Shafer Murray

Shafer Murray

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Buffs Trip Cougs, Apple Cup Looms

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The Colorado Buffaloes used a quarterback/running back combination to rush for 250 yards and power through the Cougs in Boulder 38-24.  In the first ranked matchup the Cougs have had since early October, they were looking to make a statement and come away from the high altitude with their biggest win of the season over the tenth rank buffaloes.

On the first drive of the game for the Buffaloes, quarterback Sefo Liufau drove the Buffs down the field in 10 plays giving the ball to the back Philli Lindsay in the last 3 plays to gather up 34 yards as Colorado took the early 7-0 lead.  The Cougs answered back the following drive when Falk found Robert Lewis from 15 yards out to tie the game at 7.  The next drive for WSU, Falk threw a nice ball over the shoulder of Jamal Morrow and he took it in for the 46 yard touchdown completion to put the Cougs up seven at the end of the 1st.

Just when the Cougs looked like they had found their stride, the Buff defense tightened up. Colorado tied up the game early in the second on a quarterback keeper from Sefo Liufau.  The Cougs took a 17-14 lead into the locker room.  The Cougs seemed to be just be a little off this game.  Luke Falk finished under fifty percent passing for the first time in his college career, and they just didn’t seem to have control of the game like they did for most of the year.  The Pac-12 all time leader in catches, Gabe marks dropped an easy touchdown in the first half, and also misread a fade pass for another touchdown which could have had something to do with the thin air.  “I didn’t think we consistently did our job on offense, defense, either one,” Coach Mike Leach said following the game. “There were some key downs that they rose to better than we did.”

In the second half, the Buffaloes took control and put together long drives, and controlled most of it on the ground.  They took the lead on their first drive of the second half when Liufau rushed the ball for 16 yards and 7 yards respectively to put the Buffaloes up 21-17.  The Buffaloes cruised from there, with no punts in the 2nd half and the thin air of Colorado appeared to tire both the offense and defense of WSU out.   Midway through the 4th Philli Lindsay had a 13 yard rush that put the Buffaloes up 38-24 and put the game out of reach for the Cougs.  “I think we definitely missed some opportunities early on,” Luke Falk said after the game.  “We gotta look at the film tomorrow, and move on.” 

In the grand scheme of things, the loss doesn’t hurt the Cougs, because they have the chance to win the Pac-12 north and play for the Pac-12 championship with a win against the Huskies on Friday in the Apple Cup.  It seemed to me that the Cougs may have been looking ahead to the Apple Cup and if they play the Buffs in the Pac-12 championship in Palo Alto, the game will go better for the Cougs.

 

Cougs Roll Cal, Ascend to 1st in Pac-North

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Senior River Cracraft pulled in 9 catches for 87 yards and 3 touchdowns and Gabe Marks hauled in 2 of his own including a record breaking catch to dominate the Cal Golden Bears 56-21.  After losing their first 2, the Cougs have rolled off 8 straight wins and after the Huskies loss at home against USC, are in sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 North. 

Another late night game for the Cougs, and they got it started early.  Kaleb Fossum returned the first punt of the game 75 yards to give Wazzu the early 7-0 lead.   This was the first punt return for WSU since the 2005 season. “It was an awesome moment, I’ll remember it for the rest of my life,” said Fossum.  “I kind of blacked out, almost forgot to hold for the PAT.” 

In the second quarter, Cracraft started to take off.  After an 8 yard touchdown pass from Davis Webb to Jordan Veasy for Cal, Falk threw a 22 yard touchdown pass to put the Cougs up 21-7.  A  Couple of drives later, Cracraft caught another touchdown, this time from 5 yards out to give the Cougs a 28-7 halftime lead over the Bears.

Cracraft continued to do work in the third catching an end zone fade from 9 yards away to give him his third touchdown pass of the game.  The next offensive possession, River tore his ACL on a 3rd and 5 which has ended his career as a Coug.  Leach did not comment on this after the game, so we will hear more from Coach about river during Monday afternoon’s press conference.

When Cracraft went out, Gabe Marks took the spotlight.  Late in the third, Marks caught a 16 yard fade route in the corner of the end zone to break the Pac-12 record for catches in a career.  Marks said following the game, that he kept the ball despite the referees’ efforts to get it back.  Luke Falk finished the game with 373 yards on 36 of 50 passing and 5 touchdowns.

