Two of the most prolific passing attacks in the college nation will meet in Utah Thursday when new Washington State coach Mike Leach unleashes his “Air Raid” offense against Brigham Young.
GAME: Washington State (4-8-0, 2-7-0, Pac-12, 2011) at BYU (10-3-0, 10-3-0, Independent, 2011). WHEN: Thursday, 7:15 p.m. PT, LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT. MEETING: 4th (BYU leads 2-1). COACHES: Mike Leach, WSU; Bronco Mendenhall: Brigham Young. RANKINGS: Both unranked. LINE: BYU by 12. TV: ESPN. RADIO: ESPN 710 and IMG College Sports Network.
The Mike Leach era at Washington State begins, oddly enough, at his alma mater, Brigham Young University, in a nationally televised contest. A 1983 BYU graduate who played rugby (not football), Leach never coached in the Mormon program, but spent years studying legendary coach LaVell Edwards.
Leach inherits, from the deposed Paul Wulff, a team that won four games last year and allowed 31.8 points per game. But Leach also will benefit from the return of the second-most prolific passing attack in the Pac-12, one that averaged 322.3 yards in large part due to junior WR Marquess Wilson, a second-team All-Pac-12 selection who led the conference with 115.7 yards receiving yards per game. Wilson’s 12 TDs ranked second in the Pac-12.
Wilson enters the 2012 season as the Pac-12’s active career leader in receiving yards with 2,394, good for No. 47 all-time in Pac-12 history. Wilson already was named to CBSSports.com Preseason All-America first team and the SI.com Preseason All-America second team.
Senior QB Jeff Tuel returns to the Cougars after injuries kept him out of nine games in 2011. Tuel started 12 games for WSU as a sophomore in 2010, throwing for 2,780 yards and 18 touchdowns. He posted 10 200-yard passing games. Tuel has been named to The Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award watch list.
In the event Tuel falters, Leach can turn to promising sophomore Connor Halliday, who passed for 960 yards and nine touchdowns in four games last year
In their WSU careers, Tuel and Wilson collaborated for 61 receptions for 1,097 yards and seven touchdowns.
Given the success that Leach had at Texas Tech (84-43 record, 10 bowl bids) and his installation of his wildly effective “Air Raid” offense into the WSU program, expectations are that the Cougars will develop into one of the most improved teams in the Pac-12. But even Leach admitted this week that winning on the road at BYU presents a formidable task.
“They (BYU) are a good team, like they always are,” said Leach. “They play hard, have a lot of seniors, are well coached and, of course, they have a great tradition and play in a great setting. They’re just a good, solid team.”
The main concern for the “Red Cougars” (vs. the “Blue Cougars,” as Leach refers to BYU), is quarterback Riley Nelson, who threw for 1,717 yards and 19 touchdowns last year while sharing time with former Skyline High quarterback Jake Heaps. Nelson, who had a 152.93 efficiency rating to Heaps’ 110.98, played so well that Heaps transferred to Kansas.
“BYU is really good on offense,” said Leach. “They’ve got a quarterback (Nelson) that runs around a little bit, and you’ve always got to worry about explosiveness and big plays. We want to get turnovers and put pressure on the quarterback. I don’t know how fast he (Nelson) is, but he moves his feet and he can get out of the pocket. We just have to play consistently and steadily because they have a lot of weapons.”
An independent for the first time in 2011, the “Blue Cougars” won 10, averaging 30.1 points while holding opponents to 20.4. BYU played two Pac-12 schools last year, losing to Utah 54-10 and defeating Oregon State 38-28. BYU ended its season with a 24-21 victory over Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl.
RIVALRY: WSU and BYU have met three times in a series that dates to the 1981 Holiday Bowl. Led by Jim McMahon’s three TD passes in his final collegiate game, BYU posted a 38-36 victory. In 1989, the teams combined for more than 1,000 yards in offense while WSU received a four-touchdown performance by Steve Broussard en route to a 46-41 road victory. In 1990, also played in Provo, both offenses again put on a show but Brigham Young picked up a 50-36 win behind Ty Detmer’s 448 yards and five TD passes.
WSU HEAD COACH: Mike Leach: Washington State hired Leach Nov. 30, 2011 to replace Paul Wulff, who went 9-40 in four seasons. In 10 seasons as a head coach, all at Texas Tech (2000-09), Leach’s teams earned 10 bowl bids. In addition, the Susanville, CA., native, who was raised in Cody, WY., recorded a school-record 84 victories. Leach’s offenses led the nation in passing six times and three times accumulated the most total yards. In 2009, the Red Raiders finished second in passing offense and fourth in total offense with both marks tops among BCS conference schools. Prior to coaching at Texas Tech, Leach spent one season as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma (1999). That year, the Sooners set six Big 12 and 17 school records.
