USATodaySports/Murray

Washington State rallies to win a game during the final minute for the first time since 2007, beat Rutgers 37-34

AFTER TRYING TO give away the game, WSU's Luke Falk marched down the field with a minute and a half left and with 13 seconds remaining, hit River Cracraft with the game-winning touchdown pass to beat Rutgers. Breathe. It’s over. The Cougars are 1-1 after a nerve-racking, heart-pounding, swear-word screaming game.

CFC Players of the Game:

Luke Falk & River Cracraft & the entire offensive line. (Gabe Marks, honorable mention): When you're the main players in a memorable, game-winning drive, it's deserved. Falk started the drive hitting Cracraft on two passes that gained 47 yards. Following three straight incompletions, Falk connected with Robert Lewis on fourth-and-5 to move the chains. Then, after Falk scrambled 13 yards to reach the Rutgers 8, he connected with Cracraft for the game-winning touchdown.

And it's hard to overstate just how solid a pocket Falk had, all day long. A truly stellar performance by the entire o-line: LT Joe Dahl, LG Gunnar Eklund, C Riley Sorenson, RG Eduardo Middleton and RT Cole Madison.

As for Marks, he had another lights out game, catching 14 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. Without Marks catching passes throughout other drives, Washington State isn't in position for a game-winning drive.

Surprises:

Washington State's defense yielded more than 400 yards, and that doesn't include the meltdowns on kick and punt returns, and still won the game. After watching the Cougars during preseason practices, it was a big surprise to see Rutgers' Janarion Grant return a kickoff and a punt for a touchdowns. But obviously there are some holes to fix, and starting Sunday, this has to be a point of emphasis.

Standout stats:

  • Falk had 478 yards passing, with 146 to Marks and 121 to Cracraft.
  • 10 different Washington State receivers had a reception.

Leading Tackler:

Jeremiah Allison, with 11 tackles. This is no surprise, as Allison is everywhere, and appears to make it a point to lead the Cougs in tackles. He led the way last week against Portland State with 12 stops.

Misleading Stat: Turnovers

The Cougars had three takeaways, but only won by three points. Often when a team decisively wins the turnover battle -- in this case, 3-0 -- the score reflects that. Two returns for touchdowns will do that.

Plays of the Game: Cracraft

Some fans might pick the tackle on the kickoff that ended the game, because, well, weren't you just a little nervous? But frankly, that should be routine. What wasn't were some of Cracraft's plays. After last season’s muffed punt against Rutgers that led to a loss, Cracraft looked ready to make amends. Cracraft had 55 yards receiving on the Cougars decisive 90-yard TD drive.

The obvious choice is the touchdown catch, but I prefer the 23-yard catch to get to Rutgers 43. Not only did Cracraft have to fully extend to get the ball, but he was absolutely nailed on the catch, yet still held on. Cracraft, aka Mr. Reliable, continues to be precisely what Falk needed on the comeback drive.

 

Notable Notes

  • With the win, WSU gets revenge on Rutgers after the Cougs lost last year 41-38 to open the 2014 season.
  • Falk set stadium record for completions (47), attempts (66) and passing yards (478).
  • The Cougars won a game during the final minute for the first time since capturing the 2007 Apple Cup.

What Mike Leach thought:

Leach's post-game comments on radio include:

  • “Our team was very dedicated going into practice all week. We did a great job playing until the clock read zero.”
  • “I thought all sides of the ball could improve.”
  • “We took a step to getting more mature and getting better.”  
  • “Falk did a good job under pressure. He’s pretty good at adjusting. We just need to keep improving.”
  • “Marks is an exciting player, and he always wants the ball. I thought he could have had two more touchdowns.”

RELATED: 3 reasons Washington State will beat Rutgers


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