The Cougs go on the road, in their toughest game of the season to face the number 12 Colorado Buffaloes who are early 4.5 point favorites.  The Cougs are going to need to be careful not to take this team lightly and have a let down game before going into the biggest Apple Cup in history.

Cougars Stomp Arizona

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Luke Falk completed 92 percent of his passes on Saturday, going 32 for 35 with 311 yards and 4 touchdowns in as the Cougs blast the Arizona Wildcats 69-7 at Martin Stadium. 

WSU is coming off a come from behind victory against the lowly Oregon State Beavers last week, and it was evident early on that they weren’t going to try and coast by this 2-6 Arizona team.  The past 3 games, the  Cougs have been scoreless in the 1st quarter.  This game would be a different story as the Cougs came out firing on all cylinders.   Early on Arizona’s Brandon Dawkins threw an interception to  Shalom Loani Deep in Cougar territory.  Falk capitalized on the mistake, and threw a shovel pass to James Williams and he scampered in for the touchdown to put the Cougs up 10-0 early.  On the next Cougar possession, running back Gerard Wicks ran for 19, 11, and 1 yard in consecutive plays to lead to the Cougar touchdown.  The next drive, Falk connected with a fade pass to Gabe Marks in the corner of the end zone to put the Cougs up 24-0 in the first quarter.  This was the type of boost to get the ball rolling for the Cougs.  “I thought we played together the whole game.  One of those things where everything we touched worked,” Mike Leach said. “We talked all week about having a complete game, so we tried to focus on that.” 

The Cougs continued to effectively move the ball in the 2nd quarter, putting two more touchdowns on the board.  The one defensive let down Saturday was in the final 2 minutes of the 2nd when Arizona’s 2nd quarterback in the system Anu Solomon threw a nicely thrown ball over the defenders to Cam Denson  for a 47 yard strike to make the score 38-7 at half.

The Cougs just rolled from there and put up 69 points on the Wildcats.  “Once that ball starts rolling downhill, it’s hard to stop.   We’re definitely not good and they definitely aren’t that bad,” coach Leach said.  Late in the 3rd, the future quarterback, freshman Tyler Hilinski got in the game and threw for 163 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a 72 yard touchdown pass to River Cracraft for his first collegiate touchdown pass.

The Cougs played their most complete game on both sides of the ball in the Leach era. The Cougs look like they can hang with anyone when they are playing this well both offensively and defensively.  They take on California next Saturday who lost to the Huskies 66-27 at home on Saturday.

WSU Tops Devils In the Desert

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WSU quarterback Luke Falk exploded for 398 yards on 42-53 passing and 3 touchdowns as the Cougs hang on in the desert 37-32 over the Arizona State Sun Devils and improve to 5-2 on the season. 

The Cougs started the game, with another slow first quarter.  It took the offense almost the entire half to find their stride.  Gabe Marks said following the game, “Luke sometimes takes some time to see what they are giving him.”  Their offense was held to a field goal until midway through the second quarter following a Sun Devil touchdown, Robert Taylor returned the kickoff 100 yards to ignite the team and pull them within 4 points at 14-10.  On the next possession, quarterback Luke Falk began to click.  He drove the Cougs down by getting consistent gains throughout the possession.  Falk completed a 9 yard pass to Tavares Martin Jr. for a touchdown that gave WAZZU at 17-14 lead at half.

The Sun Devil defense was putting the pressure on Falk the entire game.  This was the same defensive front that sidelined UCLA’s quarterback Josh Rosen for the last two games.  Falk was sacked 7 times in the game and looked hobbled for a good majority of it but battled through.  Don’t be surprised if he sat out next week’s game against Oregon State to rest up.  When asked how he felt following the game, Falk said, “I feel great that we got the win.”  Under coach Leach, the Cougs don’t talk about injuries and it is hard to get a good feel on what their status is.

The Coug rushing game was only able to get 7 carries in the game because Arizona State was loading the box and giving Cougs the opportunity to pass at will.  “They just loaded the box, gave different looks and different fronts.  We’re a pass heavy team, so why wouldn’t we do that?”  Falk said about the negative run yardage in the game.  Early in the 4th Falk found Gabe Marks on a streak route down the sideline for a 52 yard touchdown strike to put the Cougs up 37-21. “I saw that Gabe had single coverage, and shook the crap out of the guy,” Falk said on the big play.  The Cougs withstood a furious rally from the Sun Devils and were able to hold on for the five point win.  “We started off slow, but ultimately did a nice job of having a gutsy win,” Falk said.  

