UCLA will play at the Rose Bowl for the last time this year at 7:45 p.m. on Saturday, hosting a Washington State team that had turned itself around over the course of two months. WSU has already become bowl eligible, but is seeking to ruin the Bruins’ Pac-12 South hopes and further cement this as Mike Leach’s most successful season in the Palouse. The Spokesman-Review‘s Jacob Thorpe answered five questions about the resurgent Cougars.
1. Washington State lost to Portland State and nearly lost to Rutgers. How did this same group of players nearly upset Stanford on the way to what is now a 6-3 record?
Heading into this season, there were many pieces in place for the Cougars to show significant improvement: returning all five offensive linemen, a veteran receiver corps, lets of returners on defense.
But WSU also had a new defensive coordinator who had never had the reins to his own defense before, and a sophomore quarterback in Luke Falk with just three career starts under his belt.
Falk did not exactly put up Air Raid numbers in the nonconference games, throwing for 303 yards or less in two of WSU’s first three games. But he hasn’t thrown for less than 389 yards since and the WSU offense has seen its scoring average rise from 28.3 points per nonconference game to 39.3 against Pac-12 opponents.
The offensive uptick has coincided with the defense finding its footing under Grinch, making the Cougars a much more dangerous team than they were at the start of the season.
2. Mike Leach-coached quarterbacks always put up big numbers, but are often dismissed as system guys. How does Luke Falk compare to “Air Raid” predecessors such as Connor Halliday?
While Falk doesn’t have Connor Halliday’s bionic arm, he may be a better pro prospect than most of Leach’s QBs. Continue reading