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Huskies Win 5th Straight Apple Cup

Luke Falk threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in rout to the Cougs 41-14 beating in the Apple Cup Saturday.  This was Luke Falk’s final meeting against the Huskies, and he has been on the wrong side of a lopsided affair each time.  Falk has never been able to get over the hump, and the Huskies seem to have their way on the ground each year as they put up 328 yards rushing Saturday.  This was a game that could have lifted the Cougs to their first ever Pac-12 Championship, but the door to that closed quickly as the Huskies made their presence felt early.

The Huskies used their first drive to march down the field in 11 pays and get seven points on the board to really set the tone to how this game was going to go.  Luke Falk has been a question mark this season and was benched twice, once again Boise State, and another against Arizona.  The big question coming into the game was how long Mike Leach would take to pull Falk if the offense wasn’t moving the ball.  The answer was not at all.  No matter what happened, even after his third interception, Leach stuck with the guy that has helped them succeed this year, but for the Cougars sake things snowballed and didn’t improve throughout the contest.  When asked if Leach thought about putting Hilinski in he responded, “Not really, statistically the best Pac-12 quarterback in history, and sometimes you gotta just fight through it.”

The Cougs defense held the Huskies in check in the first quarter after the first touchdown, but the offense was only able to muster up 2 first downs and didn’t give the defense much time to rest.  The defense began to get tired and the Husky run game took over in the 2nd.  Following a Falk fumble at the Cougar 28 yard line, Salvon Ahmed ran the ball 27 yards to the 1 yard line and quarterback Jake Browning punched it in.  The Huskies held a 24-0 lead at half time and just cruised after that to their fifth straight Apple Cup win.  “I think this is a really good team, where you gotta play good and play together in order to beat ‘em.”

The WSU offense just never caught their stride and Falk for some reason cannot seem to shake this funk he has been in this season.  He was an early Heisman Candidate, but the things that made him so successful the past two years like spreading the ball all over the field and utilizing his weapons have not been as prevalent this year.  Instead, a lot of check downs and holding the ball too long which as the year went on, led to an obvious lack of confidence.  It doesn’t help to get bench, but Leach said that he benched him in the Arizona game because he couldn’t see the field.  Backup Tyler Hilinski came in for two quarters and threw for 504 yards because of his quick release and ability to move the ball up field.  The counter to that, is that Hilinski also threw 4 interceptions which severely hurt the Cougars cause.  “Luke said on his performance, when you turn the ball over four times, it’s a bad night.”

The other question coming into the game was whether Coach Mike Leach will be here next year because former athletic director Bill Moos who left mid-season went to Nebraska and the rumor has been that Mike Leach may follow him after head coach Mike Riley was let go.   After the game, Leach denied the rumors, but the post-game press conference seemed to be un-Leach like.  The anger he usually has after and a loss that he knows was a disappointment wasn’t there.  He alluded to the fact that his team was capable of beating the Huskies, but just not the type of press conference I am used to hearing after a disappointing loss under Mike Leach.  The next few weeks will be telling to see if he takes the Nebraska job or not.

The Cougs look to be a lock for the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl in Santa Clara.  Early projections show them playing against the 8th place team in the Big Ten, the Purdue Boilermakers(6-6).

 

 

 

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Cougs Get a Win in Utah

The Cougs needed their 2nd road victory of the year to keep their Pac-12 Conference Championship hopes alive.  They traveled to Rice Eccles Stadium on Saturday to face the 5-4 Utah Utes in Salt Lake City.

The Coug defense didn’t disappoint, pressuring Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley all day forcing 7 sacks and 7 turnovers on the way to a 33-25 win.  The Cougs intercepted Huntley’s  Hail Mary attempt at the end of the game to get the win.

The defense got started early and often.  Early in the first Huntley connected with receiver Demari Simpkins for a 17 yard gain, but Robert Taylor knocked the ball loose, and the Cougs were in business at the Utah 46 yard line.  A few plays later, Falk found Tavares Martin Junior for an 11 yard touchdown completion and an early 7-0 lead.

A theme for the Cougar offense this season has been inconsistency.  The Cougs the past couple years had huge successes in the red zone, but this year has been a different story.  The Cougs stalled inside the 30 yard line three times in the first half alone, and got great field position for much of the first half thanks to three turnovers forced by the defense.

The Cougar offense was held to just 338 yards of total offense coming from 311 yards through the air, and only 27 yards on the ground.   Utah is known for their defense and held the Cougs to 10 of 21 on third down conversions.  Wazzu had opportunities and were moving the ball, just couldn’t convert on 3rd and short numerous times. 

Early in the 4th,  after a Utah fumble on their own 14 yard line, Falk connected with Isiah Johnson-Mack in the end zone to give the Cougs  a 33-18 lead.  That touchdown pass game Falk the Pac-12 record for most touchdown passes surpassing USC’s Matt Barkley. 

Utah was able to strike back and had a chance to tie the game with a hail mary as time expired, but Jalen Thompson intercepted it and secured the victory for the Cougars.

The Cougs are 9-2 and will be facing the two loss Huskies in the Apple Cup on November 25th.  The Cougs defensively have been as good as they have been in 15 years, but offensively the Cougs need to figure it out before they face the Husky defense in Seattle.  When the offense gets too stagnant, Leach has no problem pulling Luke for Hilinski.  Falk is looking for his first Apple Cup win in 3 attempts, and ending the 4 game Husky win streak. 

The Cougs push the ball more when they need to then consistently throughout the game and they are going to need to in order to help their defense.  For the second straight year, the Apple Cup is going to decide the winner of the Pac-12 North.

 

 

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