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Asking Erik Powell to kick six field goals simply was too much for Washington State in its 30-28 loss Saturday against No. 8 Stanford

PULLMAN -- Well, this one will hurt. Just like last year’s loss on a missed wide-right field goal to Cal, another wide-right miss loss will sting. But Washington State fans and players should hold their heads high because they battled and took the No. 8 team down to the wire. No moral victories, yes, but the rest of the schedule looks more beatable now, right?

CF.C player of the game: Erik Powell

The only reason Washington State kept the score close was left foot of Erik Powell. He went 5/5 through the first three quarters, tying a school record set back in 2003. All five of his makes came in a row, between 2:28 in the first quarter and 9:15 in the third quarter Powell was the only player on either team scoring. The only other player to score before that point was Stanford’s kicker. Powell has improved significantly and he was responsible for the Cougars' 12-point lead in the third quarter. Did the defense stop Stanford, yes, obviously, but for the offense, Powell was the only one putting up points. His makes came from 46, 23, 47, 28, and 28 yards away. The 47-yard kick tied his career long that he set this year against Rutgers. The miss came from 43 yards.

You could feel the whole game that settling for those field goals would come back to haunt the Cougars -- and it did. Five straight drives ending in field goals can be killer for an offense because on one hand they're happy to get points, but being so close to seven points can really be the difference. Every time Washington State drove down the field and settled for field goals, it was gut-wrenching because the drive down the field looked like normal Luke Falk, but in the red zone, he and the offense sputtered too much.

Honorable Mention: Cougar Defense

WSU kept one of the most potent scoring offense’s in check until 9:15 in the third quarter limiting Stanford to just 10 points. Through three quarters, the Cougars held Christian McCaffrey to 66 yards on 17 carries. Stanford QB Kevin Hogan threw for 56 yards in the first half and only 30 yards in the second half. The problem was Hogan ran like McCaffrey in the second half racking up 138 rushing yards in the final two frames. See below for more stats.

Surprises:

WSU got two more takeaways and lost a couple more. The problem there, Luke Falk threw two interceptions creating an even turnover margin. The Cougars were 1-0 when committing two turnovers (but that was the Oregon State beatdown), and the team was 3-1 when getting two takeaways. But it could be argued that the Cougars should have had two more turnovers: Parker Henry’s pick-six and Ivan McClennan’s sideline stip. However, the referees neutralized both turnovers with at least one questionable call on the overturn of McClennan’s strip.

The Cougars continue to struggle in the third quarter. Some would say it’s not a surprise if it keeps continuing, but it’s just so hard to believe this team can’t get it going or simply keep the momentum coming out of the locker room. WSU was outscored 17-10 in the third stanza. That moves the Cougs to being outscored 68-38 in the third.

WSU had another kick late to win the game and missed it. From my chair, this one hurts less because Powell was the star of the game until the last kick. He did everything right, but six successful kicks is a lot to ask.

Standout Stats:

The Cougars were 2-14 on third down. Coming into the game the Cougars were 47 for 105 (45 percent). The team did go three for three on fourth down, but the lack of conversions has to be the biggest standout of the game. An offense that relies on momentum can't afford to start and stop after three plays like the Cougars did on numerous occasions in the first quarter.

The Cougars' D held Stanford to 252 rushing yards (not including the sack yardage taken away from Hogan). McCaffrey was held to 136 total yards between rushing, receiving, punt and kickoff yards. He had no kickoff returns and only one punt for three yards. Powell did a great job keeping the ball out of McCaffrey’s hands on kickoffs and the defense held tough on McCaffrey all but one play in the fourth quarter.

The Cougars added eight tackles for loss to their previous 56 pushing them to 64 on the year. Darryl Paulo led the way with two TKLs.

Gerard Wicks rushed for a career-high 78 yards.

Eleven Cougars caught passes from Luke Falk. Dom Williams led the way with seven receptions for 94 yards. Gabe Marks was close behind with six catches for 83 yards and a touchdown.

Stanford turned the two Falk interceptions into 10 points whereas the Cougars only turned their two takeaways into three points.

WSU’s takeaway total moved up to 14.

Leading tacklers: Parker Henry & Peyton Pelluer

Both Henry and Pelluer had 10 total tackles. Henry had five solo tackles and Pelluer added four. They both were credited with 0.5 tackles for loss. Henry also had an interception.

Misleading stat of the game: Turnovers

While the numbers will read two for each team, the Cougars arguably could have four in their favor. The turf snagged a Parker Henry pick-six and the refs snatched away Ivan McClennan’s fumble. I know it sounds like I’m making excuses, but if you get right down to it, that ball was out and McClennan recovered it.

Another factor is when and where the turnovers happened. WSU’s turnovers were in the worst place at the worst possible time. Falk’s first interception came with 1:32 in the third quarter, 38 seconds after Stanford had scored to get within two points, and to top it off the ball was returned to the WSU 17. The second INT came with 3:27 in the fourth quarter and was returned to the WSU 39 while WSU clung to a one point lead.

I don’t question Mike Leach’s decision to throw or any time management issues because his offense throws the ball. The problem is, Falk wasn't quite as cautious Saturday Night.

Play of the game: Luke Falk to Dom Williams

When the Cougs were on their last gasp they needed a miracle to get into field goal range. Falk found Williams on fourth-and-7 for 23 yards down to the Stanford 36. It was a great play, and made up for an earlier drop from Williams. Unfortunately, that is the play of the game and not Erik Powell making six field goals …

Injuries noticed:

Cole Madison, but he got up and continued playing so I don’t expect that to be an issue. Darrien Molton sat out a second straight week, we haven’t seen him at practice since Oct. 20.

Up Next: Home to battle Arizona State on Dad's Weekend at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on Fox Sports One.

Notable Notes:

Shalom Luani recorded his first fumble recovery.

Parker Henry recorded his first interception.

Robert Barber recorded his first sack.

Powell’s four first-half field goals marked the first time since Andrew Furney hit four in 2011 vs. UCLA. The fifth make tied Powell with the WSU single-game record set in 2003 by Drew Dunning at home against New Mexico.

Gabe Marks caught his 11th TD of the season, which ties him for fifth most in WSU single-season history and his 20th career TD, which is fifth most in a career at WSU.

Kache Palacio recorded his third sack of the year. He has 15 for his career, which leaves him half a sack from cracking WSU’s top 10 list.

Falk’s 28 TD passes this year ties Jason Gesser (2002) for fourth-most in a single season. Falk’s total moved to 40 for his career good enough for 7th on the all-time list.


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