BY Adam Lewis 06:30AM 10/31/2013

Are Cougars actually better when it’s cold?

After a bye week, Washington State hopes to get an edge from chilly weather when it hosts No. 25 Arizona State, which has won eight of the last nine in the series.

Mike Leach and the Washington State Cougars return to Pac-12 play with a Thursday night date opposite 25t-ranked Arizona State, which has dominated WSU in recent meetings. / Wiki Commons

It is a storyline tired and recycled, though without fail, it emerges toward the end of October, when temperatures in Pullman dip into the 30s and fans reach for their peppermint schnapps and Busch Light.

When the Cougars (4-4, 2-3 Pac-12) get their hunk of national spotlight against Arizona State on a cold, clear Thursday night (lows in the mid-30s) forecasted for Martin Stadium (7:30 p.m., ESPN), it will no doubt be a topic of conversation: Will the Sun Devils (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12), whose Tempe home will have a high of 78 Thursday, be affected by weather?

If the past decade is any indicator, the answer is yes.

Since 2003, WSU is a ghastly 11-32 in conference home games at Martin Stadium. Meanwhile, the Cougars are a still-awful but slightly less pathetic 7-13 in conference home games at Martin Stadium in November or later, when the climate approaches Arctic conditions, and an almost inconceivably bad 4-19 in August, September and October.

WSU has to buck a major trend if they wish to pull a Halloween upset against the Sun Devils, first in the Pac-12 South and 25th in the AP poll.

What it means for the Cougars: A win would push WSU a single victory away from bowl eligibility with matchups remaining against Arizona, Utah and Washington, all of whom feature winning records but are outside the Top 25 in both polls. A loss doesn’t cripple a WSU team that most predicted would finish with between four and six wins, though it would make a bowl game a lot more unlikely.

What it means for the Sun Devils: Arizona State needs this win to stay alone atop the Pac-12 South and give it an outside shot to make a BCS bowl game, assuming No. 3 Oregon fools nobody and runs the table. A loss throws ASU back into the mediocre territory the program has gained a reputation for staying in during the last decade.

Key Matchup: WSU offensive line vs. ASU defensive line. The Cougars in the off-season took strides in shoring up the offensive line, and it’s paid dividends. A year after they gave up 4.75 sacks per game, they allow slightly less than two despite throwing the ball almost every play. However, their stiffest test comes Thursday against DT Will Sutton and an ASU defensive line that two weeks ago made UW quarterback Keith Price spend more time backpedaling than the Supreme Court.

Prediction: Sun Devils 45, Cougars 31. ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly (2,236 passing yards, 18 passing touchdowns, and seven interceptions) turns the ball over far less than WSU quarterback Connor Halliday (2,798 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and 17 interceptions). More disturbingly for WSU fans, Halliday’s propensity to let one mistake affect the following series, then the next, won’t bode well on a night where he sees consistent pressure.

SERIES: Dates to Oct. 1, 1960, when the Sun Devils defeated the Cougars 24-21 in Tempe, AZ. Washington State trails the all-time series 24-13-2 but claimed the last matchup in Pullman 37-27 in 2011 behind Connor Halliday’s 494-yard, four-touchdown performance after coming off the bench. The Sun Devils have won eight of the last nine meetings, including a 46-7 victory in Tempe last season.

WSU HEAD COACH Mike Leach (91-56 overall, 7-13 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: 4-4. Home: 2-1. Road: 2-3. Neutral: 0-0. Vs. Pac-12: 2-3. Vs. Pac-12 North: 1-3. Vs. Pac-12 South: 1-0. Vs. Non-Conference: 2-1.
  • Points For: 247 (30.9). Rushing Yards Per Game: 58.4. Passing Yards Per Game: 373.1. Total Offense Per Game: 431.5.
  • Points Against: 239 (29.9). Opp. Rushing Yards Per Game: 171.9. Opp. Passing Yards Per Game: 268.5. Total Defense Per Game: 440.4.
  • The last time the Cougars hosted a game on Halloween came in 2008 when the Sun Devils posted a 38-28 victory in Pullman.
  • WSU’s last win over a ranked team in Martin Stadium was in 2006, a 34-23 decision over No. 16 Oregon. Earlier this season, WSU knocked off No. 25 USC in Los Angeles.
  • The Washington State passing offense is ranked  sixth in the country at 373.1 ypg with quarterback Connor Halliday owning the third-most yards in the nation (2,798) and averaging the fifth-most passing yards at 349.8. The offense is on pace to set school records for pass attempts (624 set last season), completions (323 last season) and passing yards (4,120 in 1997). Halliday owns the top two single-game passing marks in the FBS this season.
  • The Cougars have rushed for eight touchdowns, already more than last season’s total of six.
  • WSU has had 10 receivers catch a pass in each of the last six games and have had 10+ players catch a pass seven times this season.
  • Halliday has five 300-yard games and two four-touchdown games. Halliday went 58-for-89 for 557 yards and four TDs at No. 2 Oregon, setting Pac-12 and WSU single-game records for pass completions, attempts, passing yards and total offense. His 58 completions tied an NCAA Division I record with Andy Schmitt of Eastern Michigan in 2008 and were the second-most completions in NCAA history. The 89 pass attempts were the second-most in NCAA history and were a Division I record, surpassing the previous mark of 83 thrown by Drew Brees in 1998.
  • Senior Deone Bucannon leads the Pac-12 with 73 tackles and ranks fourth in WSU history for career tackles (343) and fourth in career solo tackles (237).
  • WSU’s 2014 season opener against Rutgers has been moved to Aug. 28 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. The game was scheduled for Aug. 29. Rutgers begins play in the Big Ten Conference next season. The Cougars will make the return the trip to face the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway, N.J. Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015.

