Linebacker Long goes BUCK-wild on Buffaloes

PULLMAN – Washington State came out in the second half of Saturday's 35-34 loss against Colorado quite contrary to local weather conditions. In a state where forests are blazing and smoke taints the air, the Cougars could barely muster a spark. But one player showed requisite fire: Travis Long.

The senior BUCK linebacker and team captain applied continual pressure to Colorado quarterback Jordan Webb and finished the game with 2 ½ sacks.

"Travis Long actually cared," head coach Mike Leach said in a postgame interview, clearly frustrated after the debilitating loss to the previously winless Buffaloes. "It meant a lot to him."

Leach said that Long represents something this Cougar team is lacking: a core of guys to whom winning means a great deal.

"He invested a lot out there on the field." Leach said. "It meant a lot to him to not be successful."

Long is off to one of the best defensive statistical campaigns at Washington State since 2006, when then-senior defensive end Mkristo Bruce began the season with eight sacks in four games – five of them coming against Stanford.

After Saturday, Long unofficially has seven sacks and two forced fumbles through four games. In the offseason, he was named a preseason First Team All-Pac-12 defensive end.

For Long, the accolades and accomplishments pale in comparison to the importance of winning a football game, though.

"I played fine; I could have played better," Long said. "I just want to win. I don't care how I play."

When asked what the game and this team means to Long, Leach wasn't transparent in the slightest.

"He plays hard," Leach said, seeming to subtly give some other players on the team a call to action. "Travis goes out there and gives it his all. Every play. Every down."

Long said he thought the defense played well, but that its second-half meltdown is something that must be addressed.

"It needs to be cleaned up," he said simply. "We've just got to finish."

Long said recently that the new 3-4 system that has been put in place by defensive coordinator Mike Breske has helped give him more opportunities on the edge and in space. He has 18 career sacks and five forced fumbles, and will look to further improve his numbers next weekend at CenturyLink Field in Seattle when the Cougars take on the University of Oregon in its annual Seattle game.

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