One week after the worst loss in program history, the Washington State Cougars (1-1) upended the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-1) in Piscataway, N.J. 37-34.
River Cracraft was wide open from the snap as the Rutgers defense completely forgot about No. 21. There was absolutely no one around Cracraft as Luke Falk threw the ball, and there was no one around him when he put his right (then left) foot down inside of the chalk. It was fantastic play by the junior wideout to give WSU a lead with nine seconds left in the game.
The touchdown came after a 1:10 second drive that saw Washington State hit some key passes, and draw some key penalties, to put the Cougs inside of the red zone with time winding down. Cracraft’s touchdown was actually the second time a Cougar had crossed the goal line, as Keith Harrington caught a screen pass and ran down the sideline before cutting inside and crossing the goal line; unfortunately for the Cougars, Harrington stepped out-of-bounds five yards from the first down marker. WSU converted on the next play to set-up the game winning play.
Falk put together his best performance of his young career as he completed 47 of 66 passes for 478 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. The redshirt sophomore was far more decisive in the pocket than he was a week ago, and was better at making decision when it came to pass it to a receiver, run, or get rid of the ball. It was encouraging to see the quarterback bounce back and play out of his mind against Rutgers.
The Cougar defense also improved off of its performance from a week ago as the forced three turnovers (one interception, and two fumble recoveries). Marcellus Pippins recorded the pick after a poor pass from an under-pressure Chris Laviano. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch deserves a lot of credit for dialing up a better game plan in his second game, but he struggled (again) with adjusting after halftime; as Rutgers tore up Washington State on the ground — the Scarlet Knights rushed for 198 yards on 37 carries.
Unfortunately, the only unit to not improve from its week one performance was special teams as they allowed two returns for touchdowns. If special teams had actually been able to stay in its lane and wrap-up the ball carrier, this game would ave been a blowout for the Cougars.
Janarion Grant was absolutely unstoppable whenever the ball was in his hands, including down the stretch.
WSU took a 30-27 lead with three and a half minutes left, and immediately forced a Rutgers punt on the ensuing possession. Then the Scarlet Knights forced a Cougar punt, which Grant took back to the house to hand his team a 34-30 lead.
Grant’s punt return was the last score for Rutgers during the game.
Washington State concludes the non-conference portion of its schedule against Wyoming next week in Pullman, Wash. Meanwhile, Rutgers travels to State College, Penn. to play the Penn State Nittany Lions.