KERRY SAYS: WSU has weapons
The Beavers were going to have their hands full with 21st-ranked Washington State, anyway. Then came word that Luke Falk will start at quarterback for the Cougars.
The 6-4, 225-pound senior, who has every school career passing record in the Palouse, was knocked silly in the third quarter of Washington State's 47-44 triple-overtime victory over Boise State last Saturday. Falk had been relatively ineffective in the first half and was replaced for one series by sophomore Tyler Hilinski in the third quarter before coming back, getting blasted and then departing for good.
Hilinski was sensational for the Cougars, who trailed 31-10 midway through the fourth quarter. He completed 25 of 33 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns to orchestrate one of the great comebacks in school history.
But Falk is the straw that stirs the drink in The Palouse, and he has been pure poison in his career in leading Wazzu to three straight wins over Oregon State — 126 for 157 (80.2 percent) passing for 1,293 yards and 16 TDs with two interceptions.
The Cougars have other weapons in their Air Raid attack, including a pair of good running backs in 5-9, 205-pound senior Jamal Morrow and 5-11, 195-pound sophomore James Williams. The latter leads the Pac-12 with 23 receptions for 199 yards and two TDs in two games, including a season-opening 31-0 shutout of Montana State.
The Beavers must try to defend all of that without injured starting cornerbacks Dwayne Williams (knee) and Xavier Crawford (shoulder). And starting safety Jalen Moore will miss the first half due to suspension for a targeting penalty against Minnesota.
The Cougars also can boast of Peyton Pelluer, a 6-foot, 225-pound senior linebacker who was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week after making 14 tackles and keying the fourth-quarter comeback against Boise State with a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Oregon State's defense, which has allowed 46.0 points and 483.7 yards total offense in three games, will be under the gun. The Beavers' David Morris will get his first start at safety, and another promising true freshman, Isaiah Dunn, will see his first career action at cornerback. That's called baptism under fire.
It's on the OSU offense to control the clock, move the chains and keep the high-powered Wazzu attack from lighting the scoreboard. The O-line must open holes for Ryan Nall and Artavis Pierce, and quarterback Jake Luton must improve with his decision-making in his fourth career start.
It's a tall order against a good Washington State team that somehow will play its first five games at home, then play five of the last seven on the road, including dates at Oregon, Utah and Washington.
The Beavers, a three-touchdown underdog, will come out with more fire than they've shown all year and be competitive, at least for a while. A victory, though, is not in the cards.
THE PICK: Washington State 41, Oregon State 17