5 questions with Washington State expert

Mike Singer, Recruiting Editor
Beavers Edge

BeaversEdge.com caught up with Scott Hood of WazzuWatch.com on the Rivals.com network to get an in-depth look at the Oregon State Beavers' opponent this weekend.

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AP

1. Washington State had an absolutely wild win against Boise State in triple overtime last week. How in the world did the Cougars come back from 31-10 in the fourth quarter to win?

Scott Hood: "WSU made all the plays down the stretch and benefitted from a little good fortune too. Boise State sacked Washington State QB Luke Falk with just under 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, forced a fumble and scooped up the loose football for a touchdown that gave the Broncos a 3-TD lead.

"However, WSU quickly drove 75 yards in 8 plays for a TD to give Cougar fans hope. Then an ill-advised pass by the Boise State QB (tried to flip the ball to a receiver while being tackled) was intercepted by LB Peyton Pelluer and returned for a TD to make it 31-24 with 5:51 left.

"The football gods smile don WSU with just under 3 mins left when a Cougars punt deflected off the leg of a Boise State player and WSU recovered the muff for possession at the BSU 24. The Cougars needed just 4 plays to score the game-tying TD with 1:44 left. In the 3rd OT, WSU answered Boise’s FG with a TD to win it. There were a total of 3 defensive TDs in the game. Yes, it was crazy."

2. Mike Leach named Luke Falk the starting quarterback despite pulling him in last week's game. Is that the right decision?

SH: "Yes. This is Falk’s third season as Washington State’s full-time starting quarterback, and he is nearing the Pac-12’s all-time passing record held by Oregon State’s Sean Mannion. Falk is the NCAA’s active career leader in career passing yards (11,397), TD passes (92) and passing yards per game (345.4). He should pass Mannion by midseason.

"Falk has also been an Oregon State killer during his career. In three career starts against Oregon State, Falk is 3-0 and has averaged 431.0 pass yards per game with 16 TD and 2 INT. Falk made his first career start at OSU as a RFr. 2014. Not only does Falk give the Cougars the best chance to win, he was hardly the only WSU offensive player to struggle against Boise State. The offensive line was dominated in the trenches, the outside receivers had passes bounce of their chest and the running backs ran passively. Leach was not pleased."

RELATED: Does Oregon State stand a chance against WSU? | Isaiah Dunn to see the field for OSU?

3. Who are the top weapons in Washington State's offense?

SH: "The Air Raid offense is beloved by wide receivers because they know they’re going to get a lot of balls thrown their way. However, WSU’s most dangerous offensive weapon right now not named Luke Falk is probably dynamic running back James Williams, who leads the Cougars in receptions (23) to go along with a team-high 23 rushing attempts for 76 yards. Thus, he has 46 touches in the first two games, far and away the most on the team.

"Williams erupted for 208 all-purpose yards and two TDs in the win, catching 13 passes for 163 yards and two scores, setting WSU single-game records for catches and receiving yards for a running back. Jamal Morrow is the second running back WSU principally relies on. He heads the team with 111 rushing yards after two games. The wide receivers to keep an eye on are Isaiah Johnson-Mack (13 receptions), Tavares Martin Jr. (12 catches), Kyle Sweet (11), Renard Bell (9) and Jamire Calvin (4), a 4-star prospect who flipped from Nebraska on National Signing Day [was a one time OSU commit too]. One thing to watch: WSU has four wide receivers who stand 6-3 or taller."

4. What names on the WSU defense should Oregon State be familiar with?

SH: "WSU’s top defensive player is defensive end Hercules Mata’afa, who is the Pac-12’s active career tackles for loss leader with 30. He opened 2017 with 2.5 tackles-for-loss, including 1.5 sacks, against Montana State and added three more TFLs in the win over Boise State. Entering Week 3, he is third in the country with a Pac-12-best 5.5 tackles-for-loss.

"MIKE LB Peyton Pelluer finished fifth in the Pac-12 last season with 93 tackles and is off to a good start this season. He made a team- high 14 tackles against Boise State to go along with the game-changing 36-yard interception return for TD. WIL LB Isaac Dotson made a career-high 10 tackles vs. Boise.

"The secondary is led by super sophomore Jalen Thompson, senior Marcellus Pippins and junior Darrien Molton. Third-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has focused on improving his unit’s speed since he joined the program in January 2015 and those efforts seem to be paying dividends. The Cougars have plenty of speed on defense."

5. What is your score prediction and why?

SH: "The Washington State offense struggled against Boise State last weekend, but that was largely due to the Broncos defensive front seven physically manhandling the WSU offensive line. Based on what we have seen the first three games from Oregon State, I don’t think that will happen Saturday afternoon at Martin Stadium. Whatever problems plagued the WSU offense vs. Boise State should find a timely cure against the struggling Oregon State defense."

PREDICTION: Washington State wins 42-17.

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