FROM PULLMAN — It's late, but we've climbed from beneath the crush of another tight deadline to pass along our usual tale of the tape. Read on.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME — Gabe Marks had the best game of his career by nearly every statistical measure. He set career-highs in catches (11), yards (146) and touchdowns (2), the starkest realization of his talent to date. Jeremiah Laufasa also deserves a nod in this category, as he notched two more rushing touchdowns, including a 13-yard score during which he was not touched by a defender.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME — This was another solid, all-around team effort by the Cougars, but Xavier Cooper's stat line really pops out. The big defensive tackle finished with five tackles, but 3.5 of them came in Idaho's backfield and resulted in lost yardage for the Vandals. He also had 1.5 sacks. Cooper and Ioane Gauta pushed the Vandals' offensive line around all game, a big reason why WSU finished with six sacks.
PLAY OF THE GAME — There really wasn't a turning point in this one, because Washington State more or less dominated from start to finish. But the play that felt the most important to WSU was Idaho's final offensive snap, a fourth-and-goal rushing play from the 1 yard line that the Cougars stuffed to preserve their first shutout since 2003.
STAT OF THE GAME — Idaho ran 16 more plays and possessed the ball for 17 more minutes than Washington State, but the Cougars dominated because they averaged 7.2 yards per play while Idaho managed just 3.4. And the Vandals were 5 of 19 on third down, a continuation of the Cougars' stingy third-down efforts.
QUOTABLE — “Nobody lives to play Southern Utah. Nobody lives to play someone like that. You live to play the top 5 teams in the nation, and that's where you can become something that they can say, 'hey, that's where the Cougars turned their thing around. They got a big win. That was the 2013 group that started that.' So that's what we're trying to do.”
WHAT IT MEANS — In the context of WSU's season, it's just another win over an overmatched opponent with little hope of an upset. But the final defensive possession provided a fairly clear microcosm of the Cougars' attitude shift. The game was over. It had been over for a while. But as safety Deone Bucannon said afterward, WSU players felt they deserved a shutout, so they were going to do everything they could to go out and take it. Yes, that's a task accomplished easier against Idaho than most teams. But the fact that they wanted it that badly speaks to how far beyond the “woe-is-us” mentality that plagued this team a year ago, and it bodes well for more meaningful situations in the future.