For a second season in a row, Washington State (1-1) and Rutgers (1-1) put together a wild and crazy fourth quarter in non-conference competition between the Big Ten and Pac-12. This year, the road team once again prevailed as Washington State wiggled its way out of New Jersey with a 37-34 victory.
Let’s just fast forward to the fourth quarter fireworks between Washington State and Rutgers, because it was pretty much a snooze fest before that. The two teams combined for 39 fourth-quarter points and 411 yards on scoring drives alone.
Rutgers struck first in the fourth quarter when Chris Laviano completed a pass to Matt Flanagan for a short touchdown pass to tie the game. The touchdown was the final play of a six-play, 68-yard drive by the Scarlet Knights. Washington State reclaimed the lead, 23-20, a couple of minutes later off the leg of kicker Erick Powell from 37 yards out. The lead was as short-lived as it could be, because Rutgers returner Janarion Grant returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a 27-213 lead.
That put Washington State right back on the field with the offense, and the Cougars took advantage of having the Rutgers defense back on the field. Washington State capped an eight-play drive that spanned 82 yards with Luke Falk completing a touchdown pass to Gabe Marks for a 23-yard score. Following the Washington State score, it looked as though the Cougars defense would do its part to seal a victory. Rutgers fumbled away the football on its fourth play, but the Cougars turned the ball over on downs at the Rutgers 39-yard line. After the teams exchanged punts, Washington State was once again forced to punt the ball back to Rutgers. For the second time of the quarter, Rutgers special teams came through when Grant returned a Washington State punt 55 yards for a score. With 1:31 to play though, that was more than enough time for Mike Leach and his offense to get the last laugh. They had to earn it though.
Falk guided the Washington State offense on a 10-play, 90-yard drive in just under 80 seconds. It ended with Falk finding River Cracraft in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead and game-winning touchdown.
Falk ended the game with 47 completed passes (out of 66 attempts) for 478 yards and four touchdowns. Both Marks and Cracraft hit triple digits with 146 yards and 121 yards, respectively.
Washington State now has a chance to put together an early winning record with a home game against Wyoming next week. Rutgers will hit the road for the first time this season to open Big Ten play at Penn State. Rutgers lost a tight one against the Nittany Lions last season in New Jersey. Rutgers has not won at Penn State since 1988.