Janarion Grant was about to become a Rutgers hero. If only his defense could’ve gotten a stop.
But instead, the Washington State offense, led by efficient and poised sophomore Luke Falk, marched down the field in the final minutes and scored a touchdown to give the Cougars a 37-34 victory. Grant’s two kick return touchdowns, which nearly sealed the game for the Scarlet Knights, were just a bright spot on a cloudy day.
For Rutgers, that was kind of the story of the day -- good performances amid a lot of bad themes. Rutgers handed away opportunities to close out this Big Ten-Pac-12 matchup as it accounted for 11 penalties (two of which brought back touchdowns) and three turnovers.
Washington State wasn’t much better -- its special teams allowed two returns for touchdowns. But it was just a little bit better.
What the win means for Washington State: After a season opener that felt like a nightmare -- somehow losing to Portland State at home -- a trip across the country to play a Big Ten team seemed like too tall a task for Mike Leach’s squad. But even when things got sticky late in the game, the Cougars offense put together plays to make up for the ones its defense and special teams didn’t make. This game certainly doesn't make up for last weekend's loss and the Cougars' road to the postseason isn't going to be easy. But if nothing else, it shows that they can close out a tight game on the road, which should bring a bit more faith to Leach & Co.
What the loss means for Rutgers: Things aren’t getting much better in Piscataway, New Jersey. A win over a Pac-12 opponent could’ve brought a bit of a rallying cry around the Rutgers program, which has been embroiled in legal troubles and headlines for the past few weeks. Life doesn’t get easier for Rutgers either as it hits the road next weekend to play its first conference matchup of the season at Penn State before getting Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin in October.
Player of the game: Going to give this to both Falk and wide receiver Gabe Marks, because you wouldn’t have had one of those performances without the other. Falk finished the day 47-of-66 for 478 yards and four touchdowns while Marks tallied 146 receiving yards on 14 receptions and one touchdown.
Stat of the game: The fourth quarter featured 31 points between these two teams and four lead changes.