Jamal Morrow

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No. 15 Washington State rebounds from first loss to thump Colorado with a shutout

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It was not the most rousing of responses, but No. 15 Washington State bounced back from their first loss of the year last week and thumped Colorado 28-0 on Saturday night.

Many of the struggles could be explained by the conditions, which were rainy and windy for most of the night in a not so lovely bit of fall/winter weather out on the Palouse. Nevertheless, it was an impressive outing by the Cougars defense as they controlled the game throughout and held the Buffs to just one third down conversion all night while recording three sacks and making life miserable for last year’s Pac-12 South champs.

Luke Falk was not the most efficient quarterback running WSU’s Air Raid, but did enough to get the victory in a game that never was as close as the scoreboard indicated. He set another Pac-12 career record, this time for completions on a night where he threw just 17 total for 197 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Jamal Morrow was part of a more balanced approach on offense, rushing for 73 yards and a score that was part of a season-high 194 on the ground.

If there was any Pac-12 After Dark element to this game, a Mike Leach team coming close to rushing for more yards than they had through the air would be it.

As for the Buffs, there will not be much to enjoy when they go back and watch the game film. Running back Phillip Lindsay was bottled up fairly successfully and needed nearly 30 carries to run for 98 yards on the night. QB Steven Montez had just four completions and was benched in the second half for Sam Noyer after a rough, rough outing. The defense had their moments in recovering two fumbles but were continually put in bad spots given how lackluster the offense was.

The victory by Wazzu moves them to 7-1 on the year for the team’s best start in over a decade and keeps them atop the Pac-12 North standings — while also keeping them within control of their own destiny when it comes to the conference title. It also sets up a very interesting road trip next week, as they go to Tucson to play an Arizona team that also finds themselves suddenly in the mix for a division title as well.

Strange times indeed out West, even if things aren’t always pretty.

No. 15 Washington State leads Colorado by two scores after ugly first half

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Ugly weather, ugly football. At least for No. 15 Washington State, they can say they held the lead.

In a rainy, lackluster first half of football, the Cougars managed to head to the locker room up 14-0 over Colorado at the break in a game that was far from the best showcase of Pac-12 After Dark given the sub-optimal conditions on the Palouse.

Neither offense found much of a rhythm at all as the opposing defenses were fairly feisty and active in the front seven. Wazzu QB Luke Falk at least was doing better than he was last week in a loss to Cal, throwing for 123 yards and the two touchdowns that made a difference on the scoreboard. Running back Jamal Morrow chipped in with 53 on the ground despite just seven carries.

Things were not as bright on the other sideline as the Buffs failed to convert on third down in the half and recorded just four first downs. Tailback Phillip Lindsay was kept in check (58 yards on 18 carries), while QB Steven Montez was only 4-of-13 for a whopping 21 yards.

To make matters worse, Colorado starting left tackle Jeromy Irwin was ejected for targeting on a play in which he came back to nail a WSU defender.

Falk did seem to start heating up for the Cougs as the second quarter wore on and the rain seemed to die down, but neither team can lay claim to playing all that great early on as one of the few teams still in action late on Saturday night. Hopefully for everybody who’s football-starved and still watching, some halftime adjustments will lead to some improved play on both sides.

No. 11 Washington State too much for undermanned Oregon

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Imagine reading this sentence as recently as, oh, 2014: an undefeated and top-15 Washington State team went to Eugene and beat an unranked Oregon by 23 points, and it was kind of an underwhelming performance. Such is life in the Pac-12 now, where Mike Leach‘s 11th-ranked Cougars cruised to a 33-10 win over an Oregon playing without its top two quarterbacks.

Washington State looked like it was going to cruise early. After forcing a turnover on downs inside Oregon territory to open the game, the Cougars grabbed the lead on its first snap of the game, a 41-yard strike from Luke Falk to Jamal Morrow.

From there, though, Oregon settled in. The defense forced three straight three-and-outs, and the offense mounted two straight scoring drives, a 20-yard Aidan Schneider field goal and then a 30-yard touchdown pass from third-string quarterback Braxton Burmeister to Jacob Breeland, giving the Ducks a 10-7 lead with 3:37 to play in the first quarter.

