Three touchdown passes from Luke Falk, who became the Pac-12’s all-time leader in scoring throws, helped Washington State seize control of the North Division with a 33-25 victory over the Utah Utes at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City Saturday (box). The Cougars improved to 9-2, 6-2 and hold the tiebreaker, a head-to-head win over Stanford (7-3, 6-2).
The Cougars, with a bye next week, need a win over Washington in the Apple Cup to reach the Pac-12 title game.
Falk has 29 touchdown passes this season and a career total of 118, breaking the record of 116 held by Matt Barkley of USC. Falk holds every Pac-12 career passing record of consequence.
The Cougars produced seven takeaways — four picks and three fumble recoveries. Hercules Mata’Afa, the favorite to win Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, dominated. In the first half, he had three sacks, recovered a fumble and blew up a Utah reverse for a 15-yard loss as Washington State rolled to a 20-10 lead.
Falk had an 11-yard TD to Tarvares Martin Jr., a one-yard TD to Kyle Sweet and a six-yard TD to Isaiah Johnson-Mack. Falk, who has three touchdown passes in a game 22 times, completed 40 of 69 passes for 311 yards with two interceptions. He found nine receivers, including Martin 10 times for 64 yards and Johnson-Mack seven times for 54.
Washington State ran 17 times for 27 yards, 22 by Jamal Morrow.
Erik Powell kicked four field goals, connecting from 44, 32, 28 and 33 yards. Powell also had four field goals against Oregon.
The Cougars had fewer total yards (338) than Utah (367), but had five fewer turnovers and went 10-for-21 on third downs.
Washington State generated 16 points off turnovers, forcing three on Utah’s first four possessions. The interceptions were by Hunter Dale, Jalen Thompson, Robert Taylor and Chima Onyeukwu, the latter grabbing QB Tyler Huntley’s Hail Mary with 58 seconds remaining to seal the WSU win. The Cougars had seven sacks.
The seven turnovers forced by WSU were the most since also forcing seven against UCLA in 2003 (3 picks, four fumble recoveries).
The Cougars matched their season high with 11 tackles for loss (also vs. Oregon and Stanford). The seven sacks were the most since seven against Oregon in 2014.
Mata’afa has 21.5 tackles for loss, tied with Rien Long for second-most in WSU history.
Ranked No. 19 by the Associated Press last week, Washington State is 9-2 for the first time since 2003 . . . The Cougars snapped a two-game road losing streak (at California and at Arizona) . . . Washington State has an 8-7 series lead, including three wins in a row . . . Falk, a native of Logan, played his first collegiate game in his home state. He did not see action in 2014 when the Cougars beat the Utes 28-27 in Salt Lake City.
The Cougars have a bye, then play Washington in the Apple Cup Saturday, Nov. 25 at Husky Stadium.