Mike Leach made national headlines this week, because of his comments regarding Arizona State stealing their play signs, and was fined $10,000.  Coach responded to many of the questions in the post game press conference by saying that he respectfully declined to respond to the questions so that he would not get publicly reprimanded or fined. 

The Cougs go on the road again next Saturday to face the 2-5 Oregon State Beavers who lost to the Huskies 41-17 Saturday.  If the Cougars do rest Falk, this would be a good week to do it.  This will be another late night Cougars game at 7:45 on ESPN 2.

Cougs Fly By Ducks

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The Cougs used a combined 651 yards on offense including a WSU record 280 yards on the ground to blow away the Ducks in Pullman 51-33.
Two teams who came into Saturday’s game at 1-2 and 2-2 respectively after pre-season expectations of competing for the conference title, were looking to avoid their 3rd loss in this early season.  Two high flying offenses squared off and WAZZU was looking to get back on track after the bye week, but they would have to try to solve Oregon’s running game, and their future number one draft pick Royce Freeman. 
The Cougs had yet to score on an opening drive this season which is what they excelled in a year ago.  For the 1st time this season, the Cougs kicked the ball off to start the game, and the defense was called on to make an early stop.  With a sold out crowd of 32,952 on hand, the defense answered the call forcing the Ducks to punt.
The Cougs used their first drive and went 65 yards in 6 plays ending with a Luke Falk to Gabe Marks touchdown over the middle from 7 yards out to give the Cougs an early 7-0 lead.   The Ducks answered right back driving 42 yards with Freeman running it in from 11 yards out to tie it at 7.   The Cougs and ducks traded scores again in the 2nd quarter and it remained tied until 6 minutes left in the half, when Jamal Morrow found the endzone from  10 yards away to put the Cougs up 7, 21-14.  On the following Ducks possession, the WAZZU defense put the clamps down.  Robert Barber sacked Montana State transfer Dakota Prukop for an 8 yard loss and the Ducks were forced to punt again.  Falk then led a methodical 10 play 55 yard touchdown drive ending in a Gerard Wicks 2 yard run that at up nearly 5 minutes on the clock leaving only 37 seconds left in the half to put the Cougs up 28-14. 
To start the 3rd, the Cougs had two straight turnover on downs inside the 5 yard line, and Royce Freeman broke a 75 yard touchdown run to close the Cougar lead.  But the Cougar run game started to wear down the mediocre Duck defense, and freshman running back James Williams put a cap on it with a 38 yard touchdown run that ended it a Cougar dog pile in the end zone similar to the Phillip Bobo play in the 1992 Apple Cup.
“I felt like we had really good energy the whole time.  I felt the whole game we were highly motivated,” Mike Leach said after the game.  The Cougs exploited the man to man defense that the Ducks were playing by using a lot of motion.  “We haven’t played a team that runs as much man as they do,” said Leach.
Quarterback Luke Falk was 36-48 with 371 and a touchdown.  The Cougar defense held the Ducks in check and were able to control the game offensively and score at will. Following the game, Falk said, “I felt really good out there.”   Royce Freeman finished with 138 yards on the ground, which included the one carry of 75 yards.

 
The Ducks fall to 2-3 on this early season, and are a far cry from the team that played in the National Championship just two years ago.  The Cougs started the season 0-2 after high expectations, and have seemed to find their stride as they have looked impressive in their last 2 games.  They face the 15th ranked Stanford Cardinal on The Farm in Palo Alto next week at 7:30.  Stanford had a disappointing loss Friday night against the Huskies and have 4 injured corner backs that should play into the Cougars Favor.