That would be the high point for Oregon’s offense, though, as the game proved to be too much, too soon for Burmeister. He finished the night 12-of-24 passing for 131 yards with the touchdown and two interceptions. Royce Freeman led Oregon (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) with 62 yards on 12 carries.

Erik Powell gave Washington State a 13-10 halftime lead with two second quarter field goals, and Falk put some distance between the Cougars and Ducks with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Renard Ball on the opening drive of the second half.

Falk would fire a third touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and Powell would kick in one more field goal to provide the final score. Falk finished the night with a ho-hum 24-of-42 passing for 282 yards with the three scores and no interceptions. Gerard Wicks and James Williams combined to rush 18 times for 106 yards.

In its first trip outside Pullman this season, the win pushed Wazzu to 6-0 on the year (3-0 Pac-12) and 16-5 in conference play since the beginning of the 2015 season. That 16-5 mark includes a 3-0 record against Oregon, Wazzu’s first 3-game winning streak over the Ducks since 1982-84.

Depleted Oregon hanging tough with No. 11 Washington State

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Oregon is playing without its top two quarterbacks but not backing down, trailing Washington State 13-10 at the half in Eugene.

Oregon turned the ball over on downs in its own territory to open the game, and Washington State immediately capitalized with a 41-yard scoring strike from Luke Falk to Jamal Morrow.

The Ducks, though, rallied to take the lead with a 20-yard Aidan Schneider field goal and a 30-yard touchdown toss from third-stringer Braxton Burmeister to Jacob Breeland

Washington State regained the lead on a pair of Erik Powell field goals, a 25-yarder at the 11:54 mark of the second quarter and a 52-yard blast with 6:59 to play.

Oregon advanced the ball to the Wazzu 34 after falling behind 13-10, but Taj Griffin‘s 4th-and-1 run was short of the line to gain.

After starting hot, Falk completed the half hitting 14-of-22 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown, or 109 on 21 attempts after his first throw. Washington State hasn’t tried to run the ball, amassing 44 yards on 10 carries.

Burmeister is 9-of-14 for 59 yards and a touchdown with six carries for 24 yards. Royce Freeman leads all runners with 54 yards on eight totes.

Washington State will receive to open the second half.

Palouse Power: No. 16 Washington State upsets No. 5 USC to halt Trojans’ win streak at 13

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Despite playing each other for decades in conference play, Washington State only managed to beat USC nine times over the years in a lopsided series. If the Cougars were to chalk up win No. 10, it wouldn’t be easy with a top five team coming to town and the Heisman Trophy favorite looking to do damage.

It wasn’t pretty at times, but Mike Leach‘s squad managed to get it done and set off a wild celebration on the Palouse late Friday night, pulling off the upset of No. 5 USC 30-27 and shaking up the Pac-12 and national title race in the process.

Though you would think it would be the Air Raid offense that propelled Wazzu into the win column, it was the Cougars’ defense that was the star of the show. Alex Grinch’s unit managed to contain USC quarterback Sam Darnold better than anybody has in two seasons, limiting the potential No. 1 pick to just 164 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Oh, and he was forced into fumbling to seal the victory as well.

Of course, it didn’t help that USC lost three of their starting offensive linemen (and were down another coming in to the game) in the first half and were rather lackluster in the run game outside of a handful of plays — such as a Ronald Jones 86-yard touchdown.

While perhaps not the sharpest outing for Cougars quarterback Luke Falk, it was a record-setting one as he moved into second place in Pac-12 history for career passing touchdowns (105) and took the top spot for career completions. All told, the signal-caller finished the night with 340 yards, two scores and an interception despite facing a ton of pressure on every drop back (five sacks). His backfield-mate Jamal Morrow stepped up with a quality performance as well, rushing for 91 yards and a touchdown while catching five passes for 47 yards and another score.

In doing so, the combo played a huge role in capturing one of the biggest victories for Washington State in years and possibly make them the team to beat in the Pac-12 title race ahead of the highly anticipated Apple Cup. Leach has done a terrific job transforming the Cougars into a budding powerhouse and the team finally has that signature victory to hang their hat on after a perfect 10 on Friday night.