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.
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
COUGARS OFFENSIVE LEADERS
COUGARS DEFENSIVE LEADERS
|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
|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
|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.|
|9/14/13||vs. So. Utah||—||—||W||48-10||2-1|