COUGARS OFFENSIVE LEADERS

Rushing

Player G Att. Yards TDs Long Y/G
Marcus Mason 8 47 208 1 17 26.0
T. Caldwell 8 33 169 1 24 21.1
J. Laufasa 8 30 145 6 13 18.1
Austin Apodaca 8 7 20 0 10 2.5
Team Total 8 145 467 8 24 58.4

Passing

Player G Att. Cmp. Yards TDs/INT Effic.
C. Halliday 8 428 273 2798 18/17 124.63
Team Total 8 470 294 2985 20/19 121.86

Receiving

Player G Rec. Yards TD Long Y/G
Gabe Marks 8 59 655 5 47 81.9
Rickey Galvin 8 28 231 1 18 28.9
Marcus Mason 8 27 247 1 68 30.9
K. Williams 7 26 254 0 43 36.3
River Cracraft 8 24 277 1 25 34.6
Bobby Ratliff 8 24 229 2 53 28.6
Team Total 8 294 2985 20 72 373.1

COUGARS DEFENSIVE LEADERS

Category Skinny
Tackles Bucannon 73, Coen 49, Monroe 49
Sacks Coen, Gauta, Monroe, Cooper 3
Interceptions Bucannon 4, Hornton 4, Brown 2
Passes Defensed Brown 5, Gauta 3, 5 tied with 2
Forced Fumbles Bucannon 3, Cooper 2
Fumbles Recovered Pole 2, Bucannon 2

Pac-12 Standings / North

Schools Overall Conf. Next
Oregon 8-0 5-0 Nov. 7, at Stanford
Stanford 7-1 5-1 Nov. 7, vs. Oregon
Oregon State 6-2 4-1 Fri, vs. USC
Washington 5-3 2-3 Nov. 9 vs. Colorado
Washington St. 4-2 1-2 Thr, vs. Arizona St.
Cal 1-7 0-5 Sat, vs. Arizona

Pac-12 Standings / South

Schools Overall Conf. Next
Arizona St. 5-2 3-1 Thr, at WSU
Arizona 5-2 2-2 Sat, at California
UCLA 5-2 2-2 Sat, vs. Colorado
USC 5-3 2-2 Fri, at Oregon St.
Utah 4-4 1-4 Nov. 9, vs. ASU
Colorado 3-4 4-4 Sat, at UCLA

ARIZONA STATE NOTES: The Sun Devils defeated Sacramento State (55-0), Wisconsin (32-30), USC (62-41), Colorado (54-13) and Washington (53-24) and lost to Stanford (42-28) and Notre Dame (37-34) . . . The Arizona State roster includes four players with connections to the state of Washington: TE Alex Bykovskiy (Federal Way), DB Jordan Simone (Sammamish), P Dorn Vizzare (Tacoma) and LB Chris Young (Auburn) . . . Todd Graham is in his second year as head coach of the Sun Devils, who went 8-5 in his first year and won the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl . . . Graham began his head coaching career at Rice in 2006 and has also coached at Tulsa (2007-10) and Pittsburgh (2011). He is a graduate of East Central 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 W 48-10 2-1
9/21/13 vs. Idaho W 42-0 3-1
9/28/13 vs. Stanford 5 L 55-17 3-2
10/5/13 at Cal W 44-22 4-2
10/12/13 vs. OSU L 52-24 4-3
10/19/13 at Oregon 2 L 62-38 4-4
10/31/13 vs. ASU 25 —– —–
11/16/13 at Arizona —– —–
11/23/13 vs. Utah —– —–
11/29/13 at Wash

YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    The Cougs are better in the cold only if the other team has bowl hopes on the line and the game is in Pullman. This especially applies towards the Huskies.

  • Tian Biao

    good article. i had always just assumed it was always cold in Pullman, but now I realize it gets even colder at certain times of year. ps your Pac 12 standings are incorrect. Cougars are 4-4 overall, and 2-3 in the conference.