Cougar notebook from WSU win over Stanford

WASHINGTON STATE made it look easy against No. 15 Stanford. And while it was a complete team effort in the 42-16 whitewashing of the Cardinal, Cougar names like Mata’afa, Falk and Cracraft turned the game into a massacre.

CFC player of the game: River Cracraft
It’s really hard for me not to name Hercules Mata'afa here.  And I try to not give my younger brother too much credit, but Cracraft was such a huge difference in the game offensively for the Cougs that I have to give him the nod.

After a slow start to the season and some uncharacteristic drops, the starting Y receiver at Washington State exploded on Saturday night to the tune of seven catches for 130 yards and one TD.  There were a whole lot of tough grabs among those seven  (with the TD obviously at the top of the list).

I can tell you (because I know) that every play feels like life or death to him. And Saturday he helped give the Cougars renewed life in Washington State's Pac-12 title quest.

SURPRISE OF THE GAME: Cougar D domination

WSU’s defense is firing on all cylinders the last 2-plus games. When you talk about stopping the run, limiting the pass, and creating turnovers, there’s nothing that this group didn’t do down on The Farm. And here's the thing: they’re still capable of much more. WSU held Stanford to just 296 total yards of offense - thats only 39 more yards than the Vandals gained against the Cougs. The unit has improved exponentially after starting the season 0-2. And what more need I say about the Cougs front 7? They absolutely abused Stanford's offensive line.

And a special shout out must go to Mata’afa. The third-year sophomore racked up 6 tackles (4 solo) 1 sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 QB hurry. And that official stat line, frankly, might be lowballing it.  Mata’afa right now, in my book, is one of the best defensive players in the nation. He’s keying a Cougar defense that’s on one serious roll right now. Most of all, Mata’afa is personifying a growing mantra on the Cougar D: We don’t care who we’re playing -- we’re going to dominate them.

Standout stats:

Luke Falk: 30 of 41 passing, 357 yards, 4 TD’s, 2 INT’s

Leading tackler: Jalen Thompson with 7 tackles (2 solo)

Paris Taylor: 6 tackles

Peyton Pelluer, Frankie Luvu, Logan Tago and Mata'afa all posted a sack.

River Cracraft: 7 catches, 130 yards, 1 TD

Total offense: WSU 458, Stanford 296

Rushing Yards: WSU: 101, Stanford: 61

WSU defense vs. all-purpose cyborg Christian McCaffrey: (pictured above) 8 rushes for 35 yards, 1 reception for 5 yards, 43 return yards.

WSU defense: 4 sacks, 2 INT’s, 1 fumble recovery

Misleading stat of the game:
Gabe Marks: 5 catches, 39 yards, 1 TD

For the second straight game, Marks has not been a big factor -- on paper. It's likely due to the attention he’s receiving from defensive coordinators. It’s not that teams are necessarily double-teaming Marks, it’s just that they are constantly putting extra defenders into coverage on his side of the field. They know Marks is dangerous in any 1-on-1 matchup, so they tend to run coverages that take care of his side of the field. As a result, Tavares Martin, Cracraft and others tend to find extra room and put up big numbers.

Play of the game:
As modest as Marks' numbers may have been, his TD catch came at a critical, and perfect, time in the game. WSU led 21-10 but was facing third-and-goal from the 17-yard line. That's a low-yield proposition. But Marks somehow carved out space along the back of the end zone and his TD grab really started to ratchet up the pressure on the No. 15 Cardinal.

Injuries noticed:
• Nickel Parker Henry came out limping early after putting a monster hit on a Stanford ball carrier. He returned to the field later.
• RT Cole Madison limped off field two different times.
• Falk absorbed a targeted hit and came out for one play.

Up next: UCLA on Oct. 15, Homecoming at Martin Stadium (7:30 pm, ESPN or ESPN 2).

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