WSU STATS / NOTES
WSU TWO DEEPS
X: MARQUESS WILSON, Dominique Williams; Y: ANDREI LINTZ, Gino Simone; LT: JOHN FULLINGTON, Gunnar Eklund; LG: WADE JACOBSON, Matt Goetz; C: ELLIOT BOSCH, Zach Brevick; RG: JAKE RODGERS, Matt Goetz; RT: DAN SPITZ, Jake Rodgers; H: RICKEY GALVIN, Bobby Ratliff; Z: GABE MARKS, Isiah Myers; QB: JEFF TUEL, Connor Halliday.
T: XAVIER COOPER, Steven Hoffart; NT: IOANE GUATA, Kalafitoni Pole; E: ADAM COERPER, Matthew Bock; BUCK: TRAVIS LONG, Logan Mayes; SAM: ERIC OERTEL, Cyrus Coen; MIKE: DARRYL MONROE, Jared Byers; WILL: CHESTER SU’A, Justin Sagote; CB: NOLAN WASHINGTON, Daniel Simmons; SS: DEONE BUCANNON, Anthony Carpenter; FS: TAYLOR TALIULU, Tyree Toomer; CB: DAMANTE HORTON, Tracy Clark.
PK: ANDREW FURNEY, Michael Bowlin. P: MICHAEL BOWLIN, Andrew Furney. KR: LEON BROOKS, Theron West. PR: LEON BROOKS, Theron West. LS: ALEX DEN BLEYKER. HLD: DAVID GILBERTSON.
COUGARS OFFENSIVE LEADERS (2011)
COUGARS DEFENSIVE LEADERS (2011)
|Tackles||Hoffman-Ellis 88, Bucannon 80, Toomer 60|
|Sacks||Long 4, Rankin 2.5, two with 2|
|Interceptions||Horton 4, Bucannon 3|
|Passes Defensed||Bucannon 4, Washington 4, Hoffman-Ellis 3|
|Forced Fumbles||Mizell 2, Horton 2|
|Fumbles Recovered||Mizell 2, many with 1|
BRIGHAM YOUNG: Bronco Mendenhall and the Cougars have won five consecutive season openers, all but one over a BCS program . . . BYU opens against a Pac-12 opponent under Mendenhall for the fourth time. Mendenhall is 2-1 . . . Senior quarterback Riley Nelson follows a great QB tradition. The last 11 senior BYU quarterbacks have put together a 117-23-2 record since 1977, a winning percentage of .831. Thats an average of almost 11 wins per season. Notable among those seniors, Steve Sarkisian led BYU to an NCAA record 14 victories in 1996. Ty Detmer and Kevin Feterik tied for the lowest win total in a senior season, still nabbing eight victories apiece . . . BYU wide receiver Cody Hoffman has a reception streak of 19 consecutive games, the 21st longest streak in the nation. . . . Both schools have at least one player on the following award watch lists: Biletnikoff (WR – BYU Hoffman/WSU Wilson), Butkus (LB – BYU Kaveinga/WSU Long), Lombardi (Line or LB – BYU Hansen, Van Noy/WSU Long), Maxwell (Outstanding Player – BYU QB Nelson/WSU WR Wilson), Nagurski (Best Defensive Player – BYU Van Noy/WSU Long), Davey OBrien (QB – BYU Nelson/ WSU Tuel) . . . BYU also has players on these watch lists: Doak Walker (RB – Alisa), Outland (Lineman – OL Hansen) and Ray Guy (P – Stephenson) while Washington State features a Lou Groza candidate (PK – Furney).
BYU HEAD COACH Bronco Mendenhall: Mendenhall has served as head coach of the Cougars since 2005. He joined the staff in 2003 and worked as defensive coordinator from 2003-04. Prior to joining BYU, Mendenhall worked as an assistant head coach at the University of New Mexico. He has also coached at Oregon State (1989-90, 1995-96), Snow (UT.) College (1991-92), Northern Arizona (1993-94) and Louisiana Tech (1997).
COMING UP: WSU will host Eastern Washington Saturday, Sept. 8 at noon in Martin Stadium. The Cougars play their first Pac-12 game Sept. 22 vs. Colorado.
Washington State 2012 Schedule/Results
|Date||Opponent||WSU Rnk||Opp Rnk||W/L||Score||Rec.|
|9/8/12||vs. E. Wash||—||—||—||—||—|