Cougar football notebook: Vegas review & Gabe Marks watch edition

WHOMEVER SET the betting line this week in Las Vegas for the WSU-Stanford game, when the ol’ annual job review rolls around, might be in for a poor grade. The line opened with the Card a 12 ½ point favorite. It dropped to 8 ½ within a few hours. And now?

At press time, Stanford stood as a 6 ½ point favorite over Washington State.  Home field advantage (generally) accounts for roughly three points in a standard betting line.

Wide receiver Gabe Marks needs three catches against Stanford to pass Derek Hagan (ASU, 2002-05) and move into No. 3 on the Pac-12 all-time receiving list.  And he needs just one more beyond that to claim the No. 2 spot (Mike Thomas, Arizona, 2005-08).  Marks, with 256 career receptions, is 39 grabs away from becoming the all-time leading receiver in the 101-year history of the Pac-12 (Nelson Spruce, Colorado, 2012-15, 294 rec).

WSU’s 11 rushing touchdowns in 2016 are fifth-most in the Pac-12. Washington State has recorded two straight games (Idaho, Oregon) with 200-plus rushing yards for the first time since 2005. 

The RB trio of Jamal Morrow, Gerard Wicks and James Williams after four games are ranked No. 22 in the country in yards-per-carry (5.4).   The three have a combined 44 receptions, 975 all-purpose yards and 14 total touchdowns headed into Stanford.

Get 2: WSU boasts a 10-3 record when forcing two or more turnovers under second-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.

WSU is No. 2 in the Pac-12, and tied for No. 10 nationally, in turnover margin at plus-5 – and the Cougs have played one fewer game than most teams.

The Cougars enter the week tied for No. 2 in the nation in red zone defense (83.3 percent).

Defensive end Hercules Mata’afa, a third-year sophomore, is tied for the Pac-12 lead with 7.0 tackles-for-loss.   Mata’afa had 3 ½ TFL last week against the Ducks including a sack for a safety. 

WSU enters the game vs. Stanford and all-world return man Christian McCaffrey No. 2 in punt coverage in the Pac-12, allowing minus-1.3 yards per return. Meanwhile, WSU return man Kaleb Fossum is  7.7 ypr, No. 4 in the Pac-12.

Cougar quarterback Luke Falk is the FBS active career leader in passing yards per game (360.0).   For the 2016 season, Falk enters Stanford No. 2 in the land in completion percentage (74.3 percent);  No. 4 in passing yards per game (373.8);  No. 20 in passing touchdowns (12).

Slot man River Cracraft has a catch in 33 consecutive games, the ninth-longest current streak in the country.  WR Robert Lewis has a catch in 28 straight games, Marks has caught a pass in 20 straight games.

Cracraft passed Brandon Gibson last week for No. 5 on the all-time receptions list in WSU history. He now has 183 career catches. Cracraft has also moved into ninth all-time in WSU program history for receiving yards (2,187) and is just outside the all-time top 10 in TD catches with 15.

Marks is second in the Pac-12 in catches this season (29) -- and quietly, rising Tavares Martin Jr. is tied for sixth with 24 grabs.

No Cougar o-lineman earned the “Bone” award in the season’s first two games, a pair of 3-point losses to EWU and BSU. Left guard Cody O’Connell has taken home the award each of the last two games, however, in wins over Idaho and Oregon.

Washington State is looking to snap an eight-game losing streak to Stanford. WSU’s last win over Stanford came in Pullman in 2007 (33-17). The last win down on The Farm was the year before (2006, 36-10).

The last time WSU knocked off a ranked opponent was last season at No. 18 UCLA. But it’s been since 2003 since the Cougars have beaten a top-15 team (Holiday Bowl, No. 5 Texas).

Six true freshmen Cougar footballers have taken the field through four games: CB Marcus Strong, C Frederick Mauigoa, WR Isaiah Johnson, LB Derek Moore, WR Dezmon Patmon and safety Jalen Thompson.  (Strong played vs. Oregon last week, though the initial official stat book didn’t reflect his participation). Last season, seven true freshmen played under Mike Leach in Year Four. The Cougars opened the 2016 season with 11 true- and second-year freshmen appearing on the Week One depth chart.

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