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Arizona vs. Washington State: Five Cougars who look to make an impact

Luke Falk and company look to keep Wazzu perfect in conference play

Washington State v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Washington State Cougars are a perfect 5-0 in Pac-12 Conference play. This comes after losing their first two games of the year to FCS team Eastern Washington and Boise State.

The Cougars are rolling now and are set to host the Arizona Wildcats in Pullman on Saturday. They will look to keep that perfect conference record intact while the ‘Cats are looking for their first conference win.

Let’s take a look at some Cougar players who will look to have great performances on Saturday.

Luke Falk, QB (#4)

2016 Stats: 286-for-394, 2926 yds, 24 TD, 5 INT

Falk has been outstanding once again this year. He leads the nation in passing efficiency, completing 72.6% of his passes. He is also third in the nation in passing yards with 2,926.

With the “Air Raid” style of Wazzu’s offense, it is common for Falk to throw for 400+ (even 500+) yards in a game. He is patient in the pocket and isn’t afraid to stand in the pocket and take a hit, as long as he can complete the pass. His patience is one big reason he has so many completed passes.

Gabe Marks, WR (#9)

2016 Stats: 56 rec, 554 yds, 9 TD

Marks is one of the best receivers in the Pac-12, if not the nation. He has really good hands and runs crisp, clean routes. He leads Wazzu in receptions (54), receiving yards (554), and receiving touchdowns (9).

He is Wazzu’s biggest weapon on the outside. He is able to find holes in defenses and has the hands to reel in passes without many drops. He has a toughness about him as well and can (and will) take hits. This is someone the Arizona secondary has to shut down.

River Cracraft, WR (#21)

2016 Stats: 42 rec, 524 yds, 1 TD

Cracraft is another Cougar headache for secondaries. He’s second on the team in receptions with 42 and in receiving yards with 524.

He works out of the slot and is another crisp route runner. He definitely plays with a lot of emotion and is tough as nails. He is a favored target by Falk and must be contained by the Wildcats in order to take away Falk’s check down throw.

Hercules Mata’afa, DL (#50)

2016 Stats: 30 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks

Mata’afa is another monster along the defensive line that Arizona’s o-line will have to face. He leads Wazzu in sacks and TFLs, with 3.0 and 9.5 respectively. He is a force to be reckoned with.

The crazy thing is he is only a redshirt sophomore. He has a quickness about him and can shed blocks with ease. He is also incredibly strong for his size of 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds. Arizona’s offensive line has to communicate and play consistently in order to slow Mata’afa down and give the quarterbacks a chance.

Shalom Luani, S (#18)

2016 Stats: 34 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 1.0 sack, 3 INT, 3 PBU

Luani is a hard-hitting safety who plays with energy. He is a sideline-to-sideline player and his stats show it. He leads the team with three interceptions and is second in TFLs (7.5). He plays the pass and the run rather well and can be used as a pass rusher.

Expect Luani to fly all over the field on Saturday. Depending who plays quarterback for Arizona will probably depend on his role. If it’s Brandon Dawkins, I would expect more of a QB spy role for Luani. If it’s Anu Solomon, he may be used in more of a pass rush role. Either way, he will be an integral part of Wazzu’s defense.