Luke Falk threw a career-high five interceptions against Cal, but he wasn't the only Cougar who had a bad day. Everyone played poorly, Mike Leach said, singling out the offensive line and running backs for criticism
Last week’s game against Cal was probably Washington State quarterback Luke Falk’s worst game in more than three years as the Cougars’ starter.
But it wasn’t just Falk who had a bad game in WSU’s 37-3 defeat to Cal.
“That’s the worst game that everybody’s played under me. It’s not like Luke played bad and everybody played great,” Mike Leach said, sticking up for his quarterback. “Luke didn’t sack himself nine times. Luke didn’t give up the number of points as far as marching up and down field. We didn’t play good anywhere – Luke didn’t punt one yard.”
Falk went 28 of 43 for 286 passing yards and a career-high five interceptions, with no touchdowns. That was the second time this season and the third game of Falk’s career where he’s been held without a passing touchdown.
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The defeat to Cal marked the first time since a loss to Oregon State 2012 that WSU has been held without an offensive touchdown. Those three points last Friday were also the fewest WSU has scored in a single game on offense in Leach’s six years as head coach.
Until last week, you had to look all the way back to the Cougars’ 42-0 shutout defeat to Arizona State in 2010 to find the last time WSU’s offense was held to less than six points.
The 15th-ranked Cougars (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) are now busy preparing to face Colorado (4-3, 1-3) this Saturday in a homecoming game at Martin Stadium. Leach canceled practice Sunday night, but said he and Falk met for two hours to go over the game film.
“I felt like he, like everyone else, had to play better,” Leach said. “I think he got hit way too much, I think he made some bad reads, and I think when a quarterback doesn’t get in the rhythm, he develops some trust issues back there.
“Most guys don’t come out of it at all, he does some, and he does better than most QBs I’ve had. But he’s gotta get in a rhythm back there as far as throwing.”
Leach said poor effort from the offensive line definitely factored into Falk’s struggles againast Cal.
“Once in a while he’ll get sacked, but as consistently as he was getting hit, that’s very difficult to do,” Leach said. “We’ve gotta get tougher on the O-line, no question. We’ve got talented guys, but that situation is way too casual right now.
Leach insinuated that the offensive line was too relaxed and said they didn’t fight hard enough throughout the game.
“Those guys need to rise up and play together. If they have any illusions that they accomplished something last year, I challenge them to name one play from last year that contributes even one iota to this year,” Leach said.
But, “it wasn’t just the O-line,” Leach said. “I thought the backs were atrocious. We’ve gotta coach them better. We gotta coach everybody better. … I thought our mentality was soft. We have to go out there and worry about ourselves and what we have to do, not listen to all the garbage in the media and focus on us.”
Leach not a fan of nine conference games
Pac-12 scheduling has fallen under some scrutiny after top-10 ranked USC and WSU teams both suffered losses on the road in Friday night games. Jon Wilner of the Bay Area News Group, specifically, is of the opinion that Pac-12 hurt USC with its 2017 schedule.
Leach was asked what he thought of the three-week span in which WSU started with the Friday night home game against USC, with a road Saturday game to Oregon in the middle, and ended with last week’s Friday night road game at Cal that ended in a 37-3 loss. Leach called WSU’s schedule “brutal with double road games and a Friday game.”
“There’s no question about that, it’s just a fact,” Leach said. “And I’ve never thought it wise that our conference plays nine conference games when other conferences don’t. It’s like negotiating against yourself. We should try to be congruent with other conferences.”
Changes to the defensive depth chart
For the first time this season, freshman Marcus Strong has leapfrogged senior Marcellus Pippins to earn the start at right cornerback. Pippins or freshman George Hicks III will back up Strong.
Across the field, Darrien Molton is still the starter at left cornerback, but he missed last week’s Cal game, presumably due to the hand injury he sustained against Oregon. Sean Harper Jr. started at left cornerback against Cal and is now officially listed as Molton’s backup.
Deion Singleton, a sophomore, is now Jalen Thompson’s backup at strong safety.
Middle linebackers Peyton Pelluer and Nate DeRider have both suffered season ending injuries and their names no longer even appear on the depth chart. Instead, Isaac Dotson is the middle linebacker, and Justus Rogers is his backup. Dotson suffered an injury against Oregon and did not play in the Cal game. Rogers earned his first career start last Friday and could start at middle linebacker again this week if Dotson is once again unable to play.