Wyoming won't like seeing WSU tape

WYOMING'S DEFENSE won't like seeing the WSU-Rutgers tape. It was the most important play of the game – convert or go home. On fourth-and-five on WSU’s final drive, surely Luke Falk was looking to Gabe Marks as his primary target. Or sure-handed River Cracraft, big-play man Dom Williams or maybe a screen to Gerard Wicks. But Falk never looked at any of them.

Luke Falk was going to Robert Lewis all the way, who to that point had but one catch for four yards. Falk zipped the 12-yard pass to Lewis at the H, the Cougs moved the chains and four plays later Washington State was in the end zone to win it. Ho hum.

Lewis’ catch defines the Air Raid offense at its best. For all the talk about how teams have figured out the Air Raid and that’s why the offense struggles to punch it into the end zone – and there’s an argument to be made there – when its executed at that high a level, the edge remains firmly with the offense.

When the defense has to expect the unexpected, the Air Raid can and should finish drives off. The throw to Lewis is Exhibit A.

SPEAKING OF fourth down, that was the lone conversion for the Cougs, who were one-of-four on the day.

This just in: Mike Leach tends to go for it on fourth down in the red zone. But after each of these first two games, Leach has talked about how the Cougs left points on the table. And eschewing the FG try when in range is a game the odds are stacked against you in the long run.

Yes, the Cougs will convert some fourth downs and score some TDs in the process. But on balance, the evidence so far has shown the Cougs will score less by not taking the three points.

WSU, at long last, looks to have a reliable placekicker in Erik Powell. How often Leach turns to him inside the 30-yard line on fourth down will be a storyline worth watching the rest of this season.

THE WSU SECONDARY held star Rutgers receiver Leonte Carroo to a quiet four catches for 52 yards. (Carroo was suspended indefinitely for an incident after the game, Rutgers coach Kyle Flood offered no details). The longest pass play from Rutgers all day went for 20 yards.

Marcellus Pippins was a surprise starter at corner in place of Charleston White, with White appearing in the game. Pippins posted five solo tackles and a pick.

THE COUGS' kickoff and punt return defensive units were a disaster, with fans in cyberspace sniping about special teams coach Eric Mele after the game. The Cougs have to turn those units around, no doubt about it. But a couple other points in interest of the big picture.

Powell’s development (4-5 FGs) is also a product of Mele’s coaching. So is punter Zach Charme (41.5 avg). No, those two special teams bright spots don’t cancel out the porous return defense, nor some poor decisions by return men Tavares Martin and Kyrin Priester to come out of the end zone. But credit where credit is due. (And it sure feels like either Martin or Priester, or both, are going to take one back this season).

BY THE WAY, have you looked at the Pac-12 North lately? After just two games, only one team remains undefeated. Cal is 2-0 while everyone else including WSU stands at 1-1. Four teams in the South are 2-0 (UA, UCLA, USC, Utah) while ASU and Colorado are 1-1.

FOR ALL THE griping about officials, much of it oh-so-deserved, the crew on Saturday in New Jersey was spot-on. They were absolutely right in calling back Keith Harrington’s TD – firmly believe a Pac-12 replay official would have said "call stands." They were also right in calling back several Rutgers big plays too.

More often than not you see the visiting team flagged more than the home team. But WSU was flagged five times for 50 yards on Saturday, with Rutgers penalized 11 times for 100 yards. The officials on Saturday called 'em like they saw 'em and replays showed they were correct -- a refreshing change from what we've seen from Pac-12 crews 'lo these many years.

THE WSU O-LINE had their best, most complete performance in the Leach era on Saturday. But the guess here is Clay McGuire and Leach will also spend some time this practice week expressing their displeasure on the two false starts on the same drive.

Still, the wall the hogmollies put up for virtually the entire game was impressive. The pre-game buzz was that Rutgers' defensive front was going to give the Cougs' problems but LT Joe Dahl, LG Gunnar Eklund, C Riley Sorenson, RG Eduardo Middleton and RT Cole Madison stoned the Rutgers pass rush. The Cougs racked up 559 total yards on offense.

Good thing, too. For as good a stat line as Falk put up (47-66, 478 yards, four TDs, no INT) and the fact Falk was named Pac-12 offensive player of the week on Monday, it was clear he wasn't 100 percent.

He got up slowly on a number of occasions, he wasn't crisp during a few sections in the game. It was a gutty performance that should have Cougar fans optimistic for what's to come from Falk this season, particularly after he returns to full strength. (It is thought he bruised his non-throwing shoulder at the end of the PSU game but WSU under Leach of course does not discuss injuries).

MKRISTO BRUCE nailed it in his video after the game -- when the Cougs went three down, the left side of the Cougar d-line/defense was an open lane.

That figures to be a major focus this practice week, there needs to be better in-game adjustments from Alex Grinch and the players need to do a better job of staying home and shedding blocks. In other words, the Cougar D has a lot of work to do this practice week.

That said, turnovers are the great equalizer. And WSU probably doesn't win that game without the three takeaways by the Cougar D: Pippins' INT, Peyton Pelluer's strip and the Rutgers QB fumble, caused by the pass rush, that Destiny Vaeao pounced on. The three takeaways by the Cougs were the most in a game in more than a year (2013 New Mexico Bowl).

HOW FITTING WAS it that River Cracraft had the first and last reception in the win. In Week 1, Cracraft didn't have a pass thrown his way until the final minutes of the first half. Dom Williams caught career TD pass No. 20 in the first quarter, moving into sole possession of fourth in program history.

Gabe Marks set a career high for receptions (14) and tied his career high in receiving yards (146). He took some big hits in a sensational performance, none bigger than his fourth quarter TD catch where he somehow held on after getting drilled.

TWO COUGS made their Cougar debut on Saturday: DB Kirkland Parker and DL Jeremiah Mitchell (DL) made their Cougar debuts .

FINALLY, THE MYSTERY of the blue canopy has been solved. Against Portland State, some Cougar players were seen underneath it to stay out of the rain, drawing criticism from fans. And there it was again on the WSU sideline at Rutgers. So what gives?

It's for communications to the press box, for the medical observer and doctors, WSU SID tells us. This year, medical observers can stop a game and order the officiating crew to remove a player if it appears that he has suffered a serious head or neck injury and remains in the game. The experimental rule went into effect this season and could become a permanent rule in 2016.

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