Monday Morning Quarterbacking with Alex Brink

THE SAYING, "a win is a win" fits Washington State's 37-34 nail biter at Rutgers perfectly. The Cougs tried every which way to give the game away. Make no mistake, a loss in New Jersey would have torpedoed WSU's season. An 0-2 hole with a tough Pac-12 slate on tap would have been too much to overcome and go bowling. Let's take an in-depth look at the plays that made up the game-winning drive.

And yet in the end, WSU took back their season. The sterling 90-yard touchdown drive by Luke Falk and the Cougar offense didn't just win a game, it may have ended up saving Washington State's football season.

The Kickoff Return. 1:31 left

As great as the drive ended, the start was far less glorious. Tavares Martin's decision to take the ball out of his own end zone, eventually getting tackled on the 10-yard line, put the Cougars in deep hole when they could have been on their own 25-yard line and with a few more seconds to boot. Special teams is an entire other conversation but apart from the cover teams, the WSU return men (Martin, Kyrin Priester) have left a lot to be desired after two games.

First-and-10, WSU 10-yard line, 1:24

Every game winning drive needs a little bit of luck. The defense knows you are going to be throwing the ball so windows are smaller and the quarterback must take a few chances to push the ball downfield. Falk got his out of the way right off the bat by forcing a throw to River Cracraft on the sideline. Although the ball should have been picked off, it wasn't and Cracraft was able to react to the deflection and keep his feet in bounds for a 24-yard gain.

First-and-10, WSU 34-yard line, 1:18

This may have been the best throw of the drive for Falk. Rutgers was consistently dropping into a deep Cover 2 with the safeties a little wider than normal to take away throws to the sideline. This left the middle of the field vacated but it had to be a throw Luke anticipated the receiver open. One thing Falk can really work on in Year Two is not waiting to throw when his man breaks open but seeing the open space and throwing his receiver into it. This pass was a great example of that. Falk took a three step drop, hit his back foot and immediately let the ball go to Cracraft, right on time.

First-and-10, Rutgers 43-yard line, 1:13 / Second-and-10, WSU 43-yard line, 1:06

One thing Luke Falk will be able to take away from the film of this drive is to immediately get the ball to his check down when he recognizes the defense has the downfield routes covered. After his big completion to Cracraft, the Scarlet Knight linebackers made an adjustment and started to drop much deeper. On both first and second down, Rutgers left the running back wide open for what would have been easy connections and potential first downs but both plays ended up as WSU incompletions.

Third-and-10, Rutgers 43-yard line, 0:59

The left defensive end for Rutgers, Kemoko Turay, got a phenomenal jump on the snap count and pretty much ruined this play from the start. The Scarlet Knights defended the WSU route concept very well and Turay was able to get to Falk just as he was throwing it.

Fourth-and-10, Rutgers 43-yard line, 0:54

This was a great indicator of Falk's command of the quarterback position despite it being just his fifth start. In the midst of a last minute, game deciding drive on the road he felt the opposing team jumping his snap count -- so on fourth down he used a hard count. The same player who sacked him on the previous play jumped offsides and put WSU in a much more manageable fourth-and-five. Really good stuff from Falk.

Fourth-and-five, Rutgers 38-yard line, 0:54

The execution of this pass from Falk to slot receiver Robert Lewis was fantastic. The Cougars ran a two man combination route with the outside receiver on a "Go" and Lewis on a six-yard out route. What made this play so good is that Lewis had to read the cornerback to decide if he continues on his route or sits down in a zone. Both he and Falk correctly diagnosed that it was Cover 2, with a low defender outside, which led to Lewis continuing on and sitting down between the corner and linebacker for a 12-yard gain.

First-and-10, Rutgers 26-yard line, 0:47

Another example where Falk must get to his check down faster in this situation. It was Rutgers only sack of the day but the quarterback cannot take a sack in a two-minute drill.

Second-and-14, Rutgers 30-yard line, 0:39

Phenomenal play call to go with a running back screen to Keith Harrington (pictured above). Harrington's addition to the Air Raid is going to pay huge dividends throughout the year as teams try to put pressure on Falk. The most impressive part about the play came afterwards, with the Cougar offense's ability to bounce back after Harrington was deemed out of bounds and still finish off the drive.

Third-and-five, Rutgers 21-yard line, 0:33

Excellent job by Falk in not forcing the ball with Rutgers dropping deep into coverage. The running back stayed in to help protect so he didn't have a check down. Falk quickly made the decision to use his feet and get all the way down to the eight-yard line.

First-and-10, Rutgers eight-yard line, 0:19

Great read by Falk and an even better job by Cracraft negotiating his way through traffic to get to the back of the end zone. WSU used a Shallow Cross by the X receiver to hold the defenders down while Cracraft ran a climb route from his slot position on the other side of the field. Falk did an excellent job using his eyes to push the defense to his right -- so he could have open space to execute the game winning toss back to the left.

As you can read, a lot goes into a successful game winning drive with little time on the clock. The offense is in a tough position because the defense knows the ball has to be thrown. It takes a little luck and lot of resiliency. More importantly, it takes proper execution in critical, high pressure moments.

The Cougars' ability to close the game out in this fashion gives me a lot of hope for the future. Despite everything that went wrong up to that point they found a way to win. Instead of laying down, Luke Falk and Co. chose to rise up and come through with what may be a season saving touchdown drive.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alex Brink authors this hugely popular weekly column during the season on Cougfan.com but once-upon-a-time, he was the starting quarterback at Washington State. From 2004-2007, he threw for more yards and touchdowns than anyone in school history -- and the third-most yards in Pac-10 history. He was picked second-team all-Pac-10 twice and honorable mention once. Drafted in the seventh round by the Houston Texans in 2008, he spent a season on their practice squad before playing five years in the Canadian Football League with Winnipeg and Montreal. He is the quarterbacks coach at Lakeridge High in Lake Oswego, Ore., and does a weekly Pac-12 podcast. He can be found on twitter at @AlexBrink10.


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