Beavers can't catch Falk, Cougars
PULLMAN, Washington — Luke Falk and his receivers played a little game of pitch and catch Saturday at Martin Stadium, and Oregon State was loath to stop them.
Falk staged a scintillating aerial display, completing 37 of 49 passes for 396 yards, and tied a school record he shared with two others by throwing six touchdowns passes in 21st-ranked Washington State's 52-23 romp over the Beavers.
Oregon State (1-2 overall, 0-1 in Pac-12 play) put some pressure on Falk, sacking him three times and delivering plenty of hits on the 6-4, 225-pound senior through a variety of blitz packages. But Falk hung in and picked apart a game but harried Beaver secondary.
"If that's not a great college quarterback, I've never seen one in my life," OSU coach Gary Andersen said afterward. "He's as impressive as any (quarterback) I've been around. And a bunch of receivers made some great plays for him today."
Tavaras Martin caught 10 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns and Isaiah Johnson- Mack snared nine balls for 79 yards and a pair of TDs for the Cougars (3-0).
"They did a great job of catching contested balls, time and time again," Andersen said.
Oregon State's quarterback, Jake Luton, had a solid day, connecting on 22 of 35 passes for 179 yards with no interceptions. But Luton provided the game's most scary moment, going down after taking a hit while sliding on a nine-yard gain off a scramble early in the fourth quarter.
Luton stayed on the ground as he was attended to by medics for nearly 10 minutes. He was then strapped onto a gurney, with his head and neck immobilized, and sent to a local hospital via ambulance.
The 6-7, 235-pound junior, who was moving all his extremities, was taken for observation for precautionary reasons. Luton was released from the hospital after the game and later accompanied his team on the flight from Spokane to Portland.
Andersen said it was the second time in his nine seasons as a college head coach he had a quarterback go down with what appeared to be a head injury. The other time it happened to current OSU grad assistant Chuckie Keeton, when he and Andersen were at Utah State.
"Those are tough moments," Andersen said. "You're helpless. (Luton) is OK, but it's very difficult spot for all of us to be in."
Oregon State had its chances to keep the game competitive. Blunders, penalties and missed opportunities at crucial times dealt that a death blow.
• There was safety David Morris dropping a pass thrown right at him by Falk in the second quarter on third down near midfield, with Washington State leading only 7-2. Morris surely would have taken the pick deep into WSU territory. Instead, after a 55-yard Kyle Sweet punt and a personal foul penalty, the Beavers ended up with the ball on their 10.
• There was punter Nick Porebski dropping an on-target snap late in the first half with Wazzu ahead 21-9. The Cougars wound up scoring a touchdown on the final play of the half. Instead of going into the locker room down by 12 points, the Beavers trailed 28-9.
• There was Falk's 57-yard third-quarter touchdown pass to Martin on third-and-22 from the WSU 43 with the Beavers, coming off back-to-back sacks, behind 28-16.
• And Washington State stopping Ryan Nall on fourth-and-1 from the OSU 35 late in the third quarter. The Cougars used the short field for a touchdown and an insurmountable 42-16 lead.
Falk "is a great player, a great quarterback in the Pac-12," OSU senior linebacker Manase Hungalu said. "But we always harp on players making plays. He did his thing, but we need to expect more from everybody."
The Beavers had more positive plays than in any of their first three games. Nall carried 15 times for 118 yards and two touchdowns, including a highlight-reel romp to paydirt from 45 yards to cut Washington State's edge to 28-16 in the third quarterback.
Oregon State's defense played with more energy and tackled better.
It all wasn't nearly enough.
"We got beat on both sides of the football, and special teams played a part," Andersen said. "It wasn't a good outing. But these kids are going to keep on fighting, keep on battling."
Did Andersen see progress Saturday?
"Me personally? Yes," he said. "It doesn't look like it from the score. We ran the ball more effectively. We were more physical on both lines of scrimmage. We were stout against the run. We got some pressure on the quarterback. Those things were good to see. But (yielding) six touchdown passes, it's hard to win."
Did Nall see progress in the OSU offense?
"Yeah, but we lost," he said. "It wasn't enough to get it done. We're starting to move, but we need to fine-tune some things and take care of business."
Did Hungalu see progress in the OSU defense?
"Definitely," he said, "especially up front. We got (three) sacks. That was a great deal. But players need to make plays. In (crucial) situations, we need to make plays."
Three members of OSU's depleted secondary made their first career starts — safeties Morris and Austin Hudson and nickel back Shawn Wilson. Hudson, a graduate senior transfer, had 12 tackles, including 2 1/2 for loss, and Wilson totaled nine tackles, including two for loss.
Wilson and cornerbacks Xavier Crawford and Jay Irvine were matched up with the WSU receivers all day and won some battles. Too often, though, Martin and Johnson-Mack ruled in jump-ball situations.
"Two or three times (the Cougars) had fourth down in the red zone, and they win a contested ball," Andersen said. "I don't know what to tell a (cover guy) in that scenario. They're where we've asked them to be. It worked out that (Cougar receivers) made those plays. They made some tremendous catches on contested balls."
Oregon State played some good defense early, holding Washington State to a single touchdown in the first quarter. That came when Falk found Martin in the corner of the end zone for a 21-yard TD strike with 8:09 left in the quarter.
