What to make of the Cougars' 28-0 win over Colorado on Saturday night

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On a miserably wet homecoming night at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Washington State rebounded from its defeat to Cal by pounding Colorado 28-0 amidst relentless, driving rain.

The 15th-ranked Cougars are now 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the Pac-12, and Luke Falk has passed Jason Gesser to become the winningest quarterback in school history, with 24 career wins.

This win got the season back on track and keeps the Cougs in the thick of the Pac-12 North title race.

Here are three things we took from the game.

1 – Defense has a big night and successfully nullifies Lindsay

The Cougars’ defense was dominant, holding Colorado scoreless to force its second shutout of the season. (WSU beat Montana State 31-0 in the season opener).

You have to look back to 1981 to find the last time WSU’s defense had more than one shutout in a season. That year, WSU beat Pacific 31-0, then steamrolled Oregon State 23-0 and also beat Cal 19-0.

The Cougars’ defense stole the show against the Buffs’ offense Saturday night, holding Colorado to a season-low 174 offensive yards, and allowing running back Phillip Lindsay only 98 yards on 29 carries. Lindsay entered the contest averaging 142.1 rushing yards per game.

But, more importantly, they rendered the Buffs entirely one-dimensional. WSU loaded the box time and time again, trying to stuff Lindsay and daring Colorado to pass. This strategy worked.

Colorado’s starting quarterback, Steven Montez went 4 of 13 for 21 yards before he was benched for freshman Sam Noyer, who wasn’t much better. Noyer went 7 of 18 for 53 yards.

The Cougars defense also held Colorado to a season-low 94 passing yards, and the Buffs were 1 of 17 on third down conversions. This was WSU’s first shutout of a conference opponent since 1994, when the Cougars beat UCLA 21-0.

Safety Jalen Thompson led WSU’s defense with a career-high 10 tackles, including seven solo stops. Frankie Luvu made it tough for Colorado’s quarterbacks, finishing with two sacks.

It’s heartening to see how effective the Cougars’ defense was at shutting down the Colorado run game because that’s a skill they’ll have to tap into again over the next couple of weeks. Arizona’s rushing QB Khalil Tate has caught fire, and Stanford RB Bryce Love is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate.

2 – Cougs’ offense still out of sync

After last week’s rough outing in Berkeley, the hope was that WSU’s offense would bounce back in a big way against a Colorado defense that was allowed 424.3 offensive yards per game. But WSU’s offensive performance Saturday night wasn’t exactly reassuring.

Caveat: The wet weather definitely contributed to the Cougars’ offensive woes, making the ball slippery for both teams.

But with the exception of a 10-play, 81-yard drive in the second quarter that resulted in Brandon Arconado’s first career touchdown, and a nine-play, 75-yard drive in the third quarter that ended with Jamal Morrow’s touchdown run, WSU’s offense didn’t look particularly sharp.

Luke Falk threw at least three passes that very nearly resulted interceptions, Morrow fumbled and turned over the ball in the first quarter, and the Cougars couldn’t get anything going offensively in the second half.

Mike Leach was frustrated enough with the offense’s struggles that he made the entire offense do up-downs on the sideline in the third quarter.

Perhaps the calisthenics served as motivation. After posting two three-and-outs in the third quarter, WSU finally scored again in the fourth when Falk found Renard Bell on a 5-yard touchdown pass.

Falk finished 17 of 34 for 197 passing yards and three touchdowns –a pedestrian stat line for him. He also, however, had a career-high 41 rushing yards on nine runs.

Overall, perhaps this one looked rougher than it was because of the horrible weather conditions.

3 – This crop of freshmen receivers is the best WSU has had in a while

With Tavares Martin Jr. suspended for a violation of team rules, senior C.J. Dimry got the start at X-receiver. But it was true freshman Tay Martin who really capitalized on his opportunity.

Martin split reps with Dimry at X-receiver and finished with a team-high 78 receiving yards on  four receptions, including his first-career touchdown on a 50-yard pass from Falk in the first quarter.

The 6-foot-3, 182-pound true freshman from Louisiana showed his lateral speed, getting good separation from DBs on a couple of plays. He should have had a fifth reception, but dropped a pass that hit him in the hands.

Redshirt freshman Renard Bell caught his second touchdown of the season and had two receptions for 13 yards on the night.

Sophomore Dezmon Patmon, surprisingly, finished as Falk’s most frequently targeted receiver. The quarterback looked in Patmon’s direction six times, and he parlayed that into three receptions for 41 yards. He also caught one pass for seven yards when Tyler Hilinski took over at quarterback in the fourth quarter.

True freshman inside receiver Jamire Calvin had a quiet night and had only one reception late in the game. But with Patmon and Tay Martin on the outside and Calvin and Bell on the inside, WSU should be set at receiver for the next few years and it’ll be fun to watch them develop together.

Correction: Dezmon Patmon was previously identified as a redshirt freshman. He is a sophomore.