BOULDER, Colo. – Marquess Wilson has made harder catches. The sophomore wide receiver has made longer ones.
But he’s never made a more important one than the 63-yarder he gathered in to bring Washington State all the way back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit during the Cougars 31-27 upset of Colorado Saturday at Folsom Field.
The route was near perfect, the throw on target, the play call the right one. But it took execution – and time – to complete.
Wilson and quarterback Marshall Lobbestael, who stepped up and delivered a strike some 30 yards downfield, took care of the former.
“You need time to make a play like that, and the O-line did a great job,” Lobbestael said, something he couldn’t have said much of the day.
The Buffaloes came in leading the Pac-12 with 14 sacks and added three more to their total. But that doesn’t include the many times they hit Lobbestael or got a hand on him as he delivered. Officially, CU had three hurries, but it seemed like more.
And Colorado threw the whole playbook at the Cougars on the final play, according to left guard John Fullington. Not only did they run a game up front with the tackle and end, the Buffs also blitzed, Fullington said.
“We picked it up well and Marsh made a great throw,” Fullington said.
He got a a good look at the throw.
“I saw (Wilson) way down the field and the ball coming and I was like, please catch it,” Fullington said. Wilson did and Fullington started running down the field. It took, “like 2.7 seconds,” Fullington joked, to get to the end zone.
Jared Karstetter was already there. On the other side of the field, he had seen the pass unfold.
“Catch it, catch the damn ball,” Karstetter said he thought. “I knew he was going to, so as soon as I saw the ball in the air, I just started screaming and running toward the end zone.”
Earlier Karstetter had a premonition, knowing Wilson’s penchant for big plays.
“We we’re laughing about it and I asked him, ‘When is that big play coming?’” Karstetter said. “He came over to me (in the end zone) and said ‘There it is.’”
Karstetter, the senior from Spokane’s Ferris High, not only had a team-high nine catches for 105 yards, he also displaced his position coach, Mike Levenseller, from the Cougars’ top-10 list in career pass receptions.
“Why don’t you go tell him,” Karstetter said, laughing.
Karstetter has 128 career catches, which ties him with C.J. Davis for eighth on the WSU list.
Block that kick
Travis Long, a junior from Spokane’s Gonzaga Prep, had a career-high eight tackles, including two for a loss of 10 yards. But it was his left wrist that made the biggest play.
After Ray Polk had returned an interception on the game’s first series 52 yards to the WSU 20, the Cougar defense stiffened, forcing a 29-yard field goal attempt from Will Oliver.
On Thursday, the Cougars had put in a punt block. They tried it.
“(Defensive tackle Anthony) Laurenzi got into the guard, opening up the A-gap for me and I just shot it and it was open,” Long said. The ball hit Long in the left wrist.
“I don’t watch what happens, but I just looked up and saw a Washington State (player) standing in my face,” Oliver said.
Colorado coach Jon Embree had a simple explanation for what happened.
“We give up a blocked field goal because a guy decided that he wanted to take a play off,” he said, not naming the player.
Washington State was without cornerback Nolan Washington, who suffered a hip bruise on Wednesday, though Wulff said he could have played if need be. And they lost punt returner Leon Brooks with a sprained shoulder late, forcing freshman Henry Eaddy to field CU’s final punt.
They were also were without two key defensive players at the beginning.
Linebacker Sekope Kaufusi and defensive tackle Toni Pole did not start after being late for a team activity. Though both played after that, Pole was used sparingly.
Taking the lead
Alex Hoffman-Ellis had 14 tackles. He had two sacks that resulted in the loss of 16 yards. But he might have made his biggest contribution in the fourth quarter.
As the Cougars faced a must stop with a little more than 2 minutes left, the senior linebacker could be seen going up and down the line, rallying his teammates.
“I was just trying to redirect guys and reinforce the message that we’re in this and we can do this,” Hoffman-Ellis said.
But he didn’t think his leadership efforts were that big a deal.
“Over the past couple weeks we’ve been working on developing that mentality,” he said, adding that the defense has developed an understanding of what it has to do to be successful.
Though Colorado rushed for 161 yards – 52 of those on one Rodney Stewart run – the Buffs finished with only 336 yards of total offense.