After a Porebski punt was downed at the WSU 1-yard line, Wilson tackled Jamal Morrow in the end zone on a swing pass for a safety to close the gap to 7-2 with 4:20 left in the period.
The Beavers had a chance for great field position early in the second quarter, but Morris couldn't haul in what seemed to be a sure interception on third down in WSU territory.
The ball "came through, and I wasn't ready for it," Morris said. "It just slipped through my hands."
After an OSU punt, the Cougars moved 74 yards in seven plays, Falk finding Johnson-Mack in the end zone for a 20-yard score and a 14-2 advantage.
The Beavers narrowed the gap with an 11-play, 75-yard drive capped by a seven-yard touchdown run by Nall. That made it 14-9 with 4:54 left before halftime.
Washington State responded by moving 75 yards for a touchdown. On fourth-and-goal from the 2, Falk fired a touchdown strike to Martin for a 21-9 lead with 1:52 to go before the break.
Oregon State moved near midfield, but Luton was sacked on third down. On fourth down, Porebski mishandled the snap and the Cougars took over at the OSU 26 inside the final minute of the half. That led to the TD that gave Wazzu a 19-point margin at intermission.
The Cougars marched inside the OSU 5 with the opening possession of the third quarter, But the Beaver defense held, and Erik Powell's 25-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Andrzej Hughes-Murray and returned by Jonathan Willis 18 yards to the OSU 26.
The Beavers moved to the Washington State 45, where Nall burst through the line, broke a tackle, reversed field and then outran Cougar defenders to the end zone. And suddenly the Beavers were within 28-16 with 8:36 left in the third quarter.
After consecutive sacks, the Cougars faced third-and-22 from their own 43. But Falk hit Martin on a slant and he raced 57 yards for a touchdown — his third of the day — and a 35-16 advantage with 4:19 to go in the quarter.
"That was a huge moment," Andersen said. "We have them third-and-extra-long, and they throw a ball and run for a touchdown. We had an opportunity right there to see what the offense could do, but that didn't take place."
"It's super frustrating," Hungalu said. "That can't happen at all. It was a coverage bust. We should be able to make those plays."
On their next series, the Beavers went for it — and failed — on fourth-and-1 from their 35.
"We need to work to establish an identity right now," Andersen said. "We decided to go for it, and we didn't get it. That was a big one, too."
When the Cougars capitalized with Falk's sixth TD pass of the game to make the score 42-16, it was over.
The Beavers knew they needed to play a clean game to score an upset.
"It's about execution," Morris said. "Everybody has to do his job. That's how we're going to win games."
Now they have a bye before facing Washington in Corvallis on Sept. 30.
"We have two weeks to get ready for our next opponent," Morris said. "That's a lot of time to get everything right. That's all we have to do."
NOTES — Washington State finished with 491 yards total offense — 431 through the air, 60 on the ground. … Oregon State totaled 354 — 199 passing, 155 rushing. … In his four career games against Oregon State — all victories — Falk finished with 22 touchdown passes and two interceptions. … Nall moved past Billy Main and Bryce Oglesby into 13th place on the OSU career rushing list with 1,729 yards. … Beavers receiver Seth Collins played his first game of the season after missing the first three contests with a broken ring finger. Collins caught a team-high seven passes for 39 yards and a touchdown. … Washington State had no turnovers, Oregon State two — both fumbles. … The Cougars passed or intended to pass on 61 of their 74 offensive plays. Falk and backup Tyler Hilinski combined for 58 passes, and Falk was sacked three times. … Oregon State had no sacks in the first three games. … WSU was 8 for 14 on third and fourth down; OSU was 9 for 20.
OSU's top cornerback, Dwayne Williams, missed the game and is out for the year with an ACL knee injury. Starting safety Jalen Moore sat out the first half due to a suspension for targeting in the second half of the Minnesota game. … On the play in which Luton was injured, WSU safety Jalen Thompson was initially penalized for targeting. After review, officials rescinded the penalty. …… Morris' 17 tackles against Minnesota were the most by a Beaver since Lance Mitchell had 18 against Texas Christian in the 2010 season opener. … Oregon State safeties coach John Rushing was an All-America defensive back at Washington State in the early 1990s. Rushing holds the Cougars' career record with 46 starts.
Oregon State 2 7 7 7 — 23
Washington State 7 21 14 10 — 52
WSU — Tavares Martin 21 pass from Luke Falk (Erik Powell kick), 8:09
OSU — Jamal Morrow tackled in end zone (Shawn Wilson) for safety, 4:20
WSU — Isaiah Johnson-Mack 20 pass from Falk (Powell kick), 9:46
OSU — Ryan Nall 7 run (Jordan Choukair kick), 4:54
WSU — Martin 2 pass from Falk (Powell kick), 1:52
WSU — Johnson-Mack 2 pass from Falk (Powell kick), :04
OSU — Nall 45 run (Choukair kick), 8:36
WSU — Martin 57 pass from Falk (Powell kick), 4:19
WSU — Kyle Sweet 10 pass from Falk (Powell kick), :56
WSU — Frankie Luvu 40 fumble recovery return (Powell kick), 14:50
OSU — Seth Collins 10 pass from Darell Garretson (Choukair kick), 10:25
WSU — Powell 21 FG, 2:35
Att. — 32,487