BY SPNW Staff 07:00AM 09/14/2013

Cougars draw Big Sky newbie for home opener

The Cougars, 1-1 after knocking off No. 25 USC Saturday in Los Angeles, pick on Southern Utah State, which finished 4-4 in its first Big Sky Conference season last year.

The Cougars  play their first game of the season in renovated Martin Stadium, hosting Southern Utah of the Big Sky Conference. / Wiki Commons

GAME: Southern Utah State (2-0 overall, 0-0 Big Sky) at Washington State (1-1 overall, 1-0 Pac-12). WHEN: Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Martin Stadium. MEETING: 1st. COACHES: Mike Leach, Washington State; Ed Lamb, Southern Utah State. RANKINGS: Neither school ranked. LINE: No Line. TV: Fox Sports 1. RADIO: KTTH 770 AM.

It isn’t a best-case scenario, but Washington State’s 1-1 start is a surprise given their back-to-back road trips to Auburn and USC to begin the 2013 season. Put into context, it was probably more than most crimson-clad supporters could have asked for. The eastern side of the state is still basking in the glow of the Cougars’ 10-7 win last week against the then-No. 25 Trojans in the LA Coliseum. It was arguably WSU’s biggest conference road win since an Alex Brink-led Cougars team dismantled the Bruins 37-15 at the Rose Bowl in 2006.

The seven years of futility that followed should help WSU avoid taking for granted an FCS opponent. That will be the biggest challenge when the Cougars meet Southern Utah for their home opener. The Cougars were originally scheduled to play BYU in the second leg of a home-and-home series, but opted in the off-season to sub in the Thunderbirds of the Big Sky Conference to soften a schedule that would have been as difficult as any in the country.

Not that Southern Utah is a total pushover. They scared Cal in 2012, but eventually lost 50-31. They beat Eastern Washington, a team that nearly knocked off the Cougars in last season’s home opener. Their games this season, a 22-21 win against South Alabama and a 49-0 win against Fort Lewis, provided evidence of a team with decent talent and toughness.

By mid-week, roughly 3,000 tickets remained for a game that will give QB Connor Halliday his best chance to improve on his 1-5 TD-INT mark, a ratio that doesn’t bode well for a team that will throw 60 times a game. Against the Trojans, Halliday threw two egregious interceptions and lost a fumble.

All three shared one commonality: Halliday was under duress. He needs to show better decision-making under pressure and avoid throwing off his back foot. He should get a chance to fix things against an FCS opponent ill-equipped to handle WSU’s depth at wide receiver or the defensive line.

Given that Idaho is visiting Martin Stadium next week, a win against Southern Utah would make a 3-1 start a foregone conclusion.

Changes at Martin Stadium:

Fans attending will see construction in the west end zone of Martin Stadium, as crews continue work on the $61 million football operations building. WSU removed the scoreboard from that end of the field and replaced it with a bigger, higher resolution version above stands in the east end zone.

To deal with construction, WSU has closed the west end of the stadium. Fans can no longer enter through Gate I, which was the main student entrance. The university is encouraging students to enter through Gate A next to the Cougar Pride statue at the stadium’s northeast end.

SERIES: Washington State and Southern Utah State have never met in football. SUU’s only game against a Pac-12 school occurred last season at Cal, where the T-Birds dropped a 51-30 decision.

WSU HEAD COACH: Mike Leach (88-53 overall, 4-10 WSU): Hired Nov. 30, 2011 to replace Paul Wulff, who went 9-40 in four seasons, Leach’s 2012 Cougars led the Pac-12 in passing at 330.4 yards per game and finished the season by beating Washington in the Apple Cup. In 10 seasons at Texas Tech (2000-09), Leach 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

  • SEASON SUMMARY: Record: 1-1. Home: 0-0. Road: 1-1. Neutral: 0-0. Vs. Pac-12: 1-0. Vs. Pac-12 North: 0-0. Vs. Pac-12 South: 1-0. Vs. Non-Conference: 0-1.
  • Points For: 34 (17.0). Rushing Yards Per Game: 63.5. Passing Yards Per Game: 279.5. Total Offense Per Game: 343.0.
  • Points Against: 38 (19.0). Opp. Rushing Yards Per Game: 218.0. Opp. Passing Yards Per Game: 76.5. Total Defense Per Game: 294.5.
  • Senior cornerback Damante Horton was named the Pac-12 Conference Defensive Player of the Week following his two-interception performance in last Saturday’s win at No. 25 USC. Horton led a WSU secondary that held All-America receiver Marqise Lee in check: seven catches for 27 yards. He added four tackles, including a career-best two tackles-for-loss for a combined 12 yards.
  •  WSU is 78-34-3 all-time in home openers, including games in Pullman, Spokane and Seattle. Since 1990, the Cougars boast a 16-7 record in home debuts, and are 26-12 dating back to 1975. WSU beat Eastern Washington 24-20 in the opener last season.
  • Dating to a 34-0 victory over Montana in 1903, the Cougars have played 45 games against teams currently in the Big Sky Conference. WSU is 43-2, including 19 shutouts, and has not lost to a team currently in the Big Sky in more than 60 years. The Cougars have won 16 straight against Big Sky schools since a 13-12 road loss to Montana in 1947.
  • The Cougars are 28-0 when playing a current Big Sky school in Pullman following last season’s 24-20 victory over Eastern Washington. Since the formation of the Pacific-10 Conference in 1978, the Cougars have won all 17 games played against Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) schools.
  • Following his team-leading 14 tackles (12 solo) at Auburn and eight in the win at USC, Deone Bucannon ranks fifth in career solo tackles (206) on WSU’s all-time list and just outside the top 10 in total tackles (292).
  • Washington State’s 10-7 win at No. 25 USC Saturday was its first over the Trojans since 2002 and first win over USC in Los Angeles since 2000. The victory was also the first win over a ranked team since WSU defeated No. 16 Oregon in Pullman in 2006, and the first win over a ranked opponent on the road since beating No. 5 Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl.

