The Early Glimpse: Cougs vs. Bears

ABOUT 10 MONTHS ago, Cougar Nation was abuzz when Bill Moos introduced Mike Leach as Washington State football coach. The man came to Pullman with a reputation as a passing game genius, someone the Big 12 spent 10 years chasing without much success.

Defense? Leach leaves most of that to the defensive coordinators and assistant coaches.

The buildup to the 2012 season was all about Leach's fingerprint on an offense that returned two polished quarterbacks, an all-America receiver and other skill position weapons. Who needs a defense? We'll just outscore ‘em.

Fast forward to this week, as the Cougars return to Martin Stadium to play California. Who would have guessed WSU's defense is what gives the team hope heading into the second half of the season?

It's certainly not the offense, which had its worst performance of the 2012 in a 19-6 loss at Oregon State.

Cougars vs. Bears

The Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. PT Saturday in Pullman.

The Line: Bears by 7.

TV Coverage: Pac-12 Network.

The Records: Cal 2-4, WSU 2-4.

The Series:: The Bears have seven consecutive wins over WSU. The last Coug win was in 2002, a 48-38 affair in Berkeley. At the time, it was WSU's fourth consecutive over the Bears. Cal leads the overall series 43-25-5.

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Washington State's offense has been a huge disappointment in the first half of the season. The Cougars haven't come close to putting together a full game on that side of the ball.

The Leach way has been there in bits and pieces, though it's mostly been a no-show since halftime of the Colorado game. It's no secret that the offensive line has been in chaos throughout the season, but the team's two quarterbacks haven't produced nearly enough positive moments, and the receivers often seem out of sync, and sometimes butterfingered.

Some have said that the Cougars need time to learn Leach's system. Well, sure. But it doesn't seem to be a problem at Arizona, where the Wildcats, other than a meltdown at Oregon, are scoring huge numbers in Rich Rodriguez's first-year spread attack. It's not as if RichRod inherited more offensive tools than the Cougars.

The good news is that a bye week is coming soon. If the offense can start to figure a few things out, Washington State's defense is playing well enough to keep the Cougars competitive against most of the remaining teams on the schedule.

Many would say it is unlikely there are four wins remaining among the final six games, which is what it would take to qualify for a bowl bid. But there's reason to think some of these games are winnable, and most should be competitive, if the offense starts to fulfill a fraction of its preseason expectations.

About California: The Bears temporarily sidetracked coach Jeff Tedford's hot seat talk with their emphatic 43-17 win over UCLA last Saturday. But at 2-4, it wouldn't take much to ignite the fire again. With Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State still left on the schedule, a losing season is a real possibility.

Statistically, Cal isn't extraordinary at anything, but not horrible at anything, either. The Bears are No. 53 nationally in rushing offense (174 yards ppg), No. 66 in passing (227 yards) and No. 65 in total offense (402 yards). The defensive rankings are equally mediocre.

The Bears have two capable running backs in C.J. Anderson and Isi Sofele, each with a 100-yard game the past two weeks. Quarterback Zach Maynard has been just OK this season, with nine touchdown passes and five interceptions. Maynard's favorite receiver is his half-brother Keenan Allen, who has 41 catches for 467 yards and four touchdowns.

Last year: If the Cougars could pick a 2011 game to throw back into the lake, the 30-7 loss to California would probably be the one. It was a stinker, a game the Bears dominated from The Opening kickoff. Played in a downpour, Cal bounced to a 23-0 halftime lead, and allowed just a late fourth-quarter touchdown to WSU. Cougars quarterback Marshall Lobbestael completed just 15 of 37 passes for 155 yards against the Bears.

Familiar faces: There are two Washingtonians on Cal's roster: defensive end DeAndre Coleman of Seattle/Garfield and redshirting freshman defensive back Cedric Dozier of Tacoma/Lakes. The coaching staff has a couple of Cougar connections: offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik was a standout lineman for the Cougs in the 1980s, and defensive line coach Todd Howard held the same role at WSU last season.

Stat of the Week: With 171 career receptions, Cougar receiver Marquess Wilson needs just seven catches vs. the Bears to move past Hugh Campbell into second place on WSU's all-time receptions list. With 12 grabs he'd move by Brandon Gibson into second and then be within No. 1 Michael Bumpus (195) heading to Stanford on Oct. 27.

Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-12 ramblings at

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