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Difference makers: Hercules Mata’afa and Washington State defense shut down Nevada

Washington State Cougars defensive lineman Hercules Mata'afa (50) brings down Nevada Wolf Pack quarterback Kaymen Cureton (8) during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars defensive lineman Hercules Mata'afa (50) brings down Nevada Wolf Pack quarterback Kaymen Cureton (8) during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Hercules Mata’afa

Mata’afa had two sacks through WSU’s first three games. On Saturday, however, the brawny defensive tackle totaled 2.5 sacks on Nevada’s first six offensive plays. The Cougars’ defensive line totaled five sacks and allowed just 46 rushing yards on 24 caries.

Jalen Thompson

Washington State Cougars safety Jalen Thompson (34) intercepts a Nevada pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars safety Jalen Thompson (34) intercepts a Nevada pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The sophomore safety intercepted Nevada quarterback David Cornwell twice and helped limit the Wolf Pack’s passing game to 105 yards.

Luke Falk

Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk (4) watches the defense from the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Nevada on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk (4) watches the defense from the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Nevada on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

In just over three quarters of work, Falk completed 36 of his 47 passes for 478 yards and five touchdowns without an interception.