Quarterback Luke Falk has had great success for No. 21 Washington State in three career wins over Oregon State, averaging more than 430 yards passing with 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
But Falk struggled and then was injured last weekend against Boise State, and backup Tyler Hilinski led the Cougars to a stirring victory in triple-overtime.
Still, Falk will be under center when Washington State (2-0) opens Pac-12 play by hosting Oregon State (1-2) today.
"I thought he played slow and conservative," Cougars coach Mike Leach said about Falk last week. The senior tends to over-analyze and needs to be more decisive, Leach said.
But there was no real chance that the FBS active leader in passing yardage, touchdowns and yards per game would not start today.
"Luke's starting and will continue to play well I am sure," Leach said this week.
Leach had plenty of criticism for his entire team after the Boise State win. He was particularly rough on the offensive line, saying the Broncos were "just whipping them."
"They just don't mind getting their ass kicked," Leach said of his offensive line.
But he also took time to praise his team's resilience for overcoming a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
"That's what separates us from most other teams in the country," Leach said.
Oregon State continues to struggle, but Leach offered support for coach Gary Andersen.
"They are lucky to have Gary Andersen," Leach said. "He does a good job."
"I know they've got quality players recruiting wise," Leach said.
The Cougars were interested in recruiting Beavers quarterback Jake Luton, but already had Hilinski in the fold, Leach said.
"At some point they are going to click and play well together," Leach said.
Oregon State's job got tougher this week when the Beavers learned that starting defensive backs Xavier Crawford and Dwayne Williams would miss the game with injuries.
Still, Andersen has faith in his system, despite his team losing both its games to FBS opponents this season.
"I know the plan works," Andersen said. "I've seen it work many, many times."
The Beavers are looking to better involve running back Ryan Nall in their offense, Andersen said.
"Ryan is our workhorse," Andersen said. "We want him to get more carries. We want him to get more yards."
Things to watch for:
QB DEPTH: Washington State got an unexpected look at its quarterback depth last week. It looks pretty good. Hilinski finished 25 of 33 for 240 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning 22-yard TD toss to Jamal Morrow in the third overtime.
FAMILY TIES: Washington State linebacker Peyton Pelluer was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the week after recording 14 tackles and returning an interception 36 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, a critical moment in the Cougars comeback. Pelluer was the first Washington State player honored as the defensive player of the week since Shalom Luani in 2015. Pelluer comes from a family of Washington State alums. His great grandfather (Carl Gustafson), grandfather (Arnie Pelluer) and father (Scott Pelluer) all played football at Washington State.
SECOND-HALF SLUMPS: The second half of games has not been pretty for Oregon State. The Beavers are being outscored 88-28 in the second half in three games this season. That includes last week when the Beavers were outscored 28-0 in the second half in a 48-17 loss to Minnesota. The problems in the last 30 minutes are a change from last season when it was the first half that was Oregon State's problem. The Beavers outscored opponents 167-161 in the second half and overtime last season.
TACKLING MACHINE: Oregon State freshman David Morris had 17 tackles last week against Minnesota. It was the most tackles by an Oregon State player since 2010 and only 10 players in school history have recorded more tackles in a game than Morris. Morris is one of three true freshmen that have made an early impression for the Beavers. Linebacker Kesi Ah-Hoy has 10 tackles in three games, while wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins is second on the team with 13 receptions.
DAYLIGHT: After opening the season with two games that started at 7:30 p.m., the Cougars finally get a day game. This one starts at 2:30 p.m. Pacific time.