The Cougars’ final road game of the season is against an Arizona State club that has lost four in a row after starting with five wins in six games.
GAME:Washington State (2-8 overall, 0-7 Pac-12) at Arizona State (5-5 overall, 3-4 Pac-12). WHEN: Saturday, noon PT, Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ. MEETING: 39th (Arizona State leads 23-13-2). COACHES: Mike Leach, WSU; Todd Graham, Arizona State. RANKINGS: Neither ranked. LINE: ASU by 14½. TV: Pac-12 Networks. RADIO: ESPN 710 and IMG College Sports Network.
Two investigations, one by Washington State, the other by the Pac-12 Conference, will shortly verify or reject ex-Cougas wide receiver Marquess Wilson’s allegations of physical and mental abuse of players by Mike Leach’s coaching staff. More imminently, the Cougars are 2-8 and looking at their fourth season of double-digit defeats since 2008.
But while many might see turmoil in the Palouse, Arizona State Coach Todd Graham sees something else — a vastly improved WSU team, regardless of its miserable record.
“You can tell the difference between where their system was four weeks ago to where it is now,” said Graham, whose Sun Devils host the Cougs Saturday afternoon in Sun Devil Stadium. “They came back (despite four blocked kicks) and gave UCLA a run for their money. You look at the Stanford game (24-17 WSU loss) and they’re sitting there in the red zone getting ready to score and tie the game up.
“They’re making great strides there, and it’s a very difficult offense to defend. They’re a very capable football team. I see a very capable offense that’s putting up 400 yards, as they did against Stanford and UCLA, two really good defenses. They play hard, these guys. Obviously defensively, their guys play extremely hard and extremely physical.
“We have to play well, and our guys know that. We’ve come up short four games in a row, and we have to go out and get the win. Our guys are going to be very motivated and focused and know that they’re playing a capable team.”
Arizona State spent the first month and a half of the season in the national rankings, winning five of six. The Sun Devils have since lost four consecutive games to fall to .500 (5-5). They need one win in their final two to become bowl eligible.
“Arizona State is a lot like us,” said Leach. “They play in spurts. The difference (in the first six games vs. the last four) is that their level of competition has changed (ASU’s four losses were to Oregon, UCLA, Oregon State and USC, all nationally ranked). Plus, they are probably getting thin, as teams do this time year. But they are still a really good team with a really good defense and some explosive skill guys.”
Leach has yet to name his starting quarterback. UCLA knocked senior Jeff Tuel out of last Saturday’s game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. But Tuel practiced this week and said he is fit to play. Conner Halliday, who replaced Tuel, threw five touchdown passes against the Bruins, trying a school record as the Cougars rallied from a 30-point deficit.
Halliday also had a monster game last year against Arizona State, throwing for 494 yards and four touchdowns.
For a program supposedly in turmoil, the Cougars certainly got UCLA coach Jim Mora’s attention last week. Asked how his club could blow a 30-point lead and lose the second half 27-7 to a 2-7 team, Mora said, “We did not lose intensity. Washington State fought their butts off the whole game.”
“Guys are buying into this program,” said Tuel. “We just need to bring it all four quarters and be nasty dudes who never give up. We know we can play with the best. We just have to find a way to mass produce it.”
SERIES: Dates to Oct. 1, 1960, when Arizona State recorded a 24-21 win in Tempe, AZ. ASU has won seven of the last eight meetings, but WSU won the last one, 37-27, last season behind Connor Halliday’s 494 yards and four touchdowns in Pullman. ASU won the last meeting in Tempe, 42-0, in 2010. WSU coach Mike Leach has never faced Arizona State.
WSU HEAD COACH: Mike Leach (87-49 overall, 2-8 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 78, Monroe 65, Long 58|
|Sacks||Long 9.5, Monroe 3.0, Mayes 2.5|
|Interceptions||Bucannon 4, Coen 3, 3 tied with 1|
|Passes Defensed||Bucannon 7, Coen 7, Long 5, Simmons 5|
|Forced Fumbles||Monroe 2, Palacio 2|
|Fumbles Recovered||Monroe, Locker, Coen 1|
Pac-12 Standings / North
|Oregon||10-0||7-0||Saturday vs. Stan., 5 p.m., ABC|
|Stanford||8-2||6-1||Saturday at Oregon, 5 p.m., ABC|
|Oregon St.||7-2||5-2||Saturday vs. Cal, 7:30 p.m., Pac-12|
|Washington||6-4||4-3||Saturday at Colo., 10:30 a.m., FX|
|California||3-8||2-6||Saturday at OSU, 7:30 p.m., Pac-12|
|WSU||2-8||0-7||Saturday at ASU, 12 p.m., Pac-12|
Pac-12 Standings / South
|UCLA||8-2||5-2||Saturday vs. USC, 12:05 p.m., TBD|
|USC||7-3||5-3||Saturday at UCLA, 12:05 p.m., TBD|
|Arizona||6-4||3-4||Saturday at Utah, 7 p.m., ESPNU|
|ASU||5-5||3-4||Saturday vs. WSU, 12 p.m., Pac-12|
|Utah||4-6||2-5||Saturday vs. Arizona, 7 p.m., ESPNU|
|Colorado||1-9||1-6||Saturday vs. UW, 10:30 a.m., FX|
ARIZONA STATE NOTES: Arizona State has defeated Northern Arizona (63-6), Illinois (45-14), Utah (37-7), California (27-17) and Colorado (51-7) and lost to Missouri (24-20), Oregon (43-21), UCLA (45-43), Oregon State (36-26) and USC (38-21) . . . Arizona State ranks 5th in the Pac-12 in scoring offense (35.0), T6 in scoring defense (24.7), 5th in total offense (437.0), 2nd in total defense (344.7), 5th in rushing offense (176.0), 9th in rushing defense (177.1), 6th in pass offense (261.0), 1st in pass defense (167.6) and 4th in pass efficiency (148.0) . . . The Arizona State roster includes three players from the state of Washington: TE Alex Bykovskiy (Federal Way), DT C.J. Ryan (Seattle) and S Chris Young (Seattle).
ASU HEAD COACH: Todd Graham is in his first year as head coach of the Sun Devils after working one year at Pittsburgh (2011), four years at Tulsa (2007-10) and a year at Rice (2006). Graham has taken his teams to five bowl games, including the 2005 Liberty, 2006 New Orleans, 2007-08 GMAC and 2010 Hawaii. Graham started his coaching career at East Central University in 1991. He graduated from East Central in 1987 and is a native of Mesquite, TX.
COMING UP: The Cougars return to Martin Stadium Saturday to play their final game, the Apple Cup against Washington.
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|