Why Piscataway is key to a WSU win at Berkeley

PULLMAN – You can take the Cougars out of Piscataway, but can you take Piscataway out of the Cougars? Luke Falk hopes not.

Washington State’s dramatic win in the waning moments at Rutgers on Sept. 12 righted the team’s worldview, the WSU quarterback said this week in the run up to the Cougars’ Pac-12 opener at Cal on Saturday (1 p.m./Pac-12 Networks).

“I think the Rutgers game shifted our mindset,” he said. “The game-winning drive really brought a lot out of us. Guys want to make plays, and we’ve got tons of playmakers.”

The Cougar offense opened on all cylinders in New Jersey, and that early start was “a huge key for us” in the 37-34 victory, he said.

“We did well against Rutgers with that, now we just have to go out against Cal and get it done,” Falk added.

The 4-0 Bears are a 19-point-favorite against the 2-1 Cougars. Cal’s offense is averaging 45.8 points per game — 10th-most in the nation.

Falk said the Cougar offense — averaging 28.3 points per game and a conference-leading 362.7 passing yards per game — is getting better each week and he likes the way his veteran offensive line is meshing.

The bye last weekend “was good to get the guys rested up,” he said. “But watching the team’s on Saturday, I wanted to go out there and play. So, we’re looking forward to playing Cal.”

ON THE DEFENSIVE SIDE, Cougar senior safety Taylor Taliulu said, “We’ve been up and down, and I think that’s because we’re not following our technique to our full potential.”

In bye-week practices, Taliulu said, the emphasis was on maintaining high energy and “playing together as a defense.”

“We had some spots to address ...,” he added. “We have a new opportunity Saturday, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Cougar nickel back Parker Henry, who made his first career start against Wyoming in place of injured Issac Dotson, said that having three non-conference games before the Pac-12 portion of the schedule has been key to “giving the new guys a chance to really get their feet wet. I got my first real game action and so that was big for me too.

“I was tight my first few snaps, but I was able to loosen up and fall back on my techniques to get comfortable,” he said.

AS FOR LAST YEAR’S HEART-WRENCHING 60-59 loss to Cal in Pullman, the notion of revenge isn’t on the minds of the players, Taliulu said.

“Obviously, losing is always rough, but I think with where we are as a team our maturity level and mindset are in a good spot to take care of business Saturday,” he said.

Playing on the road seems to agree with the Cougars more than playing at home. Last year, they won two conference road games — the huge come-from-behind at Utah and Falk’s first-ever start, at Oregon State. In 2013, the Cougs beat USC, Cal and Arizona on the road -- and they had Auburn on the ropes.

“We love having the opportunity to go into someone else’s house and win the game,” said Henry, a fourth-year junior.

His view is echoed by Falk: “It’s good to go steal one from someone’s house. I love being the underdog in this situation.”


  • Dotson, believed out with a concussion, returned to practice Wednesday.

  • The Cougars are looking for their first three-game winning streak since 2013, when they defeated USC on the road and then Southern Utah and Idaho in Pullman. That 10-7 victory over USC also was the last time WSU beat a ranked team.

  • Tweleve Cougar players hail from Northern California, including starting defensive end Darryl Paulo (Sacramento).

  • Cal walk-on quarterback Andrew Black, a second-year freshman from Spokane, was a Cougar fan as a kid. His dad, Dave, is a WSU alum.

  • WSU has launched an online vote to let fans decide what uniform combination the Cougs will wear for the Homecoming game Oct. 17 against Oregon State. CLICK HERE to cast your ballot.

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