Season grades: Washington State

Luke Falk laid the foundation for a run at next year's Heisman Trophy. AP Photo/Ryan Kang

The 2015 season is officially over for the Pac-12. We kick off our season review by handing out some team-by-team grades.


Offense: Quarterback Luke Falk (4,561 yards, 38 TD, 9 INT, 69.4%) laid the foundation for a run at next year’s Heisman Trophy and receiver Gabe Marks (104 catches, 1,192 yards, 15 TD) asserted himself as one of the country’s best receivers as Wazzu turned in its best season since 2003. During conference play, the Cougars ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in points per game (33.7), which was their highest in-conference scoring average in more than a decade, and only Stanford and Oregon scored more touchdowns. The Cougars also had the fewest drives of three plays or less and the most drives of 10 plays or more among Pac-12 teams. Grade: A-minus.

Defense: First-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch was a Broyles Award nominee, given to the nation’s best assistant coach, for the work he did turning the Cougars’ defense into a respectable unit. A year after allowing 38.6 points per game, WSU limited opposing teams to 27.7 in 2015 -- the program’s best mark since 2006. The Cougars ranked No. 5 in the Pac-12 in yards per play allowed during conference play (5.89) and No. 6 in total defense (441.0). They were particularly effective in pass defense, allowing just 6.7 yards per attempt, which was second-best in the Pac-12. Grade: A-minus.

Special Teams: Kicker Erik Powell was a respectable 20 of 26 on field-goal attempts, but the Cougars ranked in the bottom half of the conference in kickoff returns and last in punting. And while this technically isn’t special teams, if feels worth noting here the Cougars converted on fourth down 26 times (No. 2 nationally) on 39 attempts (No. 3 nationally). #NeverPunt. Grade: C

Overall: On Sept. 5, all hope was lost. The Cougars hadn’t finished with a winning record since 2003 and that certainly wasn’t going to change after they opened the season with a loss to FCS Portland State. Same old Cougars ... except they weren’t. This was a resilient WSU team that improved immensely over the course of the season, which featured wins against Oregon, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Miami. A lopsided loss to Washington in the Apple Cup and the PSU game won’t quickly be forgotten, but the future is bright with a lot of talent returning from a 9-4 team. Grade: A-minus.