PULLMAN – Luke Falk became the Pac-12’s career leader in passing yards, firing three touchdowns and accumulating 337 yards on 34-of-48 passing, Washington State held the nation’s leading rusher to his worst statistical game of the year and the 25th-ranked Cougars did what they set out to do on a snowy day in Pullman, dispatching No. 18 Stanford 24-21 – a result that kept them in the thick of the Pac-12 North race.
WSU improves to 8-2 and 5-2 and the Cougars are now able to set themselves up with a winner-take-all Apple Cup by beating Utah next week in Salt Lake City. Stanford drops to 6-3 and 5-2 with the loss and can only reach the Pac-12 title game by beating Washington next week. WSU would also have to lose in the regular-season finale against the Huskies.
Falk led a touchdown drive early in the second quarter and floated a touchdown ball to Tavares Martin Jr. that got the Cougars on the board. The 12-yard score knotted the game up at 7-7 after Stanford running back Bryce Love broke free for a 52-yard touchdown – the 10th straight game the nation’s leading rusher had ripped off a run of 50 yards or longer.
Love wasn’t afforded much room to run after that and WSU kept the Cardinal out of the end zone for the remainder of the half. But the Cougars had another scoring drive in them.
Falk engineered a six-play, 71-yard drive to take the lead and the highlight play was not the 27-yard touchdown pass to Renard Bell that capped the drive, but rather an eight-yard dumpoff that came a few snaps earlier. That’s the toss that made Falk the conference’s all-time leader in passing yards, jumping former Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion, who previously had the record with 13,600.
But Falk and the offense went cold in the third quarter. The senior quarterback got the Cougars into field goal range, and Erik Powell booted a 41-yarder to make it 17-7, but the Air Raid stalled after that and Stanford made a push that would eventually allow the Cardinal to take a lead for the first time since the opening quarter.
Falk lended the visitors a hand, too.
The Cardinal closed the gap to 17-14 when QB K.J. Costello scooped up his own fumble and improvised by dashing 14 yards into the end zone.
On the next WSU drive, the Cougars kept the offense on the field facing fourth-and-1 from the 48-yard line. But rather than convert, Falk, trying to squeeze a pass through a tight window, saw his pass intercepted by Bobby Okerefe. The Stanford linebacker then blazed 52 yards the other way to make it 21-17.
But the all-time leading passer at WSU rebounded when the Cougars needed it. Falk dialed up a big third-down completion to Tay Martin midway through the fourth quarter, hit Morrow for 20 crucial yards later in the drive and finally completed to Jamire Calvin for an 11-yard touchdown that would prove the game’s decisive play.
Rush linebacker Frankie Luvu ended it by intercepting Costello with 15 seconds to play.
WSU outgained Stanford 430-198 on offense and held Costello to 9-of-20 passing for no touchdowns and one interception. Love, a Heisman Trophy candidate, was kept to only 69 yards on 16 carries. Love hadn’t rushed for fewer than 147 in a single game this season, though he missed Stanford’s last contest with an ankle injury.