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WSU-UCLA notebook: Cougs win over No. 18 UCLA should catch attention of Top 25 voters

ANY DOUBTS NOW about Washington State? That's road win No. 4 this season for the Cougars, which only the headiest and best college programs are able to achieve. After a 31-27 win over No. 18 UCLA, it's beyond hoping that Washington State cracks the Top 25 this week. It's expected.

CF.C player of the game: Luke Falk

Falk has the biggest guts, is the most mentally tough, and has earned every accolade that we could possibly give him. In weeks past, I’ve put Falk as honorable mention because you all knew he’d have big numbers. However, considering the way the game went, Falk being knocked out, coming back, leading a dramatic last-minute fourth quarter rally, he had to the player of the game. Falk broke records (see below), he completed the fifth fourth-quarter/overtime comeback of his career, four this season -- and all four on the road (Oregon, Rutgers, Arizona, UCLA).

Falk completed 38 of 53 passes for 331 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Honorable Mention: Gabe Marks & Peyton Bender

Marks finished with 12 receptions for 92 yards and two touchdowns. Marks was on the receiving end of Falk’s game-winning touchdown pass with three seconds left.

Bender came off the bench and did just enough for Washington State when the Cougs needed him most. Bender threw a perfectly-placed pass to Dom Williams on a fade route, the first touchdown pass of his college career.

Surprises

So much for UCLA's dominance when leading a game at halftime under Jim Mora. What was a 31-0 record when leading at halftime is now 31-1, after the Bruins led 16-14 after two quarters, but not at the end of the game.

The Cougars didn’t have an interception against the Bruins, something that seemed like a decent possibility with a semi-experienced secondary facing a freshman quarterback in Josh Rosen. However, the Cougs did have two fumble recoveries.

Standout Stats

UCLA outgained Washington State by a considerable amount, 554-426. But WSU's defense was bend, don't break, giving up only two touchdowns.

The Cougars didn’t give up a passing touchdown to UCLA, which had 18 this season.

Washington State’s third down conversions are steadily improving the past few weeks. The Cougars were 9 of 17 on third down, and 2 of 2 on fourth down.

Falk's two touchdown passes gave him 35 this season, establishing a single-season record, previously 34 held by Ryan Leaf (1997) and Connor Halliday (2013).

 

Leading tacklers: Peyton Pelluer

Pelluer had eight tackles, followed by Taylor Taliulu with six. With five each were Jeremiah Allison, Kirkland Parker, Shalom Luani and Darrien Molton.

 

Coaching Move of the Game

Reorganizing the offensive line for Arizona State, playing Gunnar Eklund at left tackle, Eduardo Middleton at left guard and Jacob Seydel at right guard worked well. This time, against UCLA, that combo didn’t work out so great. In the first half, Falk was sacked four times with the makeshift line. An adjustment came in the second half, with Andre Dillard moving to LT, and the rest of the line moving to their former positions, Eklund to LG and Middleton to RG. The move paid off, as the Cougars effectively moved the ball throughout the second half, as Falk often had a nice pocket to throw from.

Play of the game: Luke Falk to Gabe Marks

Can only be one, Falk's 21-yard touchdown pass to Marks with three seconds remaining. In his post-game comments, Marks said he noticed the UCLA defender trying to jump the route, so he slow-played him, which allowed Marks to get open when the defensive back was fooled.

For Marks, it was the 204th catch of his career, adding to his all-time WSU record. Earlier in the game, Marks passed Michael Bumpus as the school's career receiving leader.

Injuries noticed:

Luke Falk: Left in the second quarter only to return, but something potentially to watch.

Dom Williams: Came back as well, but wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a practice off.

Joe Dahl: Didn’t play for the second straight week.

River Cracraft: Didn’t play after being hurt last week.

Up Next

Nov. 21 vs. Colorado in Martin Stadium, 7:45 p.m. on ESPN2. It's the final home game, and Senior Night.

Notable Notes

  • WR Kyle Sweet and CB Kirkland Parker each made their first career starts


  • Gabe Marks had two touchdown receptions, giving him 13 this season. That ties him with Jason Hill (2005) for the WSU single-season record.


  • Dom Williams caught career TD No. 28. He remains No. 2 all-time at WSU, but improves to 11th on the Pac-12 list.


  • In beating No. 18 UCLA, it is the highest ranked opponent the Cougars have defeated since taking down No. 16 Oregon in 2006.


  • WSU improves to 7-3 overall, its best start since starting 8-2 in 2003.


  • WSU blocked its first punt (Dylan Hanser) since the 2013 New Mexico Bowl.

Leach Quotes Postgame with Jason Gesser

Leach on Falk: I thought he played real tough, I thought we beat him up a lot the first half. Got him sacked five times the first half, but he came back swinging the second half.

On the win: Really proud of our team. The way they hung together and played. It was a total team win. Major contributions defense, offense, special teams. Sloppy at times, but you know they hung in there and we found a way, and I couldn’t be prouder.

On the defense, and Cougar fans in Pasadena: I thought our defensive line heated up a little more in the second half. I thought that we had a pretty good Cougar crowd here. I was surprised, we had quite a few Cougs in the stands … you could hear it.

On the team growing up: Yeah, they’re doing good. We’re mostly freshmen and sophomores, but I think it is impressive … they do play together and … they’re playing a little older than they are right now.

On his message to the team at the start of the fourth quarter: Really just bring everybody together and just focus on finishing this game. No matter what, finish this game.

On this being his signature win at Washington State: Aw, I don’t know, shoot, they all are … The one next week against Colorado might be, we have to get that one.

 

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