BY Adam Lewis 06:30AM 11/23/2013

Leach staying low-key about bowl game

Washington State is one victory shy of becoming eligible for a bowl game for the first time since 2003, when the Cougars defeated Texas in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.

Mike Leach this week received a contract extension through the end of the 2018 season. His Cougars, who close out their home schedule Saturday against Utah, need one win to become bowl eligible. / Getty Images

Based on comments earlier this week, the impression is that Washington State coach Mike Leach is desensitized about the thought of his 5-5 (3-4 Pac-12) Cougars making a bowl game.

“It would mean we did a very good job on the very next play, and then on the play after that, and the play after that, and the play after that, until pretty soon it adds up to a game’s worth of plays and we were successful. That’s what it would mean,” Leach said.

A win over Utah in Martin Stadium Saturday (12:30, Pac-12 Networks) would mean a lot more to a program that hasn’t been to the postseason since 2003, to the players who endured a 16-game conference losing streak through coach Paul Wulff’s 9-40 run from 2008-11.

A win would grant the Cougars legitimate bowl consideration (and likely a bowl game) with the Apple Cup left on their schedule. It would double their win total from a nightmarish 2012 season. It would affirm that athletic director Bill Moos made the smart choice when he fired coach Paul Wulff and hired Leach in December of 2011.

It would reward players like senior center Elliott Bosch, selected preseason as a team captain and named earlier this week a nominee for the Burlsworth Trophy, the honor given annually to college football’s most successful walk-on.

“I think we’ve gotten progressively better since I’ve been here but I hope we’re remembered as kind of the ones who started it all and got this program back on track,” Bosch said Monday.

Scouting the Utes: Utah (4-6, 1-6 Pac-12) owns a four-game losing streak, a defensive line that leads the nation in sacks (36) and found out earlier this week that quarterback Travis Wilson’s career could be finished after doctors discovered a pre-existing brain condition. Wilson hasn’t played since sustaining a concussion Nov. 9 in a loss to Arizona State and will miss at least the rest of the season. Back-up walk-on Adam Schulz didn’t fold last week in a 44-21 loss to the Ducks in Eugene. He completed 13 of 30 passes for 181 yards, two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) and an interception. The Utes are tough to beat in Salt Lake City (3-3) but have yet to win a conference road game in 2013.

Key Matchup: Utah RB Bubba Poole v. WSU front 7. Arguably the best way to stop Leach’s Air Raid offense (or any offense) is to keep it off the field by controlling the clock. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is a strong believer in a power running game. That won’t change when Schulz makes his second career road start in Pullman. Expect WSU to receive a constant dose of Utes RB Bubba Poole come Saturday. WSU ranks a pedestrian 82nd nationally in run defense, allowing an average of 185 yards per game.

Prediction: OT Cougars 28, Utes 24. WSU QB Connor Halliday (3,417 yards, 22 touchdowns, 19 interceptions) said earlier in the season that he felt he could be the one to lead the Cougars back to a bowl game. Last week against Arizona, he threw a 25-yard go-ahead touchdown to Isiah Myers with 2:15 left, propelling WSU to a road 24-17 win. It was Halliday’s breakthrough moment in his second year in Leach’s system. He takes the next step Saturday in Pullman, then Leach finally pays that bar tab he promised fans after winning the Apple Cup last year.

SERIES: Dates to Oct. 15, 1966, when Utah won 26-15 in Salt Lake City. . . WSU trails the all-time series 7-5 after the Utes posted wins in the past two meetings, 30-27 (OT) in Pullman in 2011 and 49-6 in Salt Lake City last season. WSU’s last win came in 2000, 38-21 in Salt Lake City behind four TD passes from Jason Gesser. The last win over the Utes in Pullman came in 1984, 42-40, behind two TD passes from Mark Rypien, two rushing TDs and 158 yards from Kerry Porter and one rushing TD from Rueben Mayes. The Cougars and Utes also matched up in the 1992 Copper Bowl, a 31-28 victory for WSU after Drew Bledsoe fired two TD passes and Aaron Price kicked the game-winner late in the fourth quarter.

