WASHINGTON STATE PLAYS against arguably the conference's biggest surprise at 3 p.m. Saturday at Oregon State. Coach Mike Leach talked about his upcoming opponent – and a little about his former understudy's competitor – during his Tuesday Pac-12 coaches' teleconference.
The Cougars (2-3 overall, 0-2 conference) have a different test this week as sophomore quarterback Connor Halliday
challenges talented cornerbacks Jordan Poyer and Rashaad Reynolds
. The latter leads the Beavers (3-0, 2-0) with 25 tackles, while Poyer has an interception and two tackles for loss.
"I think Halliday has improved every game he's played," Leach said. "He's got some big-play potential at quarterback."
Freshman Teondray Caldwell
increasingly appears to be emerging as the Cougars' feature running back each week. He has rushed for 122 yards on 25 carries, but Leach sees plenty of room for improvement.
"Very much a work in progress," he said. "I think he's talented and explosive. We need to make him more of a complete player and one that can go a little bit longer."
Leach has connections with many coaches throughout college football, but his ties to OSU coach Mike Riley are limited. He said they shared an agent at one point and he has "a lot of respect" for Riley.
The Beavers, who were picked by many to finish last in the Pac-12 North Division after finishing with a 3-9 record last year, appear poised to go to a bowl for the first time since 2009.
"I think they've done a tremendous job," Leach said. "I think they play really hard."
One week after Dana Holgorsen, who was an assistant for Leach from 2000-07 at Texas Tech, guided West Virginia to a 70-63 win against Baylor, his Mountaineers play at Texas. Leach, who was 2-8 against the Longhorns, was asked about the keys for Holgorsen's team to win.
"In that conference nearly every week you're going up against some good," he said. "The biggest thing is don't waste plays."