Growing up, Gabe Marks used to watch Michael Crabtree light up the Big 12 on Mike Leach’s old Texas Tech teams, and the thought of doing the same things in the same offense was not a small factor in his decision to play for Leach at Washington State.
“He was the best college receiver ever. … He had some really disgusting statistics,” Marks said of Crabtree.
While it’s cruel to compare any receiver to Crabtree, the only player to win two Biletnikoff awards (as a redshirt freshman and sophomore, no less), Marks is putting up some pretty impressive numbers in his own right.
After setting a school record with four touchdown catches in Saturday’s 45-42 win at Arizona, Marks leads the Pac-12 in catches (57) and touchdown receptions (10), and is second in receiving yards (717).
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While it’s unlikely Marks will approach the 1,962 yards and 22 touchdown catches that Crabtree put up as a redshirt freshman, the 1,165 yards and 19 touchdowns the Texas Tech receiver caught as a sophomore are in play.
And, hey, Crabtree won a Biletnikoff that season, too.
Both Leach and Marks understandably push back against comparisons between the WSU junior and Crabtree.
“He’s good, he was the best. I’m just trying to make some plays,” Marks said.
Said Leach: “(Marks) does a good job catching the ball. … I think he’s still steadily improving as player. Michael Crabtree, you’re talking about a guy that won two Biletnikoff awards, so that’s pretty tough company.”
The most important comparison, of course, is the impact the receivers had on their respective teams. In 2008, Crabtree was the catalyst for Texas Tech’s best season since 1973 and scored the winning touchdown over rival Texas, the No. 1-ranked team in the country at the time.
Marks, who did not play last year during the Cougars’ 3-9 season, has been a key contributor to the turnaround WSU (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) appears to be undergoing.
Apparently WSU fans’ devotion to waving the Cougars flag — known as Ol’ Crimson — at 171 consecutive “GameDay” shows couldn’t persuade ESPN to bring “College GameDay” to Pullman for the game on Halloween against eighth-ranked Stanford.
“This was the toughest call we had to make in my 12-year tenure producing the show. There were two schools that ‘College GameDay’ has not visited, in addition to having great seasons,” producer Lee Fitting of “GameDay” told KREM-2 News. “In this case, the ‘ranked vs. ranked’ matchup gave Philly the edge. Ol’ Crimson has been such a part of the ‘GameDay’ fabric over the years — we vow to get to Pullman one day.”
The decision by ESPN, which opted to go to Philadelphia for the matchup between No. 21 Temple vs. No. 9 Notre Dame, had little impact on WSU’s players.
“I don’t think we would have paid any attention to it. I think that’s more for the fans and probably for them that’s disappointing, but it doesn’t change our approach to anything,” quarterback Luke Falk said. “ We’ve got practice tomorrow and we’ll go with the same mentality we had last week and the week before that, and just try to constantly improve.”
Asked if he planned on using the snub as motivation, Leach said: “Probably won’t be on my list of things. … I try to narrow it down to a few; I try not to have too many things going. Our biggest thing is going to be focus on ourselves, be the best team we can be.”
On Monday, Falk earned Pac-12 offensive player of the week recognition for his performance in the WSU’s win over Arziona. Falk, who has won the award three times in his career, completed 47 of 62 passes for 514 yards and five touchdowns. … Kickoff for WSU’s Nov. 7 home game against Arizona State is 12:30 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
The Moscow-Pullman Daily News contributed to this report.
SATURDAY: Stanford (5-1, 4-0 Pac-12) at WSU (5-2, 3-1), 7:30 p.m., ESPN, 710-AM