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Notebook: Peyton Bender, Gerard Wicks unlikely Coug heroes in 27-3 win over Colorado

PULLMAN – When a win comes at the possible cost of the starting quarterback, it's hard to give an all-out fist pump in victory. But the physical nature of football makes it a next-man-up sport, and in that regard, it was pleasing to see backup QB Peyton Bender come off the bench and gamely perform in the Cougars' 27-3 win over Colorado.

CF.C player of the game: Gerard Wicks & Peyton Bender

Often when the backup quarterback comes into the game, the running backs get a larger role, but the running backs were already heavily in the mix for Washington State. At halftime (before Falk got hurt), Gerard Wicks had 67 rushing yards on just five carries. Wicks finished the game with 13 carries for 123 yards. Leach didn’t increase the reps to the running backs because he trusts his QBs, but the running game was moving with Wicks

Bender proved ready to throw down his clipboard and take snaps at center. After taking part in a handful of plays against UCLA, Bender knew he was in it for the long haul on Saturday following Falk’s injury. Bender started off hot, hitting 6 of 9 passes. During the final drive of the third quarter, which continued into the fourth, Bender completed 7 of 8 passes for 65 yards, including the beautiful 16-yard touchdown pass to Gabe Marks. Bender talked afterward about the confidence he gained during his short stint against UCLA, and it showed Saturday.

 

Honorable Mention: Defense

Despite its record, Colorado is a team that hasn't been held down much this season offensively, but the Cougar D held the Buffs from scoring a touchdown for the first time in 2015. The Cougar defense, led by seniors (Taylor Taliulu, Jeremiah Allison, Destiny Vaeao, Darryl Paulo, Ivan McLennan, and Kache Palacio), brought everything they had on Senior Night, holding the Buffs to three points and 323 yards. WSU had nine tackles for loss, including four sacks, while also collecting two interceptions, five pass breakups and two forced fumbles.

Take notice

WSU held an opponent without a touchdown for the first time since Sept. 21, 2013, a 42-0 win vs. Idaho. Also, it was the first time WSU held a Pac-10/12 opponent without a touchdown since Oct. 7, 2006 at Oregon State.

Taylor Taliulu finally got his first career interception. He made Senior Night that much more special with his late interception that had a lot of 42s in it. Colorado was on the WSU 42-yard line, Taliulu returned the ball 42 yards to give WSU the ball on the Buffs 42-yard line.

The Cougars were downright horrible on third down, going 3 of 12. They continued to play well on fourth down, though, going 2 of 4.

The Cougars outrushed the opponent for the first time this season. WSU finished with 149 rushing yards, the Buffaloes only 85.

Wicks (123 yards) became the first Cougar running back since James Montgomery in 2010 (against Montana State) to post a 100-yard game.

The Cougars only scored on trips that made it inside the red zone.

Standout Stats

The Cougars went 5 of 5 in the red zone, scoring three touchdowns and hitting two Erik Powell field goals. It was the first time since the California game that WSU didn’t have a scoring play outside of the opponent’s 20-yard line.

For a second consecutive week, there was no Cougar in double figures for tackling.

Washington State has five 90-plus yard scoring drives this season, resulting in four touchdowns and one field goal. That number includes Saturday’s 96-yard TD drive that ended with Falk throwing to Dom Williams from 11 yards out.

Another senior night highlight: Jeremiah Allison led the Cougars in tackles with seven.

Play of the game: Bender to Gabe Marks

In his last scoring play, Bender threw a high fade to Marks on first down from the 16, following a Dom Williams catch that was reviewed and confirmed. The pass was exactly like the team runs every single day in practice. The pitch-and-catch to Marks -- a pass that only the receiver could catch -- was the best resemblance of that.

Injuries noticed

Luke Falk: Injured in the third quarter on a sack. His head bounced hard off the cold turf. Mike Leach, as is his custom, wouldn't respond to questions about the injury.

Riley Sorenson: Didn’t practice all week, and he didn’t play in the game. No reason given.

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

River Cracraft: Didn’t play for the second straight week since being injured against Arizona State.

Up Next: The final regular season game, the Apple Cup. The Cougars travel to Seattle to take on the Huskies, at 12:30 p.m. Friday, on FOX.

Notable Notes

Marks became the 11th player in school history to record a 1,000 receiving yards in a season. Marks also became the school's single-season touchdown leader, when he caught his 14th touchdown pass of the 2015 season.

Wicks rushed for a career-high 123 yards on 13 carries. He is WSU’s first 100-yard rusher since James Montgomery tallied 116 yards vs. Montana State on Sept. 11, 2010.

WSU’s eight wins are its most since 2003.

Falk’s second quarter TD to Williams had some significance. It marked the 15th consecutive game Falk has thrown a touchdown pass, and gave Williams 29 for his career. Williams needs three touchdowns during WSU's final two games, including the bowl, to catch Jason Hill as WSU's all-time touchdown reception leader.

Center Sam Flor made his first start of the season, third of his career.

Andre Dillard (LT) made his first career start

RELATED: Cougs beat Colorado at a price, as Falk hurt


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