3 takeaways from WSU win over Stanford

THIS JUST IN: the 2016 Washington State defense is for real. Not only did the Cougars post three takeaways in their 42-16 rout over No. 15 Stanford, they held all-purpose yardage machine and 2015 Heisman finalist Christian McCaffrey to just 35 yards on 8 carries. Here are my three takeaways from a glorious crimson win at Stanford.

1. The WSU defense is one big bad bowl of nasty

The Cougar front-7 absolutely dominated the Cardinal offensive line from start to finish. They set the tone early by applying pressure to the quarterback, stuffing run gaps, and playing tight coverage over the top in pass defense. This was by far their best performance of the season -- Stanford had no answers on offense for what the Cougars were doing on D. With more than half the season to go, if the defense continues to play like they did on Saturday night at Stanford, the rest of the Pac-12 is in for a long night when they face the surging Cougar stop corps.

2. Falk is one seriously tough football player

First of all, Luke Falk is one of the toughest guys I’ve ever seen play the game. He  continued to bounce back with fire in his eyes even after taking a targeting hit on Saturday (pictured above). And he has completely turned his game around after the Cougs started the season 0-2. His hesitation was long gone against Stanford, and he continued to show trust in his receivers, something that has been building since the Idaho win. Falk also continued taking more shots down the field against Stanford. Granted, I love to see his aggressiveness, but that aggression can lead to some of those careless throws and that's what you saw on the two picks by Stanford. But it's a tradeoff worth making in my book -- an interception here or there, as long as the ball is being evenly spread around the field to the guys in crimson and gray. I expected a lot from Falk this year, but after Stanford I have to say he is commanding the offense better than I ever expected.

3. Cracraft is open, even when he's covered

Fourth-year senior receiver River Cracraft reminded Cougar fans on Saturday how quickly he can take over a game. Once Falk found Cracraft open a couple times, he continued to look for him as an outlet. And sure enough there Cracraft was, open again. By the time his night was done, he had racked up 130 yards on seven catches with a TD. That touchdown grab, by the way, was telling. Cracraft was covered, and then some.  But Falk trusted him to make the play. The safety interfered with Cracraft mightily and drew the flag but no matter, strike up the band. It was another 'Touchdown Washington State' moment at Stanford Stadium on Saturday.  The Cougars' starting Y receiver is one of those wideouts who is open (a lot of times) when he’s covered, and Falk is clearly seeing that five games in. With Gabe Marks absorbing so much attention and double coverage, the passing lanes for every other Cougar receiver are really starting to open up. And that factoid was crystal clear in watching Cracraft on Saturday night down on The Farm.

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