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The leftovers: Nuggets and notes from WSU’s 31-0 win over Montana State

Montana State quarterback Chris Murray (8) is brought down by WSU after running for a successful fourth-down-conversion during the first half of a college football game on Saturday. Murray had only 28 yards passing against WSU. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Luke Falk became Washington State’s all-time leader with his 91st career touchdown pass, James Williams caught 13 balls and hit 163 receiving yards – both of those school records for a running back – and coach Mike Leach saw his skein of losses in season openers end at five.

But you know all of that already, don’t you?

What else happened in WSU’s 31-0 dismissal of Montana State? Below are some of the notes, quotes and nuggets – the “leftovers” – that perhaps didn’t make it into the Spokesman’s postgame copy last night.

Three players made their first collegiate starts – nickel Hunter Dale, center Fred Mauigoa and “H” receiver Renard Bell.

Seventeen players made their Washington State debuts. Those were: Renard Bell (WR), Jamire Calvin (WR), Kyle Celli (LS), Mitchell Cox (P), Jack Crane (KO), Christina Haangana (ST), Sean Harper Jr. (ST), George Hicks III (CB), Tay Martin (WR), Chima Onyeukwu (ST), Justus Rogers (ST), Liam Ryan (ST), Dillon Sherman (ST), Deion Singleton (ST), Zaire Webb (ST), Josh Wastson (OL), Jahad Woods (LB).

A trio of true freshmen receivers caught their first college passes in the game. Jamire Calvin reeled in two balls for 16 yards, Renard Bell caught two for 4 yards and Tay Martin caught one pass for 4 yards.

Without Robert Lewis in the mix, Kyle Sweet is inherently the next best option for WSU at inside receiver and matched a career-best with seven catches for 59 yards. That’s already more than a quarter of his production in 2016, when Sweet hauled in 28 passes over 13 games.

Seven receivers and three running backs saw their names appear on the catch chart. One name that was surprisingly missing? Dezmon Patmon. Isaiah Johnson-Mack’s backup at “Z” receiver had been one of the standouts through fall camp, but Patmon was the only wideout on the two-deep without a catch.

Easop Winston didn’t play in the season opener and it seems more and more likely the Cougars will redshirt the junior-college transfer. Leach alluded to that possibility last Thursday, saying Winston could redshirt “as he works through a few things.”

Cougar kicker Erik Powell won’t have to answer for a 0-for-5 start to the season this year. Powell nailed his first try of 2017, drilling a 40-yarder with the Cougars already up 28-0.

Powell wasn’t the only player on kickoff duty. Crane, making his Cougar debut, was responsible for two kickoffs Saturday night and finished with a better average than Powell (64.5 yards) though neither of his went for touchbacks while the Bobcats downed two of Powell’s kickoffs.

Until Montana State’s final drive with 7:26 left in the game, Bobcats QB Chris Murray had only completed two passes. By that point, he’d already been sacked three times and intercepted once.

When starting left tackle Andre Dillard limped off the field late in the fourth quarter with an apparent right knee injury, the Cougars didn’t bring in a reserve but instead replaced Dillard with starting left guard Cody O’Connell. Speaking about that decision, Leach said, “We don’t want just a free-for-all on the quarterback, but I thought it was a good opportunity to get in Josh Watson and Liam Ryan.”

The Cougars logged 73 offensive plays, running the ball 25 times while passing it 48 times. They outgained Montana State 511-143 and had an overwhelming edge in passing yards. Falk and Tyler Hilinski threw for 361. MSU’s Murray threw for … 28.

WSU held Montana State to just 28 yards passing. It’s been 23 years since an opponent passed for fewer yards (Oregon State, 18 yards, 1994)

And the last time an opponent finished with fewer than 143 yards of total offense? 2004 against Colorado, which managed 125 yards but still beat the Cougars in Seattle 20-12.

The Cougars pitched just their second shutout under sixth-year coach Leach, who was at the helm when WSU drubbed Idaho 42-0 in 2013. The Vandals were also held scoreless by the Cougars in 2003 – the only other WSU shutout in the last 14 years.

It felt a little warmer than usual for a night kickoff, didn’t it? The thermometer read 85 degrees at 7:30 p.m. – the hottest it’s been at kickoff since a 2001 season opener against Idaho (82 degrees).

Jamal Morrow was the Cougars’ captain for the 23rd consecutive game. Morrow lost the first coin toss of the season, which dropped the running back’s astoundingly impressive record to 16-7.