Washington State quarterback Luke Falk found himself on the ground a lot Saturday Night in Corvallis after taking hit after hit. Falk was able to endure a number of big hits in the teams 35-31 win over Oregon State to lead his team to become bowl eligible and to a 5-0 start in conference play. Washington State still has a very good chance at making the Apple Cup a de facto Pac-12 North championship game.
The game had a very ominous start for the Cougars, as it appeared they could have been overlooking the Beavers, thinking they would just come in and Oregon State would basically just hand them the game. That was far from the case as Oregon State jumped on top of Washington State to give them a 14-0 lead after the first quarter. The offense wasn’t doing anything and the defense was having a hard time stopping anything that Victor Bolden and Ryan Nall did. The start of the second quarter wasn’t much better, about half way through the quarter Seth Collins got loose for a 46-yard touchdown catch and the Beavers were suddenly up 21-0 and the Cougars knew they were going to have to turn things around very quickly if they planned to make themselves bowl eligible on this night. The comeback started with a Tavares Martin 33-yard touchdown catch from Falk, but the extra point was blocked, so even at this point when Washington State scored they were still doing something wrong. Oregon State got a late field goal to take a 24-6 lead into the half, while racking up 394 first half yards on the Cougars defense.
Whatever Mike Leach said at halftime must’ve worked because Washington State wasn’t even close to the same team in the second half and especially in the third quarter. It started just a couple minutes into the third quarter where Luke Falk hit running back Jamal Morrow down the middle of the field after he snuck out of the backfield for a 66-yard touchdown, and with the defense suddenly playing inspired they were able to continuously get the ball back to the offense very quickly with a number of three and outs by the Oregon State offense. After a hot first half, Oregon State quarterback Marcus McMaryion cooled down considerably in the second half. After getting the ball back again Luke Falk hit Gabe Marks on an incredible touchdown catch where Falk took one of his big shots of the night, on what looked like a sure interception Marks bailed him out, and then they got the ball back again suddenly just down three points and were able to take the lead on a great throw to the back of the endzone by Falk to Marks. It only took them about 12 minutes into the third quarter to get the lead.
The fourth quarter was a little bit more shaky. It started early with a muffed punt that put Oregon State inside the five. This was the absolute worst special teams mistake they could’ve made because Oregon State pretty much had nothing going on offense and this game them a short field and they quickly regained the lead on a Nall touchdown run. The offense knew they were going to have to go back to work to bail out the special teams and they did just that. A 2:21 second touchdown drive that featured some very good running by James Williams was capped off by a Robert Lewis one yard touchdown catch. The next defensive series Oregon State started to move the ball and had a fourth and one and they were going to go for it until a false start pushed them back and they resorted to a fake punt, which the Cougars were ready for, and were able to force a turnover, but Washington State gave them the ball back in very good field position after Mike Leach decided to really gamble and go for it on fourth and two from their own 43. He must’ve really trusted his defense and for good reason because they were able to stuff a Ryan Nall run on fourth and one for no gain and get the ball back to their offense. The offense was able to run all but four seconds off the clock and Oregon State had to try a desperation play that didn’t come close to working.
The ability to bounce back from such a slow start had to make Mike Leach happy, but I highly doubt he was happy they were in that position in the first place. They had a couple of special teams blunders that they will need to clean up going forward, but the bottom line is that they found a way to win and push their conference record to 5-0. They will play Arizona next week at home, and with the win they moved into the AP poll at number 25. With the College Football Playoff rankings coming out Tuesday it has yet to be seen if they will be in those top-25 rankings.