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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Defense has no answers in 69-7 defeat for Arizona football

Reilly Kneedler
Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach, center, is interviewed by media after a 37-32 win over the Arizona State Sun Devils in Sun Devil Stadium, in Tempe, Arizona, on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016.

Going into the 1 p.m. kickoff in Pullman, Washington, the Arizona defense knew it would be tested through the air by the high-octane offense of the No. 25 Washington State Cougars. With less than a week to prepare after losing 34-10 to run-heavy Stanford team, the Wildcats could’ve used a bit more study time as Luke Falk and the Cougars continued their impressive season, winning 69-7.

It was a statement weekend for WSU as it looked to solidify its place in the rankings. The junior came into the game leading an offense that was second in the nation in passing, averaging 366 yards per game and got off to an early lead.

After starting its first drive at the Arizona 25-yard line and settling for a field goal, Falk was given great field position by a Brandon Dawkins interception. An eight-yard shovel pass to running back James Williams on the first play of the drive gave the Cougars a 10-0 lead that would turn out to be insurmountable just five minutes into the game.

All game long, Falk efficiently worked the underneath of the Wildcats’ coverage to drive down the field and was given ample time to pick his options by the Cougar offensive line. Arizona’s front seven was unable to put any real pressure on the backfield and finished with zero sacks. Falk connected with his favorite target, Gabe Marks, on a three-yard fade route to increase the lead to 23-0 just before the end of the first quarter. The touchdown was No. 34 in Marks career, putting him second all-time in the Pac-12 Conference.

After an Anu Solomon fumble inside the red zone on Arizona’s opening drive of the second quarter, Falk drove the WSU offense 93-yards in just over three minutes. Tavares Martin Jr. exploited a miscommunication between cornerback Jace Whittaker and the Arizona secondary to score his first touchdown of the day on a seven-yard pass.

At halftime, Falk was 19-21 for 212 yards and three touchdowns. The Cougars’ first six drives of the half ended with points on the board as they went into the locker room up 38-7.

Arizona’s defense all day was unable to match the firepower produced by Washington State head coach Mike Leach’s offense.

The second half didn’t provide any refuge from the onslaught. Taking advantage of two 15-yard pass interference calls, Falk was able to work his way down the field with eight completed passes before James Williams rushed in from eight-yards out for the score on the opening drive.

Washington State’s running back stable of Wicks, Williams and Morrow had another productive day to support the passing game. Totaling 26 rushes for 151 yards and three touchdowns they were able to burst out of the shotgun sets and make the Wildcat defenders miss often.

“I’ve got to watch the film,” said Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez to the Arizona Daily Star. “It seemed like when we played man we didn’t get their and they made big plays. When we played zone we missed a lot of tackles and that was a fear coming into today. There was nothing that we did well today.”

At one point completing 22 consecutive passes, Falk was taken out before the end of the third quarter. The junior from Logan, Utah finished 32-35 for 311 yards and four TD’s.

Even with backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski in the backfield, it would not get any better for the Wildcats. The redshirt freshman found receiver River Cracraft wide open for a 71-yard catch and scamper to put the Cougars up 61-7 early in the fourth. Hilinski found the end zone again with under three minutes remaining in the game.

The Cougar quarterbacks finished the day going 47-52 for 474 yards and six touchdowns.

With a bowl game appearance now out of the realm of possibility, the Wildcats will hope to salvage something out of the remaining schedule of Colorado, Oregon State and rival Arizona State.

Follow Mike Adams on Twitter.

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