PULLMAN – Freshman receiver Gabe Marks has displayed equal measures of talent and bravado during fall camp, but even Marks admits things have gone smoother than he expected.

"I can't say I'm not surprised," said Gabe Marks. "I'm a little surprised, because the Pac-12, this is one of the top levels of football. But I've always worked hard at what I do. I love playing receiver. In high school, I worked day in and day out to polish my abilities as best as possible.

"But I definitely didn't think I would do as good as fast (at WSU). I mean, I always expected that I would do good, because I have confidence in myself."

Marks has drawn even more raves than Marquess Wilson did in his first fall camp. All Wilson did in 2010 is set WSU freshman records for catches (55) and receiving yards (1,006) -- before setting all-classes school records last year with 82 catches for 1,388 yards.

Wilson already ranks fourth on WSU's career charts with 18 touchdown catches (tied), fifth with 2,394 receiving yards and ninth with 137 receptions. The records, all within reach this year, are 32 touchdown catches by Jason Hill, 2,756 receiving yards by Brandon Gibson and 195 receptions by Michael Bumpus.

Wilson, a preseason All-America candidate, said he's eager to see his team share in his success.

"Effort-wise, last year we weren't where we are right now," he said. "We're more of a team. We practice hard together. We have a mindset that we're winners. We're ready to step up to the challenge and show that this is a new team this year."

THE COUGARS, PUSHING HARD to make the Eastern game the first home sellout since 2007, announced Friday that 28,945 tickets have been sold. That includes the 9,234 seats held each game for all-sports student pass holders.

The adjusted capacity estimate for renovated Martin Stadium is 34,300.

The Cougars also hope to sell out 67,000-seat CenturyLink Field for the first time when Oregon comes to Seattle on Sept. 29.

The latest tally from WSU is that 45,000-plus tickets have been sold so far.

BYU IS A 13 1/2/-POINT FAVORITE for the season opener with Washington State on Thursday, Aug. 30 (7:15 p.m., ESPN) in Provo.

Washington State hasn't opened the season with a road win since edging New Mexico 21-17 in 2004. WSU has also dropped its first road game of the year every season since walloping Nevada 55-21 in the second game of the 2005 season.

That 2005 season marked the last time WSU started 3-0. Another 3-0 start might be in the offing if the Cougars down BYU, because Washington State figures to be favored in their following two games – Saturday, Sept. 8 against visiting Eastern Washington and Sept. 14 at UNLV.

WSU likely will also be favored in Game No. 4 on homecoming Sept. 22 against Colorado. Then comes the Sept. 29 "home" game in Seattle against Oregon, a consensus preseason top-five team.

Rick Neuheisel NEVER lost to Washington State in nine meetings as a head football coach. Then again, Neuheisel never coached against Mike Leach's Cougars.

Neuheisel, now an analyst for the new Pacific-12 Conference television network, said he's convinced it was no fluke that all 10 of Leach's Texas Tech teams played in bowl games. He predicts more of the same for Leach's first WSU squad.

"I think Leach makes it 11 in a row," Neuheisel said on the Pac-12 Network's first night of operation Wednesday. "I think they surprise BYU."

IN ATHLON SPORTS MAGAZINE'S rankings of all 124 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, WSU is 51st, BYU 39th, UNLV 112th, Colorado 84th and Oregon fourth.

Eastern Washington is 12th in The Sports Network's Top 25 for the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly NCAA Division I-AA).

The Eagles are a talented, experienced squad that won the FCS title in 2011 and gave Washington a huge scare last season, falling 30-27 while piling up 504 total yards to the Huskies' 250 hashes. Not that it carries any relevance today, but WSU crushed Eastern 46-0 in 1907 and 73-0 in 1908 in the only previous football games between the two schools.

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