BY Howie Stalwick 06:30AM 12/21/2013

Cougars’ bowl week enlivened by Theismann

Two middling teams, Washington State and Colorado State, kick off the bowl season Saturday in New Mexico, where they heard stirring words from a former NFL MVP.

Connor Halliday will face the nation’s 111th-ranked pass defense in the New Mexico Bowl. / Washington State

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Joe Theismann is 64 years old and long removed from his football glory days, but the former Notre Dame and Washington Redskins star sounded like he was ready to put on pads when he delivered a stirring speech Friday afternoon at the New Mexico Bowl luncheon.

A sold-out crowd of 700 accorded Theismann a standing ovation when he finished a stirring speech that mixed humorous anecdotes with inspirational tales aimed at the Washington State and Colorado State players in attendance.

“The Gildan New Mexico Bowl is the first bowl (of the season),” Theismann said. “It’s like your first kiss. I know you’re laughing, because some of you remember it.

“It’s that first moment you have when you experience something very new. That’s what’s in store for you.

“Cherish the moment,” Theismann told the players. “I still have my Cotton Bowl watch when I played in 1970. I still remember sitting on the bus and driving up to the monastery, where they stuck us in the middle of nowhere, to prepare us for the game.”

Theismann, a standout quarterback, said he “started to believe all the headlines” about himself before his life changed when he suffered a career-ending broken leg in 1985. The gruesome injury drew national attention when it was replayed over and over again – with a bone sticking out of his lower right leg – on “Monday Night Football.”

Theismann said he was humbled when his playing career came to an end. He said his ego was checked again a few years ago when he asked a young server to do him a favor at a banquet where he served as the keynote speaker.

“I asked for an extra tab of butter,” Theismann recalled. “He says, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Whoa. Time out. I am Joe Theismann. Do you know how many people remember me? I would like another tab of butter.’

“He says, ‘Sir, I know who you are. You’re a great football player.’ I said, ‘Thank you very much.’ He said, ‘You were the MVP of the National Football League.’ I said, ‘Thanks very much.’ He said, ‘You won a Super Bowl.’ I said, ‘Thanks very much.’

“He said, ‘Sir, do you know who I am?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘I’m the kid in charge of the butter. You get one tab of butter.’

“It brought me down to earth.”

Theismann told the story to emphasize the need for players to appreciate teammates and others who contribute to a team’s success. Theismann has long worked as an NFL television broadcaster, but he still cherishes his college days.

“I can reel off the players that I shared the experience of college with more than I can the men I won a world championship with,” Theismann said.

Theismann, still fiercely loyal to the Redskins, could not resist getting in a dig at the arch-rival Dallas Cowboys when he mentioned the Redskins logo.

“Not some cute shiny little star that some people wear on their helmets,” Theismann said sarcastically.

He then went in for the kill.

‘I feel obliged to ask this question at this point: Are there any Cowboys fans here?”

Few banquet guests responded before Theismann drew roars of laughter when he added, “I really don’t care. It’s a courtesy question.”

SERIES: The New Mexico Bowl marks the first meeting between Washington State and Colorado State (7-6) of the Mountain West Conference.

WSU HEAD COACH Mike Leach (92-56 overall, 9-15 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: 6-6. Home: 4-2. Road: 2-4. Neutral: 0-0. Vs. Pac-12: 4-5. Vs. Pac-12 North: 1-5. Vs. Pac-12 South: 3-3. Vs. Non-Conference: 2-1.
  • Points For: 358 (29.8). Rushing Yards Per Game: 58.7. Passing Yards Per Game: 364.5. Total Offense Per Game: 423.2.
  • Points Against: 375 (31.2). Opp. Rushing Yards Per Game: 184.2. Opp. Passing Yards Per Game: 262.6. Total Defense Per Game: 446.8.
  • Washington State is making its first bowl appearance since 2003, 11th overall, and first appearance at the New Mexico Bowl.
  • WSU has previously played in the Rose Bowl (1916, 1931, 1998, 2003), Holiday Bowl (1981, 2003), Aloha Bowl (1988), Copper Bowl (1992), Alamo Bowl (1994) and Sun Bowl (2001). The Cougars are 6-4.
  • WSU won its last bowl, the Holiday, in 2003 over Texas, 28-20.
  • The New Mexico Bowl began in 2006 and hosted a Pac-12 team once before, last season when Arizona won a shootout over Nevada, 49-48.

COUGARS OFFENSIVE LEADERS

Rushing

Player G Att. Yards TDs Long Y/G
Marcus Mason 12 83 424 2 50 35.3
T. Caldwell 12 47 257 1 24 21.4
J. Laufasa 12 34 155 7 13 12.9
Austin Apodaca 12 7 20 0 10 1.7
Team Total 12 224 704 10 50 58.7

Passing

Player G Att. Cmp. Yards TDs/INT Effic.
C. Halliday 12 656 412 4187 28/21 124.10
Team Total 12 698 433 4374 30/23 122.27

Receiving

Player G Rec. Yards TD Long Y/G
Gabe Marks 12 69 770 6 47 64.2
Marcus Mason 12 49 372 2 68 31.0
K. Williams 12 44 418 0 43 38.0
Vince Mayle 12 40 501 6 72 41.8
D. Williams 12 39 644 7 71 53.7
River Cracraft 12 37 489 2 35 40.8
Team Total 12 433 4374 30 72 364.5

COUGARS DEFENSIVE LEADERS

Category Skinny
Tackles Bucannon 109, Sagote 91, Monroe 81
Sacks Cooper 4.5, Coen 3.0, Gauta 3.0
Interceptions Bucannon 5, Horton 5, Brown 2
Passes Defensed Brown 5, Washington 4
Forced Fumbles Bucannon 3, 4 tied with 2
Fumbles Recovered Pole 2, Bucannon 2, Sagote

Pac-12 Standings / North

Schools Overall Conf. Next
Stanford 11-2 7-2 Jan. 1 vs. Mich. State
Oregon 10-2 7-2 Dec. 30 vs. Texas
Washington 8-4 5-4 Dec. 29, vs. BYU
Oregon St. 6-6 4-5 Dec. 24 vs. Boise State
Washington St. 6-6 4-5 Sat, vs. Colo. State
Cal 1-11 0-9 Season Complete

Pac-12 Standings / South

Schools Overall Conf. Next
Arizona St. 10-3 8-1 Dec. 30 vs. Texas Tech
UCLA 9-3 6-3 Dec. 31 vs. Virginia Tech
USC 9-4 6-3 Sat, vs. Fresno St.
Arizona 7-5 4-5 Dec. 31 vs. Boston College
Utah 5-7 2-7 Season Complete
Colorado 4-8 1-8 Season Complete

COLORADO STATE NOTES: The Rams were 7-6 overall and 5-3 in the Mountain West, their first winning season since 2005 . . . Colorado State defeated Cal Poly (34-17), UTEP (59-42), Wyoming (52-22), Hawaii (35-28), Nevada (38-17), New Mexico (66-42) and Air Force (58-13), and lost to Colorado (41-27), Tulsa (30-27), Alabama (31-6), San Jose State (34-27), Boise State (42-30) and Utah State (13-0) . . . The bowl is the first postseason game for the Rams since 2008, a 40-35 victory over Fresno State, also in the New Mexico Bowl . . . Jim McElwain is in his second year as head coach of the Rams. He joined Colorado State after a three-year (2008-11) stint as offensive coordinator at Alabama. He began his coaching career as quarterbacks/wide receivers coach at Eastern Washington in 1985.

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 W 49-37 6-5
11/29/13 at Wash L 27-17 6-6

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