If Washington State’s spring game on Saturday did anything, it demonstrated that the Cougars have some unforeseen talent on both sides of the ball. Redshirt freshman Luke Falk played like he was much older than he is, and a fresh defensive secondary looked experienced and fluid against the Cougar quarterbacks .
Falk threw only one touchdown pass during his time on the field, but he was more accurate than his veteran teammate, Connor Halliday. In terms of completions, Falk connected on 20 of his 31 passes, while Halliday was 25-of-41.
More importantly, Falk threw for over 200 yards without any interceptions, which is something Halliday could not say. The returning quarterback was characteristically reckless, throwing two picks on the day despite racking up more than 300 passing yards.
It doesn’t matter how many yards show up on the statistics sheet at the end of the game if the team has lost the turnover margin. The Cougars cannot afford to have a quarterback who gives the ball away too often, so it would will be interesting to see how Falk performs during fall camp. He was a walk-on last year and redshirted that season, so he has plenty of time to develop into a quarterback of the future for this team.
The man who came into the program heralded as the next Cougar quarterback did not play so well in the spring game, though. Tyler Bruggman was intercepted three times during the game, which gives reason for he and the coaching staff to be alarmed. Bruggman is in danger of losing his backup role to Halliday if he continues to show his immaturity in the college system.
Because they are both redshirt freshmen, Falk and Bruggman are on the path to compete for playing time beyond this season. However, Falk looks poised enough at this point to earn at least the backup role in 2014.
All of those interceptions had to come from somewhere. The defensive players turned in solid performances in the spring game, led by Daquawn Brown who forced two turnovers himself. The Cougars will likely rely heavily on Brown to lead the defensive secondary, even though he is only a sophomore.
Other players made interceptions as well, which could mean one of two things. Either the Cougar defense is so dominant that it will force turnovers frequently against any team, or the Cougar offense is so poor that interceptions are simply commonplace.
The pass rush was also present for the Cougars as there were a total of seven sacks on the day. Once again, this could be a testament to a rebuilding offensive line that now misses Elliott Bosch, John Fullington, Matt Goetz and Rico Forbes, all who were seniors last year. It also could be that the Cougars will pressure many quarterbacks into turnovers this season.
These two facets of defense work hand in hand, and the fact that they worked so well during the spring game supports the idea that the Cougars will contend in the Pac-12 this year. The interception and sack totals were high enough to suggest that these players were just making routine plays and then going above and beyond by dominating their opponents.
Even if one classifies the Cougar offense as mediocre and unchallenging, the defense played as any experienced group would. The good defenses hang with the best and obliterate the worst. The Cougars look capable of doing just that this season, and the less their own quarterbacks turn the ball over, the higher the team will climb in the conference.