WSU football: Nicknames starting to surface

PULLMAN – The nicknames are starting to come out. Washington State wide receiver River Cracraft, naturally, was “Mr. Reliable” after the game winning drive at Rutgers. But DL Destiny Vaeao claimed an especially intriguing moniker after his fumble recovery in New Jersey. Indeed, Vaeao was downright prescient on the sidelines before later pouncing on a loose football, as Luke Falk made clear.

Vaeao (pictured above) was The Seer on Saturday. The three takeaways by the Cougar D helped Falk and the offense gain a few more opportunities and Vaeao actually predicted his role in one of them.

“He came up to me before a drive and says, ‘I’m going to get you that ball,’” Falk said. “Well, he gets the fumble recovery and runs up to me with the ball, and shoves it into my chest and goes, ‘See I told you I’d get you the ball -- now go score!’”

After the game, I called Cracraft, ‘Mr. Reliable’ and Falk caught wind of it. So when I asked what it’s like to have a guy like Cracraft to rely on, he had some fun with me.

“I hear he’s ‘Mr. Reliable,’” Falk laughed. “It’s true. I see him working his butt off all summer. (My) reads just happened to lead me to him, and I know he wants the ball in those situations.”

The win over Rutgers was Falk’s fifth start but he says he hasn’t felt pressure like that since his high school days. Leading Washington State on a 10-play, 90-yard drive didn’t looked seamless, but looks can be deceiving.

“The last time I felt that much pressure on a drive, with that situation, would probably be back to my senior year of high school,” Falk said.

Falk said the biggest thing, easier said than done, is to maintain calm.

“I just wanted to show the guys that I’m doing everything they are to help us win,” he said. “There are still places we need to improve, but there were a lot of positives.”

Falk on Monday said he hadn’t yet watched tape on Wyoming but planned to do so after talking with media.

“I know they’re a good team, and we’ll need to play our best,” he said.

Over on D, there’s clearly the need to string four quarters together. But winning sure is sweeter than losing.

“We still have work to do, but it’s always good to get out with a win,” nickel Isaac Dotson said. “Those are the types of games you play for, you want to come out and win those close games.”

Turnovers didn’t come easily to WSU’s defense last year. New DC Alex Grinch pushes the stop corps to claim at least two takeaways in every practice, Dotson said.

“This whole offseason, since Grinch came, he’s put a huge emphasis on getting TOs -- and Week One we didn’t, but we got three this week,” defensive end Darryl Paulo added.

Paulo said there was some fun to be had after the nail biting victory with d-line coach Joe Salave’a.

“There was a lot of energy,” Paulo said. “Coach Joe, he was jumping around and dancing, wooh-ing. If you can imagine a big guy like that just swinging around.”

The Cougars mindset going into Wyoming: Focus, and “do your job.”

“After the first game, it was embarrassing (so) we try to cover it up with more wins,” Paulo said. “We don’t want to let Wyoming come in and get their first win against us.”

Similar to Falk, Paulo hasn’t seen a lot of tape on Wyoming yet -- but he has a pretty good idea of what the Cowboys want to to do on offense.

“They want to run the ball,” Paulo said. “They’re going to try and shove it down our throats, but we’re not going to let that happen.”

Unlike the opener, you can expect an upbeat pre-game against Wyoming. Cougar players and coaches noted there was a flatness to the PSU pre-game, including that there was no music playing. It may sound like a little thing, but not to the players.

“There was a noticeable difference in preparation and we had music playing this time around,” Dotson said of Rutgers. “Even in the first day, back lifting weights (after Portland State the atmosphere) felt different.”

The Cougars play Wyoming Saturday in Martin Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks.

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