PULLMAN, Wash. -- Some things we learned about the Cardinal in their 44-14 win over Washington State.
The tight ends are game changers: We knew they were good -- if not great. But Saturday night they literally changed the game. In the second half, the trio of Zach Ertz, Coby Fleener and Levine Toilolo were nearly unstoppable, combining for nine catches, 204 yards and three of Andrew Luck's four second half touchdowns. After an attempt to get the wide receivers more involved in the first half failed, coach David Shaw and Co. turned back to the big men, who didn’t disappoint.
Whalen can be a No. 1: In the absence of Chris Owusu, who left the game in the first quarter with a concussion, Griff Whalen stepped up and had another very productive game for the second week in a row. He caught a team high seven balls for 76 yards and provided excellent blocking for the running backs and down the field when he wasn’t the primary target. He’s big-time, but in his own little way.
Even Luck can have a bad game: This one wasn’t his best, at least the first half. Some of the pin-point throws we’re used to seeing from him missed their mark. The interception -- though coach David Shaw said wide receiver Jamal-Rashad Patterson should have given better effort -- was not a well-thrown ball. And still, despite his worst first half of the season, he rallied in the second half and threw four touchdowns and finished 23-of-36 for 336 yards. Bad never looked so good.
Defense = awesome: Saturday was a night when the offense needed the defense to be better than them. And they were, sacking Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel five times, while Marshall Lobbestael was sacked once. They came up with a fumble return that eventually led to a touchdown. More importantly, they backed up the offense when it turned the ball over twice in the first half. Game balls for the entire ‘D.’
Shaw isn’t a robot: Despite his very even-keeled demeanor, Shaw can get mad. In fact, he was livid at the officials (and justifiably so) when no penalty was called on the Owusu hit that knocked him from game after there appeared to be contact to his head. Shaw stormed up and down the sidelines screaming at any official that will listen. This was by far the most angered and animated we’ve seen him get during his six-game tenure as a head coach. If you’re going to blow your lid, do it for a good cause. And Shaw’s cause appeared to be just.