The Washington State Cougars nearly blew a 24-7 lead, but they held on at home to remain undefeated in the Pac-12 with a 27-21 victory at Martin Stadium.
The Washington State Cougars scored their third rushing touchdown of the game in the third quarter, a three-yard plunge by Jamal Morrow, to take a 24-7 lead, and it all looked wrapped up. UCLA had to bench their star quarterback Josh Rosen for an injury and go with the untested Mike Fafaul, who predictably struggled against the Cougars’ defense for the first half.
But Fafaul and UCLA, to their credit, hung tough and found a rhythm offensively in the third quarter. On a night in which Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk was strictly average, completing 28 of 48 passes for only 261 yards (that’s only 5.4 yards per attempt), no touchdowns and one interception, the Cougars found a way to win.
Head coach couldn’t break out his full-on Air Raid offense in the rain against UCLA, relying on a running back by committee that distributed carries evenly to Gerard Wicks, Morrow, and James Williams fairly evenly.
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In the fourth quarter, when Fafaul tossed his third touchdown pass (he had never thrown one in a college game before last night), to pull UCLA to within six points with three minutes to go, the Cougars made everyone nervous when they couldn’t ice the game. Leach had Falk come out throwing, which isn’t necessarily a terrible idea in the situation, but the short drive gave the Bruins had a chance to stage a comeback and break Cougar fans’ hearts yet again this season.
But then the defense made a play. Linebacker Dylan Hanser hit Bruins receiver Jordan Lasley and forced a fumble, which the Washington State Cougars recovered.
I think we can blame the sub-Falkian performance on the wind and the rain. Sloppy games like this don’t usually end in convincing blowouts in the Pac-12. What was encouraging was the clutch play of the Cougars’ defense. Even after an inexperienced quarterback made plays on them, they stepped up in the final quarter and earned their team a victory.
Up next for the Cougars is a date with Arizona State in the desert.