Cougs Stumble On Smurf Turf

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The Cougs drop a heartbreaker in Boise Saturday night after  a hail mary by quarterback Luke Falk doesn’t connect and the Cougs fall to 0-2 on the season.
After a disappointing loss last week to Eastern Washington, the Cougs were looking to bounce back against an always tough Boise State Bronco team on the blue turf.  On the Cougs first drive of the Game, Falk drove WSU down to the Bronco 23 yard line.  On 3rd and 9, Falk threw an interception to Tyler Horton who returned it 85 yards for a Bronco touchdown to put the Cougs in an early hole.  “The ball sailed on me and it was returned for a touchdown,” Falk said.
The Cougars defense struggled last week giving up over 500 yards of offense, but regrouped well giving up only one touchdown in the first half on Boise State’s opening possession.  The problem for the majority of the game was the Cougar’s offense and their Red Zone woe’s.  The Cougs had 4 turnovers in the red zone, reminiscent of Leach teams in his first couple years of coaching WSU. 
They started to get in their grove for the first time this season late in the 3rd when Falk found Tavares Martine Jr. for a 50 yard TD strike to give the Cougs their 2nd score of the game.  With 4 minutes left in the 4th, Falk connected with senior Gabe Marks for 33 yards to erase a 17 point deficit and pull the Cougs within 3.  The Cougs were given one last chance with 53 seconds left and one timeout from their own 20 yard line. The Cougs were able to muster three 8 yard connections and forced to use their final timeout with 4 seconds remaining at the WSU 45.  Falk had one last chance to win it, but was unsuccessful. 
The Cougs woke up in the 4th quarter but it was too late.  Coach Leach after the game said, “We beat Boise State in almost every category except toughness.  We aren’t tough enough, and that’s going to change.” Falk was 55-71 with 480 yards and 4 touchdowns, but only able to gain 40 yards on the ground.  The Cougs fall to 0-2 and have an easier game this week against the Idaho Vandals before their bye week, followed by the Oregon Ducks coming to Pullman.

Eastern Shocks WSU in Pullman

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Former Davis Pirate Cooper Kupp pulled down twelve catches for 206 yards and 3 touchdowns to help Eastern Washington shock the Cougs 45-42 in Pullman.

It’s been 8 months since the Cougs December Holiday Bowl win over Miami.  WSU comes into this season with high expectations after a 9-4 season a year ago and what many thought as coach Leach’s system beginning to take shape.  The Cougar defense coming into this game was big question mark, and Eastern used a big third quarter to exploit the D.  The defense was having trouble stopping sophomore Gabe Gubrud in his first start of his short college career.

The best quarterback on the field Saturday was not Luke Falk.  Gubrud threw for 474 yards completing 34 of his 40 passes for 474 yards and 5 touchdowns.  “This is going to be a good learning experience for us, it’s almost like a mirror of last year,” said Falk.  The junior had 418 yards on 41-51 passing and 4 touchdowns.  The Cougs opened up last season with a loss to another big sky team in Portland State, which makes it 5 straight season opening losses for them.  After that the Cougs used this as momentum to propel them to their best season since 2003. 

The Cougs senior receiver Gabe marks got in the end zone first from 53 yards out go give them the early 7-0 lead. That started a series of 7 straight touchdown drives.  With the Cougs up 21-14 Gubrud found Cooper Kupp for a 75 yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 21.The FCS offensive player of the year Kupp, was unstoppable for the Eagles.  Kupp decided to come back for his senior season instead of going to the NFL draft, and after today’s performance Coug fans wish he would have.

Eastern opened up the second half with Gubrud finding Kupp again wide open in the end zone on broken coverage for a 26 yard touchdown pass to give the Eagles their first lead of the game.  They followed that up with another connection from Gubrud to Kupp who had a one handed snag in the corner of the end zone to give the Eagles a 38-28 lead.

Midway through the third, the Eagles were on the move again deep in Cougar territory when Gubrud made his first mistake of the game in an interception by Marcellus Pippens in the corner of the end zone from 7 yards out.  The second half defensive adjustments by Eastern kept the highly potent WSU offense scoreless until 5 minutes remaining when Falk found Gerard Wicks from 9 yards out to pull the Cougs within 3.  Eastern then put the game away late in the forth.  Quarterback Gabe Gubrud ran the ball 30 yards on a keeper to devastate the sold out crowd of 32,952.

“They deserve a great deal of credit because they beat us in all 3 phases of the game I feel like,” coach Mike Leach said following the game. “I didn’t feel like the really slowed us down other than when we got behind the sticks and then we squandered opportunities.” 

 

The Cougs have a tough game next week at Boise State against the always dangerous Broncos on the blue turf in a Saturday night showdown on ESPN.  The Cougs would love to even out their record before they play Idaho the following week and Oregon on October 1st.  On a positive note, last season the Cougs had 12 of their 13 games decided in the 4th quarter last season, so this is a team that plays with their competition.  Their four road wins against Rutgers, Oregon, Arizona, and UCLA were all decided in the final minute of the game, so as disappointing as this is, there is still hope for a great season.

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