PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Over the past three weeks, Washington State has started conference play by taking down three of the teams expected to be at the top of the Pac-12. The Cougars are rolling and they're winning with more than just Luke Falk's arm.
PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Over the past three weeks, Washington State has started conference play by taking down three of the teams expected to be at the top of the Pac-12.
The Cougars are rolling and they're winning with more than just Luke Falk's arm.
"Hey, we can do it other ways," Falk said.
Gerard Wicks rushed for a pair of 1-yard touchdowns, Jamal Morrow added another TD run, and Washington State won its fourth straight, 27-21 over UCLA on Saturday night.
The Cougars beat Oregon, Stanford and UCLA in consecutive weeks and validated their position as the other contender in the Pac-12 North along with Washington.
Wicks' first touchdown late in the second quarter gave the Cougars (4-2, 3-0 Pac-12) a 10-0 lead and his second 1-yard plunge pushed the lead to 17-7 midway through the third quarter. Morrow added a 3-yard TD run late in the third as the Cougars beat UCLA in consecutive years for the first time since 2006 and 2007.
"I was proud of our guys for sticking in there and playing tough like they did. Because the conditions and our opponent, you have to be tough," Washington State coach Mike Leach said. "We could have finished better but we had a lot of awful good stuff in between to make this happen."
UCLA (3-4, 1-3) played without starting quarterback Josh Rosen a week after he suffered shoulder and leg injuries against Arizona State. The shoulder was the problem on Saturday, as Rosen only attempted a couple of throws during pregame warmups before determining he couldn't go.
Backup Mike Fafaul, making his first college start, was 24-of-40 passing for 258 yards. Fafaul threw two touchdown passes to Darren Andrews and added a 5-yard TD throw to Jordan Lasley. Fafaul hit Andrews on a 22-yard TD in the third quarter and his 4-yard TD pass to Andrews with 3:17 left pulled the Bruins with 27-21.
UCLA got the ball back with 2:43 remaining after holding Washington State to a three-and-out. But on the first play Lasley was hit from behind by Dylan Hanser and fumbled. Washington State's Robert Taylor fell on the loose ball. The Cougars punted back to UCLA with under a minute remaining but Charleston White intercepted Fafaul to clinch the win.
"I'm just kind of still feeling it about the game, the loss. It doesn't matter to me how I play," Fafaul said. "I'd rather throw three interceptions and win the game than throw three touchdowns and (lose)."
Falk failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in his career. He finished 28 of 48 for 261 yards on a cold, rainy night on the Palouse. Falk was intercepted in the end zone in the first half and fumbled an attempted pass in the third quarter that led to UCLA's first touchdown.
But Falk led three long touchdown drives, including an 18-play, 91-yard drive in the second quarter that was capped by Wicks' first touchdown.
It was a forgettable night for the Bruins that included a (minus) 1-yard punt from Austin Kent in the first quarter that led to a few choice words from coach Jim Mora. Aside from a promising debut by Fafaul, UCLA was bullied on the line of scrimmage and saw its defense give up more than 24 points in regulation for the first time this season.
"I'm obviously not doing a good job of getting the message through," Mora said. "The buck obviously stops with me. It should, as the head coach. All blame should be focused entirely, initially on the head coach. It's my job to make sure we get it right with everyone else. I'm accepting of that. I've been in this situation a lot of times. When you coach for a long time, you've got to fight your way out of it, that's all you can do."
Washington State was already starting to pick up votes in last week's AP Top 25 and that's only going to increase. It would be a stretch to see the Cougars crack the Top 25 this week, but another win may do it.
Washington State became the final FBS team in the country to make a field goal when Powell hit a 36-yard attempt midway through the first quarter to take a 3-0 lead. Powell had missed his first attempts of the season — one in each game. Powell made another 36-yarder in the fourth quarter.
UCLA: The Bruins continued to have no running game on a night where the weather and circumstances with their quarterback called for having offensive balance. The Bruins rushed for 43 yards on 25 carries, the fourth time in five games UCLA failed to crack 100 yards rushing as a team.
Washington State: The Cougars continue to get big production from their trio of running backs. The Cougars rushed for 95 yards, but the trio of Wicks, Morrow and James Williams added eight catches for 65 yards.
UCLA: The Bruins return home to host No. 21 Utah next Saturday, their next-to-last home game.
Washington State: The Cougars travel to Arizona State next Saturday, the first of two straight road games.