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Interactive Graphic: OSU game is a chance for WSU’s offense to get back in the groove

NCAA Football: Boise State at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

We got our full introduction to Luke Falk on a foggy afternoon in Corvallis back in 2014. The Washington State Cougars were in the throes of a disappointing season and had just lost the mercurial Connor Halliday to a nasty leg injury. If you’ve forgotten what the then-redshirt freshman did that day, he threw for 471 yards, 5 touchdowns and no interceptions in a 39-32 victory. It was the beginning of a time-honored Falkian tradition of torching the Oregon State Beavers every time they are on the opposing sideline.

Falk’s average stat line vs the Beavers is 38/53 (74%) for 431 yards, 8.23 YPA, 5 TDs and 0.67 interceptions. If there was ever a “get right” game for Falk and the offense, it would be this one.

It may be anecdotal, or confirmation bias, but the memories I have of Falk’s performances are of him making throws into tight windows and putting pressure on Oregon State to stop him. I think this game shapes up for him to take advantage and return to the production that had Gabe Marks calling him Messiah. Oregon State is one of a handful of teams who have already played three games this season — and it’s hard to draw any meaningful conclusions from such a small sample size — but the OSU defense is struggling, and hopefully they leave a lot to be taken by the Cougar offense.

Last season, Oregon State’s defense was 49th in S&P+ and ranked fifth in the Pac-12 in percentage of plays that go 10-plus yards, sandwiched between USC and Stanford in the stat. Overall, they did an OK job of keeping teams from being efficient and from giving up explosive plays.

However, through three games in 2017, OSU ranks 11th in the Pac-12 in percentage of plays that go 10+ yards and are 12th in percentage of plays that go for a first down, letting their opponents move the chains on 34.8% of their plays. The below chart looks at where each team in the Pac-12 ranks in % of plays that go for 10+ to 50+ yards. Oregon State is highlighted, and their struggles in the 10+ yard bin plays right into WSU’s efficient play style. The Cougs should have ample opportunity to get ahead of the chains and dictate the game vs the Beavers.

If you’re on mobile tilt your phone horizontal and if you’d like to open the chart in it’s own tab click here.

Not only do the Cougs have a chance to get into a good rhythm and pace, I think they have can be explosive through the air. One of the bright spots for the Oregon State defense last year was its ability to limit teams when they passed. In 2016, they ranked 4th in the Pac-12 in yards per attempt (6.3 ypa) and 3rd in passing TD % (3.7%), right around Colorado in both statistics. Again, a caveat around it being only 3 games, but thus far Oregon State is on the struggle bus when it comes to stopping the pass.

The below chart allows you to select how many past seasons you want to view and if you highlight or click a logo it will show 2017 and the past seasons you’ve selected. It is looking at a defense’s yards per attempt and passing TD%. Oregon State is currently giving up 9.5 yards per attempt (second to last in Power 5) and their opponents are scoring through the air on 8% of their attempts (62nd in Power 5). On top of that, they look to be out two of the starting corners for Saturday’s game.

If you’re on mobile tilt your phone horizontal and if you’d like to open the chart in it’s own tab click here.

There are countless analogies to be made of a basketball player finding their shot, a golfer finding their stroke, a bowler finding whatever bowlers must find, but I just hope to see Falk heed the words of his coach when he addressed the team after the dramatic win versus Boise State and go take this game. I’d like to imagine this entire week at practice Leach is blasting “Hearts On Fire” and putting the offense through a Rocky 4 like training routine where he only allows them to practice 4 verts and Friday’s walk through ends with Falk leading the team on a sprint to the top of Steptoe Butte and back to the Air Raid promise land.