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WSU Vancouver students help usher in the Luke Falk era

Corvallis, Oregon: The air is finally cold.

Parking lots and roads, both paved and dirt, brimmed with a broad array of unique vehicles from two-door Toyotas to 30-foot-long RVs. The windows, doors and trunks of these makeshift rooter buses gaped open. Orange pageantry painted, hung and stuck in every possible crack and crevice of these makeshift sports bars. For miles surrounding the stadium, the orange clothing worn by Oregon State fans made the every road look like the rolling hills of a pumpkin patch speckled by the crimson of Cougar fans. This pre-game activity, formally known as “tailgating” was not affected by the dismal season of either team. The American football fan’s appetite for barbequed meat, thickly flavored coffee, beer, and, well… anything over 500 calories per serving would not allow something like whether their team was actually good at football deter them.

On this brisk Saturday afternoon, the Beavers were host to the Washington State University Cougars. A team that had just lost their quarterback to a season ending injury the week before, extending a streak of bad luck that they couldn’t seem to shake all year, or as some Cougar fans would argue, for the last decade.

The Cougars haven’t had a winning season in 11 years. They came close last year, going 6-6 in the regular season before losing in the New Mexico bowl to finish 6-7. They also finished 6-6 in 2006, but failed to qualify for a bowl game. It has been a long time since the WSU football program struck fear into anyone other than their own fans.

That day was no different as mediocrity collided on the AstroTurf of Reser Stadium. Late in the season, both teams found themselves meandering somewhere at the bottom of the PAC-12 standings, with only chronic bottom feeders University of Colorado and University of California to keep them company. Unlike the Cougars, the Beavers were 4-4 overall and although it would be difficult with a schedule that pitted them against two powerhouse teams at the end the season, they still had a chance to win six games and make a bowl bid.

With just under six minutes left in the first quarter the Cougars were down 0-10 and things look bleak. The Beavers had played an almost flawless first series and managed to clog the infamous WSU passing offense. Emerging from the shadow of injured senior Quarterback Connor Halliday comes Luke Falk. A walk-on redshirt freshman, calm and composed like he had been the starting quarterback all year. Falk lead the Cougars 75 yards down the field and found senior WR Isiah Myers for a five-yard reception touchdown. The Beaver fans fell silent, giving way to the sparse, yet passionate, Cougar fans that had made the trip to this part of Oregon. The majority of these rag-tag travelers had accumulated behind the west end zone, adjacent to the WSU bench.

One platoon of Cougar fans showed a level of intensity rivaled by none. A group of roughly 35 students from WSU Vancouver had risen early and drove an hour and a half up I-5 to attend one of the few Cougar games within 200 miles of campus. This group, sponsored by the Office of Student Involvement didn’t seem to notice the icy air that made their cheeks match the crimson red attire that covered them head to toe. Mike Ross, digital technology and culture major and self-titled “hardcore Coug fan,” inspired pandemonium from enthusiastic WSU Vancouver students, leading them in a variety of different chants and waving any Cougar themed garment he could find above his head. Small but resilient, they never backed down against the overpowering home crowd and their belated pumpkin costumes.

“It has been an absolute blast, a lot of these students didn’t even know each other when they got on the bus this morning but now it’s like we’re all best friends,” said Student Activities Board member Carly Lowder with a laugh. “The bus trip sold out really quick, but I would still encourage students to make the trip for these games even if they don’t come with the one we organized; because we’re in Vancouver, we don’t really see this kind of school spirit. Coming to these game really gives you some Coug pride.”

Seldom attending games seemed to have no effect on the VanCougs that occupied section 126 of Reser stadium as their cheers, chants and boos could keep pace with any veteran fan base. They never sat down, and most importantly, never shut up; helping the Cougars to a 39-32 win on what turned out to be a perfect blustery afternoon, for November football.

For the Cougar football team, winning only their third game of the year came with an extra dose of encouragement, as their first time starting quarterback threw for 471 yards and five touchdowns. The Luke Falk era has officially begun; he seems a perfect fit for an offense that allowed his predecessor to lead all of college football in passing yards until his season ending injury and helped him to fourth all-time in the PAC-12.

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