WSU HEAD COACH Mike Leach (92-57 overall, 8-14 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: 5-5. Home: 2-2. Road: 3-3. Neutral: 0-0. Vs. Pac-12: 3-4. Vs. Pac-12 North: 1-3. Vs. Pac-12 South: 2-1. Vs. Non-Conference: 2-1.
  • Points For: 292 (29.2). Rushing Yards Per Game: 57.0. Passing Yards Per Game: 360.4. Total Offense Per Game: 417.4.
  • Points Against: 311 (31.1). Opp. Rushing Yards Per Game: 185.2. Opp. Passing Yards Per Game: 262.3. Total Defense Per Game: 447.5.
  • Connor Halliday has thrown 44 career touchdown passes, good for sixth in WSU history. He surpassed the 3,000-yard mark against Arizona State, the first 3,000-yard season since Alex Brink did it in 2007.
  • Halliday owns two of the top three single-game passing marks in the FBS this season, including the top one (557).
  • Halliday has seven 300-yard passing games and three 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.
  • The Cougars have rushed for 10 touchdowns, more than last season’s total of six.
  • WSU had 10 receivers catch a pass in each of the last seven games and had 10+ players catch a pass eight times.
  • Safety Deone Bucannon is the first Cougar player to be named a Jim Thorpe semifinalist since Jason David in 2003.
  • Bucannon enters the week fourth in WSU history for career tackles (366) and fourth in career solo tackles (254).
  • Halliday has six 300-yard games and two four-touchdown games.
  •  Washington State will recognize 19 seniors who will be playing their final game in Martin Stadium: Matthew Bock (DL), Elliott Bosch (OL), Mike Bowlin (P), Zach Brevick (OL), Leon Brooks (RB), Deone Bucannon (S), Jared Byers (LB), Anthony Carpenter (DB), Rico Forbes (OL), John Fullington (OL), Andrew Furney (K), Ioane Gauta (DT), Matt Goetz (OL), Damante Horton (CB), Casey Locker (S), Vince Mayle (WR), Eric Oertel (LB), Justin Sagote (LB) and Nolan Washington (CB).
  • WSU’s 2014 season opener against Rutgers is Aug. 28 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. The game was scheduled from 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 10 62 284 2 17 28.4
T. Caldwell 10 41 225 1 24 22.5
J. Laufasa 10 34 155 7 13 15.5
Austin Apodaca 10 7 20 0 10 0.1
Team Total 10 183 570 10 24 57.0

Passing

Player G Att. Cmp. Yards TDs/INT Effic.
C. Halliday 10 535 341 3417 22/19 123.86
Team Total 10 577 362 3604 24/21 121.65

Receiving

Player G Rec. Yards TD Long Y/G
Gabe Marks 10 63 721 6 47 72.1
Marcus Mason 10 35 275 1 68 27.5
Rickey Galvin 10 34 264 2 18 26.4
K. Williams 9 33 315 0 43 35.0
Vince Mayle 10 32 423 5 72 42.3
D. Williams 10 31 458 4 55 45.8
Team Total 10 362 3604 24 72 360.4

COUGARS DEFENSIVE LEADERS

Category Skinny
Tackles Bucannon 96, Monroe 65, Sagote 64
Sacks Cooper 4.0, Coen 3.0, Gauta 3.0
Interceptions Bucannon 5, Hornton 4, Brown 2
Passes Defensed Brown 5, 4 tied with 3
Forced Fumbles Bucannon 3, Carpenter 2
Fumbles Recovered Pole, Cooper, Bucannon, 2

Pac-12 Standings / North

Schools Overall Conf. Next
Oregon 9-1 6-1 Sat, at Arizona
Stanford 8-2 6-2 Sat, vs. California
Oregon St. 6-4 4-3 Sat, vs. Washington
Washington 6-4 3-4 Sat, at Oregon St.
Washington St. 5-5 3-4 Sat, vs. Utah
Cal 1-10 0-8 Sat, at Stanford

Pac-12 Standings / South

Schools Overall Conf. Next
Arizona St. 8-2 6-1 Sat, at UCLA
UCLA 8-2 5-2 Sat, vs. Arizona St.
USC 8-3 5-2 Sat, at Colorado
Arizona 6-4 3-4 Sat, vs. Oregon
Colorado 4-6 1-6 Sat, vs. USC
Utah 4-6 1-6 Sat, at WSU

UTAH NOTES: Utah defeated Utah State (30-6), Weber State (70-7), BYU (20-13) and Stanford (27-21) and lost to Oregon State (51-48), UCLA (34-27), Arizona (35-24), USC (19-3), Arizona State (20-19) and Oregon (44-21). . . The Utah roster does not include a player with ties to the state of Washington . . . Kyle Whittingham is in his ninth season as head coach of the Utes. A 1984 graduate of BYU, Whittingham served as Utah’s defensive coordinator from 1994-04 before becoming head coach. He has taken the Utes to eight bowl games, most recently the 2011 Sun Bowl.

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 L 55-21 4-5
11/16/13 at Arizona W 24-17 5-5
11/23/13 vs. Utah —– —–
11/29/13 at Wash

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