WSU is firing on all cylinders at the right time


WSU redshirt junior quarterback Luke Falk looks for an open receiver against the Arizona Wildcats.

After a sunny afternoon in Pullman, Saturday’s conference date between Washington State University and Arizona presented a bright future for the Cougs.

The rather mild kickoff temperature, which was nearly 20 degrees above average this time of year, accompanied an avalanche.

The avalanche – coming in the form of a 69-7 triumph over the Wildcats (2-7, 0-6) – became the first time in 19 years that WSU (7-2, 6-0) won with a 62-point differential or greater, and WSU Head Coach Mike Leach saw it coming.

Just two weeks ago, following a close finish in the desert with Arizona State, Leach promised reporters that the best is yet to come.

“We’re a team that’s battling to play our best game,” he said. “We haven’t played our best game yet…”

What makes this game the best one of the season thus far? Including the score, WSU dismantled Arizona in almost every offensive and defensive statistic of the competition.

Not only did the Cougars have a whopping 614 total yards to the Wildcats’ 286, they also acquired 20 more first downs than their opponents. Arizona struggled to convert on third down opportunities (20 percent), but WSU seized those same opportunities, basically quadrupling the Wildcats’ percentage with 79 percent.

Additionally, Arizona’s three turnovers did not help their cause with time of possession. The Cougars controlled the ball for more than 37 minutes while the Wildcats had possession for what proved to be a comparatively insignificant amount of time at 22 minutes.

The “air-raid offense” was very much a part of the perplexity of this game. This late in the football season, it should be no surprise that Leach and the Cougars like to use their valuable resource in redshirt junior quarterback Luke Falk.

Falk was 32/35 on completed passes, which set a new single-game passing completion record at WSU. When backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski subbed in Falk during the fourth quarter, the offense did not slow down as Hilinksi went 15/17 and threw a pair of touchdowns. Together, Falk and Hilinski combined to throw an average of 9.1 yards per pass (close to a first down for every toss).

Yes, everything ran as smoothly as you could imagine for a sold-out Dad’s Weekend game. Families traveling across the state, country or even world got to see firsthand how dominant Cougar football can be.

Of course, when you can score in every possession with the exception of one, the potential is limitless.

This was the first time since 2002 that the Cougars played to the tune of a seventh consecutive win. And it didn’t come at a bad time either. WSU started off slow with two straight losses to open the season, but since then they’ve been showing why those two games do not mean anything. It’s the games they’re looking forward to that are important.

One contest in particular, the Apple Cup against rival Washington (9-0, 6-0) is getting more and more exciting with every tally to the Cougar’s winning streak. WSU wide receiver James Williams believes the Cougs can compete with anyone.

“If we play like this for the rest of the season,” he said, “we can beat anybody.”

To get to the Apple Cup still undefeated in the conference, WSU needs to worry about controlling its own destiny and going 1-0 every week. Everyone’s looking forward to the Apple Cup but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Although it’s nice to see virtually 70 points of offense on the board, the real notable takeaway from Saturday is that the Cougars played a full, complete four quarters of football. Despite criticism from earlier weeks (especially in the most recent games), WSU started off solid and finished strong against Arizona. Fans saw a relentless team, a team that did not lose sight of the goal after leading by a large margin in the first half. Really, that’s all you can ask for.

It’s on to the next one for Cougar football. California (4-5, 2-4), a team softened up by the Huskies this last weekend in a 66-27 blowout, comes to Pullman as WSU looks to do something it hasn’t done in decades: extend its winning streak to eight games. They have a pretty good shot; WSU is favored by 16 points.

WSU might be ranked No. 23 in the nation right now, but they’re sure playing like they’re in the top 10.