PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State quarterback Luke Falk said the Air Raid offense is a sight to behold when it’s clicking.
It was clicking on Saturday against Nevada.
Falk threw for 478 yards and five touchdowns, and No. 18 Washington State beat Nevada 45-7 for the team’s best start in 16 years.
“This offense can be a beautiful thing,” said Falk, who completed 36 of 47 passes and was not intercepted.
Washington State (4-0), which opened the 2001 season by winning its first seven games, piled up 560 yards of offense and five sacks.
Nevada, which also runs the Air Raid, was held to 151 total yards as the Wolf Pack (0-4) fell to 0-17 on the road against opponents in the Top 25. Nevada came in as a 28-point underdog.
Washington State led 35-0 at halftime.
“I thought it was a really good first half,” said coach Mike Leach, who improved to 33-34 in his sixth season at Washington State. “There were too many loose ends in the second half.”
“It was a good overall game,” Leach added. “We improved on yards after the catch and making people miss.”
Nevada coach Jay Norvell felt his team was overmatched by the Cougars of the Pac-12.
“This is the first game where I felt that we didn’t handle the physical matchup on the defensive line,” he said.
“Overall we didn’t mount much of a charge offensively to get us back into the game,” Norvell said. “I was disappointed about that.”
A 52-yard pass from Falk to Tavares Martin Jr. set up Falk’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Morrow in the first quarter as Washington State took a 7-0 lead.
Falk’s shovel pass to James Williams went for 13 yards and a touchdown to put the Cougars ahead 14-0. It was the 100th touchdown pass of Falk’s career, passing Matt Leinart of Southern Cal for third in Pac-12 history.
“I think that’s a great team thing,” Falk said. “It is humbling.”
Nevada went three-and-out on its first three possessions and produced only seven yards of offense in the first quarter. Starting quarterback Kaymen Cureton was replaced by David Cornwell, but it didn’t help much.
Martin caught a short pass from Falk and turned it into a 40-yard touchdown early in the second quarter for a 21-0 lead.
Williams ran for a touchdown and Jamire Calvin added a 6-yard touchdown reception before halftime.
Falk hit Martin for a 19-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Maliek Broady ran 3 yards for Nevada’s first touchdown with 1:56 left in the game.
LABORS OF HERCULES
Washington State defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa sacked Cureton on the first play of the game and had 2 ½ sacks on Nevada’s first two possessions. “We’re hungrier this year,” Mata’afa said of the WSU defense. “We want to take the ball away from the offense.”
Nevada finished with 46 rushing yards and 105 passing yards. “We’ve got to find a quarterback that’s going to make the right decisions for us, put us in the right plays,” Norvell said.
For Washington State, Martin caught four passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Renard Bell caught four passes for 113 yards. “He’s one of those guys that brings spark to the offense when we need it,” Martin said of Bell.
The rebuilding project at Nevada under Norvell is starting slowly, with previous losses to Northwestern, Toledo and Idaho State.
Washington State has finished the easiest part of its schedule, and the competition gets much tougher now.
Nevada opens Mountain West play at Fresno State next Saturday.
Washington State hosts No. 5 Southern California next Friday night in a battle of unbeatens and their biggest challenge of the young season. It will be the fifth straight home game for the Cougars, who have yet to play on the road.
Washington State looks to move up.