- and then by working the middle of the field as OSU sent help to the sidelines.
All told, Falk would throw for 323 yards and six touchdowns before halftime, the latter of which is now a Pac-12 record for TD passes in a half.
Meanwhile, the defense was solid, giving up just 155 yards and 10 points to OSU's offense, and the Cougars took a 45-17 lead into the locker room.
Oh, you want to know about those other seven points? Sigh.
Despite that, the Cougars were well in control of the game -- they were up by 28 points, had outgained the Beavers by nearly 250 yards, and held a yards-per-play advantage of 8.9 to 5.0.
Put simply, the Cougars looked like a team that wanted to show their fans that they're for real on the heels of last week's thrilling victory over Oregon.
However, after the break, they looked like a team that had absolutely no idea how to play with a lead.
Beyond a decisive victory, fans were clamoring for the elusive "complete game" after watching WSU struggle to put it all together for four quarters this season. They're still waiting, because after all the offensive prowess in the first half, WSU actually scored zero offensive points in the second half.
In fact, the Cougars would gain just 121 yards after halftime, with Falk accounting for only 84, a total that included zero touchdowns and a pair of pretty awful interceptions thrown directly to defenders. Something just seemed out of sync with the offense after halftime.
Against a better team, WSU might have been in trouble. Oregon State did outgain the Cougs in the second half, but the Beavers' total lack of an effective passing attack meant their rushing attack, which moved the ball from time to time but was generally devoid explosiveness, just served to bleed time off the clock and make it nearly impossible to overcome the first half deficit.
As time started to run down and OSU got desperate enough to abandon the running game, Shalom Luani provided the defensive highlight of the game:
And then he picked off another one:
In addition to the two interceptions, Luani finished tied for the team lead with 11 tackles and also had a pass break up. He'll get strong consideration for Pac-12 defensive player of the week. Peyton Pelluer was right there with 11 tackles also, a whopping 11 of them solo and two of them for a loss.
Like so many other performances, it wasn't always pretty for WSU. But just like three other times, it was enough to get a victory ... even if it didn't always look like we'd wanted it to look.