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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Cougars need to develop more winning consistency at home

PULLMAN – With the wry humor Gabe Marks frequently employs to challenge reporters on their questions, the Washington State wide receiver acknowledged the efficacy of winning football home games.

On the road, the Cougars have been counter-intuitively more effective, beating teams like Utah, Rutgers and Oregon the past couple years. But they haven’t won against Pac-12 team in Martin Stadium since November 2013.

“I don’t know what the situation is with us playing really, really well on the road, rather than at home,” Marks said. “But I’d like to change that because we do play at home sometimes.”

The Cougars (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) are 2-1 on the road this season and 1-1 at home, the loss coming to a Portland State team that is 3-1 and ranked No. 25 in the FCS poll after last weekend’s 66-7 annihilation of North Texas. It’s the largest victory ever by an FCS team over an FBS team.

WSU’s home win came against Wyoming, a massive underdog that made the game tight until the final minutes of WSU’s 31-14 victory.

The Cougars then took to the road, playing well in two conference games. After putting a scare into then-No. 24 California in a 30-24 loss, WSU beat Oregon in Autzen Stadium for the first time since the 2003 season.

“The coaches can only do so much and say so much but it really comes down to us playing at the level we know we can play at,” linebacker Peyton Pelluer said. “And right now we know we can play with the best of them.”

The WSU defense played well in both games, and quarterback Luke Falk had perhaps his best college game against the Ducks, throwing for 505 yards, five touchdowns and rushing for another score.

The improved play appears to have fans excited. WSU announced Monday that fewer than 2,000 tickets remain for Saturday’s game against Oregon State. The Cougars averaged just over 27,000 tickets sold in their first two home games, perhaps contributing to the team’s lethargic play.

If WSU is able to play as well at home as it does on the road this weekend, the Cougars likely will beat the Beavers and win consecutive Pac-12 games for the first time since they beat Arizona and Utah in November 2013. Those two wins cinched the program’s first bowl game since 2003.

A 4-2 start to the 2015 season would put the Cougars in good position for a return to the postseason.

“I just think that the guys on this team, we’re just tired of losing, you know,” Marks said. “A lot of us come from winning programs in high school. None of us are accustomed to losing at anything. The years we’ve been here are tough. I think we’ve finally decided, we’ve finally been given the reigns completely of the program and we’re ready to start winning some games.”

Marks likes Falk

Marks lamented that quarterbacks, in his opinion, are over-hyped and win too many Heisman trophies. However, he’ll excuse Falk because the WSU starter is willing to play physically and “get dirty” like the other players.

“Quarterbacks don’t get hit anymore,” Marks said. “They just hang out at practice all day, toss a ball around a little bit and wear a different color jersey. I think sometimes they need to get hit. … I mean, I like quarterbacks, because without them I couldn’t do my thing or whatever, but I like more of the Luke Falk-kind of quarterback than … I’m not going to say any names.”

Arizona time set

WSU’s Oct. 24 game at Arizona will begin at 1 p.m., the Pac-12 announced Monday. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.