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The cruel irony of the Holiday Bowl: In a bitter loss, WSU played one of its best defensive games of the season

SAN DIEGO – The Holiday Bowl was ugly as sin for the Cougars, but only on one side of the ball. What cruel irony then that in a downer of a bowl game, Washington State played one of its best games of the season on the defensive side of the ball. Two Wazzu defensemen merit special mention.

CF.C players of the game: DL Robert Barber, Daniel Ekuale
•    Barber and Ekuale dominated the line of scrimmage against Minnesota virtually the entire game. Time and time again, they took a Gopher guard or center and put them on skates, pushing them yards into the backfield. Aside from an Ekuale sack on the opening drive, and a Barber tackle-for-loss late in the game, the stats didn’t do their performances justice -- as so often is the case with interior d-linemen.  But the crimson duo was a force against the run and held their gaps, allowing the rest of the Cougar D to swoop in. Defensively, the Cougs played lights out except for Minnesota’s first drive of the second half, and Barber and Ekuale were a big reason why.

Surprises:
•    WSU only gained 303 total yards of offense on the night.
•    Luke Falk arguably had the worst game of his college career. Statistically, he was OK completing 30 of 51 passes for  264 yards and 1 TD. But the bulk of those numbers came on the first and last drives, with the latter after the game was out of reach.
•    WSU’s defense stuffed Minnesota's offense, allowing the Gophers 3.7 ypc and just 279 yards of total offense.

Other standout stats:
•    Rush yards: WSU - 39, Minn - 150
•    Passing yards: WSU - 264, Minn - 129
•    3rd downs: WSU 7/19, Minn 3/12
•    Red zone: WSU 3/3, Minn 2/2
•    Robert Lewis: 6 catches, 86 yards

Leading tackler:
 Shalom Luani led the Cougars with 9 tackles (3 solo).

Misleading Stat of the game:
WSU outgained Minnesota in total offense (303 to 279) and held the Gophers to 25 percent conversions on third downs.

Play of the game:
WSU trailed 10-6 with 3:19 remaining. On fourth-and-six, Falk scrambled to his left and then to the right, eventually throwing up a desperation pass that was intercepted. The pick deep in WSU territory set up the deciding score, with Minnesota taking a 17-6 lead with about two minutes left on the clock.

Injuries noticed:
•    Darrien Molton came out with an arm injury
•    Tavares Martin was shaken up and returned to the sideline in street clothes.

Mike Leach quotes:
“(We) allowed ourselves to get frustrated. Defense played well but needed a killer instinct.”

"I thought we had a good year. But we got upset five times."

Leach and players after loss; We sucked, says Gabe Marks


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