After Buffalo stampede, reality sets in

WHEN MIKE LEACH was hired to coach Washington State, many saw him as the savoir that would fix the program that once tallied three 10-win seasons, and couldn't crack 10 wins – total – in the last four years. There would be an Air Raid offense, a 3-4 defense and a slew of fresh ideas, new coaches and, most importantly, wins. Cougar faithful: The honeymoon is over.

Before the season started, talk centered around how Leach went to 10 bowl games in 10 seasons at Texas Tech.

And then the Cougars got down to business – and the dust began to settle.

When Washington State faltered against a strong BYU, no one batted an eyelash. They weren't expected to find success in Provo – and this was the first game of the season; Leach's first opportunity to get his feet wet. Then came back-to-back wins against Eastern Washington and UNLV. They were ugly wins, but they were wins.

Then came Saturday, and things just got ugly.

THE COUGARS WERE unable to execute anything except their chances at winning the game, and they lost – by a point – to what some people had pegged as the worst team in conference history. Never mind that they came into Martin Stadium as 20-point favorites.

"I don't get it," senior cornerback Daniel Simmons said after the game. "In my opinion, we lost to a team we're far better than."

He's not the only one who didn't get it.

Before the clock had even run out, CF.c's message boards were blowing up with indignant fans wondering how, on God's crimson earth, this had happened to Mike Leach's Cougars?!

Among the choice phrases: Historical choke. Epic failure. Horrible.

There were discussions of egos dictating the play clock. Of fear of what Oregon will do to this hapless crew next week.

Welcome to reality: Leach isn't going to resurrect this program overnight.

And he knows it.

"Physically, we can run, we can hit people," he was quoted as saying during a 10-minute tirade in The Seattle Times. "It's gotta look like Tuesday's and Wednesday's practices. We haven't had a game yet that looks like Tuesday's and Wednesday's practices. If we can do it (then), why the hell can't you do it on Saturday?"

BUT IF THE PLAYERS' comments after the game are indicative of what's to come, it won't be another ugly loss if they can help it. They're hurt – not only because they had the game in their hands, leading 21-7 going into halftime, but also because it's very likely that in this new dawn of Cougar football, they flat-out didn't expect to be extinguished faster than the university's homecoming bonfire.

"It's always going to hurt to lose like this," said junior wide reciver Marquess Wilson. "When everything is going so well and it turns on the flick of the hand … it hurts."

Added sophomore center Elliott Bosch: "It's a pretty sour feeling. It hurts pretty bad."

And quarterback Connor Halliday didn't mince words.

"We've got to quit playing stupid in the second half," he said in reference to the Buffaloes scoring three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

As for Leach, he admitted that his team is not near where it needs to be.

"There were plenty of squandered opportunities," he said.

In order to win, his team is going to have to dredge up some courage.

"I'm not sure as a team we're not afraid of doing what it takes to be successful," he said.

NOTABLE NOTES
  • Saturday marked the second straight game in which Halliday has thrown four touchdown passes. He also threw one last year. It was the first time a WSU quarterback has thrown back-to-back four-touchdown games since Alex Brink threw five against San Diego State and four against Idaho in 2007. If Halliday can do it again next week, he will join Ryan Leaf, who threw four touchdowns in three consecutive games in 1996, against Temple, Oregon and San Jose State.

  • Halliday's 60 pass attempts are the second most in a single game in school history. Drew Bledsoe attempted 66 against Montana in 1992. Halliday's 32 completions tied for the fourth-most in school history, and his 401 yards are the 14th 400-yard performance in school history and 13th highest total.

  • Wilson has now caught a pass in all 28 games he has played for the Cougars, and caught two touchdown passes for the fifth time of his career. His two touchdowns brought his total to 22, tying Hugh Campbell for the second most in school history.

  • Wilson needs just 46 yards to break Brandon Gibson's school record for career receiving yards. By adding 99 yards on Saturday, he passed Jason Hill for the No. 2 spot on the list, and now has a total of 2,711 yards. Gibson had 2,756.

  • Freshman wide receiver Gabe Marks' 107 receiving yards resulted in the first back-to-back 100-yard performances by a freshman since Wilson did so in 2010, with 131 against Arizona and 150 at Stanford.

  • Sophomore wide receiver Isiah Myers has caught a touchdown pass in three straight games.

  • Freshman running back Teondray Caldwell rushed for a WSU season-high 72 yards.

  • Freshman linebacker Kache Palacio forced a fumble while assisting on his first career sack.

  • Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Xavier Cooper tallied seven tackles and three for loss.

  • Senior BUCK linebacker Travis Long had a career-high 2 1/2 sacks, bringing his season total to 6 1/2, and is now tied for seventh on the school's all-time list with Ivan Cook, with 17 1/2 total.
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