Gabe Marks set WSU's career touchdown receptions record against Oregon State, and the Cougars showed Robert Barber that they missed him

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CORVALLIS, Ore. – Gabe Marks claimed Washington State’s all-time career touchdown receptions title with his eight-reception, two touchdown, 110-yard performance in the Cougars’ wacky 35-31 comeback win at Oregon State Saturday night.

And the senior receiver did it with two spectacular catches in the Cougars’ 22-point third quarter, pulling down a 37-yard pass from Luke Falk in quadruple coverage on his first touchdown reception, then coming up big again on the Cougars’ next offensive drive with a tricky 28-yard catch.

“The play broke down, honestly, and I just saw Gabe and threw it up,” Falk said of the first touchdown. “Throw it up to nine – that’s his Twitter handle, so you’ve gotta do that.

“Congratulations to him, he’s the all-time leader in touchdown (receptions) here. There’s a reason for that.”

Marks’ fierce competitiveness sets him apart, Falk said.

“He’s always in my ear, ‘Dawg, I’m open, look at me,” Falk said. “He brings it every day in practice and then he goes out in games and does the same thing.

“He always wants the ball and knows where it’s gonna be. That’s one of his biggest strengths, and he’s got a quick, quick step, and his technique is flawless on certain things in this offense we do.”

With his two touchdown receptions against Oregon State, Marks passed Jason Hill and now sits in first place in Cougars’ lore, with 33 career touchdown grabs.

The first of Marks’ two touchdowns on Saturday night looked crazier, but the second catch was the tougher one to make, Marks said.

“The second one that I caught, the dude was running, the ball was kinda floating out there and I had to kinda stop a little bit to make sure he didn’t run into me. And he was a big dude,” Marks said. “So that was a little harder.”

Marks is now second in the Pac-12 with 283 career receptions, and needs only 11 to tie Colorado’s Nelson Spruce (294) for the all-time lead.

The Cougars’ fifth-year senior receiver is also second in WSU history with 3,113 career receiving yards and needs only 94 yards to tie Marquess Wilson (3,207 yards) for first place.

Tribute to Robert Barber

Numerous Washington State players took the field against the Beavers with Robert Barber’s name or number written on their taped wrists – a small gesture to pay homage to their starting nose tackle, who did not make the trip with the team because he’s been suspended by the WSU Student Conduct Board.

Barber was suspended by the Conduct Board for allegedly punching another WSU student at a party over the summer, but his case has drawn scrutiny and support from allies who claim he was the victim of racial profiling, and say he did not get due process before WSU’s Conduct Board.

Against Oregon State, the Cougars made it a point to show Barber that they missed him.

Marks said there was no formal movement to commemorate Barber.

“Guys were doing it on their own, I guess,” Marks said. “That’s our teammate. I’ve known him for a long time and when you see something that’s happened to one of your best friends that’s not right, guys usually intend to do something about it and try to speak up about it.

“Hopefully they get that other situation squared away because we’d like to have him back on the team.”

Even WSU coach Mike Leach veered away from his typical “next-man-up” approach to a missing starter to comment on Barber’s absence from the lineup.

“Robert does belong here with us,” Leach said. “Robert one way or another will forever be a member of this team and has meant a lot to this program. (The players) have a great deal of respect for Robert and we all feel like Robert should be here with us.”

Miscommunication the order of the day

What happened on the fake punt in the third quarter that could have resulted in a likely-fatal four-score lead for the Beavers?

What happened on the fourth down play at a crucial point with less than six minutes left in the fourth quarter that saw Falk try to pass instead of simply handing it off to a running back?

One word: Miscommunication.

“That was a massive miscommunication,” Leach said of the fake punt that Kyle Sweet tried and failed to convert for a first down deep in WSU’s own territory. “That was a total miscommunication and we weren’t interested in faking that punt.”

That was Falk’s explanation for the second near-fatal fourth down play too.

“We were trying to draw them offsides and if they went offsides we were gonna snap it, and if they didn’t, we were gonna call a timeout and punt it,” Falk said. “(Center) Riley (Sorensen) just thought they jumped, so he snapped it and unfortunately we didn’t get a call and didn’t convert it.

“So it was just little miscommunications. We’ll have to see it on film.”