In his Seattle debut, coach Mike Leach has formidable twin tasks: Getting his Cougars to focus for 60 minutes, and keeping the Oregon Ducks to 60 points.
GAME: Oregon (4-0 overall, 1-0 Pac-12) at Washington State (2-2 overall, 0-1 Pac-12). WHEN: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. PT, CenturyLink Field. MEETING: 90th (Oregon leads 44-38-7). COACHES: Chip Kelly, Oregon; Mike Leach, WSU. RANKINGS: Oregon 2 AP, 2 USA Today. LINE: Oregon by 30 1/2. TV: ESPN2. RADIO: ESPN 710 and IMG College Sports Network.
The Washington State Cougars are convinced that if they could maintain focus for all 60 minutes of a football game, they could become a force in the Pac-12 Conference. Since they can’t, a fact glaringly obvious last Saturday when WSU snoozed in the fourth quarter, frittered away a big lead, and lost to cupcake Colorado, bookies have installed Oregon as a 30 1/2-point favorite.
“We don’t have a lot of control over what the Oregon Ducks do,” said WSU coach Mike Leach. “We have a lot of control over what we do and how we approach things mentally, how we think about things. Right now, we’re just a team that operates in spurts.
“We need to be a team that embraces tight, tough competition. We need to string things together for 60 minutes. We play hard and together selectively, and that’s crazy. The notion that we can squander plays is crazy. We have the ability to do things well, but we need to do them for a longer period of time. I’m sure we’ll work through this. We just have to keep pounding away.”
Converted linebacker Travis Long, already with 6.5 sacks, spoke this week on behalf of Washington State’s defense.
“We need to be more excited when we play,” he said. “We need to keep our heads in the game.”
Quarterback Connor Halliday spoke on behalf of the offense.
“Our offense is dying for someone to lead it,” said Halliday. “Nobody is leading the offense right now and somebody has to step up.”
It would help the Cougars immensely if they didn’t have to start their mental rehab against the Ducks, who lead the Pac-12 in scoring offense at 52.8 points per game. Washington State, losers of five in a row to Oregon, has the conference’s 12th-ranked defense.
“Oregon is very sound defensively, they give you a bunch of different looks,” said Halliday. “The defense is fast and they give you a bunch of things you have to prepare for. I have an idea of what they’re going to do, but having an idea of what they’re going to do is a lot different than being on the field and dealing with that speed.”
It’s clear that coaches and players would prefer playing at Martin Stadium in Pullman.
“It’s not a true home game,” complained Halliday. “It’s frustrating we don’t get to play the game in Martin Stadium. I wish all of our games were here (Pullman). I don’t see why we have to go someplace else to play a home game.”
SERIES: Dates to Nov. 9, 1901, when WSU won 16-0. The series has been dominated by Oregon in recent years, winning the past five meetings seven of the past eight. Last season, the Cougars kept it close, trailing just 15-10 at halftime, before the Ducks received two long touchdowns from De’Anthony Thomas in the second half to register a 43-28 victory in Eugene.
THE SEATTLE GAME: Once known at the Cougar Gridiron Classic, “The Seattle Game” has the Cougars facing a conference opponent for just the second time. WSU will be making its 10th appearance at the home field of the Seahawks, a series that started in 2002 with WSU hosting Nevada in the first football game played in the then-new stadium. WSU beat the Wolf Pack and defeated Idaho (2003), Grambling (2005), Baylor (2006) and San Diego State (2007). Since 2002, the Cougars are 5-4 at CenturyLink. In last season’s contest, Oregon State recorded a 44-21 victory in front of 49,219 fans.
WSU HEAD COACH: Mike Leach (87-43 overall, 2-2 WSU): Hired Nov. 30, 2011 to replace Paul Wulff, who went 9-40 in four seasons, Leach in 10 seasons at Texas Tech (2000-09) earned 10 bowl bids. 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, both marks tops among BCS conference schools. Prior to 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
COUGARS OFFENSIVE LEADERS
COUGARS DEFENSIVE LEADERS
|Tackles||Bucannon 32, Long 27, Monroe 26, Byers 18|
|Sacks||Long 6.5, Mayes 2.0, Monroe 2.0|
|Interceptions||Bucannon, Coen, Toomer, Simmons, 1|
|Passes Defensed||Washington, Bucannon, Coen, 3|
|Forced Fumbles||Monroe 2, six players with 1|
|Fumbles Recovered||Monroe, Locker 1|
Pac-12 Standings / North
|Oregon||4-0||1-0||Oct. 6 vs. Washington, 7:30 p.m., ESPN|
|Stanford||3-0||1-0||Oct. 6 vs. Arizona, 7:30 p.m., ESPN|
|Oregon St.||2-0||1-0||Saturday at Arizona, 7 p.m., Pac-12|
|Washington||2-1||0-0||Oct. 6 at Oregon, 7:30 p.m. ESPN|
|WSU||2-2||0-1||Oct. 6 at Oregon State, 4 p.m., Pac-12|
|California||1-3||0-1||Saturday vs. ASU, 1 p.m., FX|
Pac-12 Standings / South
|ASU||3-1||1-0||Saturday at Cal, 1 p.m., FX|
|Colorado||1-3||1-0||Saturday vs. UCLA, 3 p.m., Pac-12|
|USC||3-1||1-1||Oct. 4 at Utah, 6 p.m., ESPN|
|Arizona||3-1||0-1||Saturday vs. OSU, 7 p.m., Pac-12|
|UCLA||3-1||0-1||Saturday at Colorado, 3 p.m., Pac-12|
|Utah||2-2||0-1||Oct. 4 vs. USC, 6 p.m., ESPN|
OREGON NOTES: The Ducks lead the Pac-12 in scoring offense at 52.8 ppg and are fifth in scoring defense (18.2), second in total offense (571.0), seventh in total defense (351.0), first in rushing offense (303.8), seventh in rushing defense (140.2), sixth passing offense (267.2), third in pass defense (210.8) and second in pass efficiency (154.9) . . . RB Kenjon Barner is fourth in the Pac-12 with 102.5 yards per game and two other Ducks are also in the top 10, D. Thomas (69.0) and Byron Marshall (66.3) . . . QB Marcus Mariota ranks seventh in the conference with 233.5 passing yards per game. Mariota also ranks second in pass efficiency at 165.2 and sixth in total offense at 264.8 yards per game.
OREGON HEAD COACH: Chip Kelly (37-6-0) is in his fourth season as head coach of the Ducks and has guided Oregon to three consecutive conference championships. A native of Manchester, NH., Kelly began his coaching career at Columbia in 1990 and subsequently coached at Johns Hopkins and New Hampshire before becoming Oregon’s offensive coordinator in 2007. Since his elevation to head coach, Kelly has won a variety of awards including the 2009 and 2010 Pac-10 Coach of the Year, 2010 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year, 2010 Walter Camp Coach of the Year, 2010 Sporting News Coach of the Year and 2010 Associated Press Coach of the Year. Kelly has coached the Ducks to two Rose Bowls (2009, 2011) and to the BCS national title game (2010).
COMING UP: The Cougars will play at Martin Stadium Oct. 6 vs. Oregon State.
Washington State 2012 Schedule/Results
|Date||Opponent||WSU Rnk||Opp Rnk||W/L||Score||Rec.|
|9/8/12||vs. E. Wash||—||—||W||24-20||1-1|