COUGARS OFFENSIVE LEADERS

Rushing

Player G Att. Yards TDs Long Y/G
T. Caldwell 2 11 72 0 24 36.0
Marcus Mason 2 17 67 0 17 33.5
J. Laufasa 2 5 10 2 7 5.0
C. Halliday 2 9 -16 0 11 -8.0
Team Total 2 45 127 2 24 63.5

Passing

Player G Att. Cmp. Yards TDs/INT Effic.
C. Halliday 2 103 61 559 1/5 98.31
Team Total 2 103 61 559 1/5 93.31

Receiving

Player G Rec. Yards TD Long Y/G
Gabe Marks 2 13 119 0 18 59.5
K. Williams 2 10 98 0 28 49.0
Rickey Galvin 2 7 47 0 13 23.5
D. William 2 5 93 0 50 46.5
Bobby Ratliff 2 5 72 1 53 36.0
B. Bartolone 2 5 31 0 13 15.5
Team Total 2 61 559 1 53 279.5

COUGARS DEFENSIVE LEADERS

Category Skinny
Tackles Bucannon 22, Sagote 15, Brown 15
Sacks Monroe 1.0, Coen 1.0
Interceptions Horton 2
Passes Defensed Brown 2, 3 tied with 1
Forced Fumbles Bucannon, Taliulu, both 1
Fumbles Recovered Bucannon 1

Pac-12 Standings / North

Schools Overall Conf. Next
Oregon 2-0 0-0 Sat, vs. Tennessee
Wash. State 1-1 1-0 Sat, vs. Southern Utah
Washington 1-0 0-0 Sat, at Illinois
Stanford 1-0 0-0 Sat, at Army
Oregon St. 1-1 0-0 Sat, at Utah
Cal 1-1 0-0 Sat, vs. Ohio State

Pac-12 Standings / South

Schools Overall Conf. Next
Utah 2-0 0-0 Sat, vs. Oregon St.
Arizona 2-0 0-0 Sat, vs. UTSA
Colorado 2-0 0-0 Sat, vs. Fresno St.
UCLA 1-0 0-0 Sat, at Nebraska
Arizona St. 1-0 0-0 Sat, vs. Wisconsin
USC 1-1 0-1 Sat, vs. Boston College

SOUTHERN UTAH NOTES: Southern Utah State will be looking to get off to its first 3-0 start since 1980 . . .  The T-Birds roster includes four players from the state of Washington: TE Jacob Allie (Renton), LB Zak Browning (Vancouver), OL Daniel Fleischman (Issaquah) and WR Junior Toala (Burien) . . . A 2010 Eddie Robinson Award finalist, Ed Lamb is in his sixth season as head coach of the Thunderbirds. In his first five, Lamb has guided the team  from the 0-11 squad he inherited to back-to-back winning seasons in 2010 and 2011, including the 2010 Great West Conference championship. Last year the Thunderbirds competed in the Big Sky for the first time and were 4-4 and tie for fifth place in the 13-team league. Lamb is a 1996 graduate of Brigham Young University.

Washington State 2013 Schedule/Results

Date Opponent WSU Rnk Opp Rnk W/L Score Rec.
8/31/13 at Auburn L 31-24 0-1
9/7/13 at USC 25 W 10-7 1-1
9/14/13 vs. So. Utah —– —–
9/21/13 vs. Idaho —– —–
9/28/13 vs. Stanford 5 —– —–
10/5/13 at Cal —– —–
10/12/13 vs. OSU —– —–
10/19/13 at Oregon 2 —– —–
10/31/13 vs. ASU —– —–
11/16/13 at Arizona —– —–
11/23/13 vs. Utah —– —–
11/29/13 at Wash 19

YourThoughts

Comments are closed.