It was hard to tell which was worse in Pullman Saturday — the weather or the Colorado Buffaloes. The choice didn’t matter to the 15th-ranked Cougars, not after a 37-3 whipping by Cal the previous week that coach Mike Leach called “the worst game that everybody’s played under me.” Washington State was thrilled to have chance to pound a broken team.
The injury-hampered Buffaloes succumbed readily in a cold rain 28-0 at Martin Stadium. Colorado was so feeble (174 yards of offense, 1 of 17 third-down conversions and 10 punts) that the outcome did little to suggest that WSU, 7-1 for the first time since 2003, has restored itself to top-10 status it enjoyed a week earlier.
“We were,” coach Mike Leach told ESPN after the game, “less pathetic.”
QB Luke Falk threw three touchdown passes, had no interceptions and only two sacks, a big improvement from his touchdown-free game against Cal that included nine sacks and five picks. But on a night of wet balls and windy conditions, he was just 17 of 34 for 197 yards. The Cougars ran 35 times for 194 yards, led by RB Jamal Morrow’s 73 yards on 11 carries.
After a scoreless first quarter — Leach ordered his offense to do a series of up-downs on the sidelines, standard punishment for consecutive three-and-outs — Colorado OT Jeromy Irwin was ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit on WSU’s Derek Moore. Perhaps that helped bring the Cougs from their lethargy. Three plays later, Falk had a 50-yard touchdown pass to Tay Martin for the game’s first score.
They cashed in on the next series as well, an 81-yard drive that ended with an 18-yard toss to Brandon Arconnado.
To start the second half, Colorado sophomore QB Steve Montez, who missed his first seven pass attempts, was benched in favor of freshman Sam Noyer. Little changed as the Cougars defensive front kept pressure up to preserve their second shutout of the season.
Morrow had a nine-yard run for a TD in the Cougars’ first possession of the second half, and Falk in the fourth quarter hooked up with Renard Bell for the final score.
Leach, who had an eventful week of ripping his team, denying he was headed to Nebraska to join his old boss, Bill Moos, the Cornhuskers’ new athletic director, and asking fans at his former school, Texas Tech, to help pressure the school to pay him his 2009 salary, now has a winning record at WSU, 36-35 in his sixth season.