Cougars 'much improved' but still frustrated

THE HIGHS AND LOWS – this is what college football is all about. And after starting in his first game for Washington State, sophomore running back Jeremiah Laufasa said that the team took some satisfaction in staying with – and at times leading – SEC powerhouse Auburn.

"We're just excited," he said in a postgame radio interview. "We practiced those situations. That's what college football is all about, and whenever we come up short, we're disappointed."

Still, Laufasa said, "We're a much improved team from last year.

"You take away the mental mistakes and turnovers and we win."

Spoken not like an underclassman walk-on – the Kirkland native redshirted last season after transferring from NCAA Division II Central Washington – but like a man who knows what he's talking about.

After all, despite racking up just 10 yards, Laufasa put two of the Cougars' three touchdowns on the board on Saturday in their 31-24 loss at Jordan-Hare Stadium. His effort matched one-third of the team's total rushing touchdowns in 2012.

The first, a 4-yard touchdown run, capped a 75-yard, 12-play opening drive that stunned the Tigers.

In the second quarter, Washington State regained the lead when Laufasa converted another short touchdown run, this time from one yard out.

"I was really pumped," he said about the touchdowns. "Obviously, I would have been more excited with the win."

COACH Mike Leach said in a postgame radio interview that despite giving up "too many explosives," his team played hard.

Among the strong points were that the defense "did a lot of good things" and the offensive line "played hard – they're in better shape."

Sophomore Gabe Marks, who had a career-high nine catches for 81 yards, said that despite the strides the team made in the wake of last season's abysmal 3-9 showing, they weren't going to celebrate.

"We're not going to go back home and be happy because we lost by a touchdown," he said in a postgame interview with The Seattle Times. "We're all (ticked) off because we lost that game we should have won."

Leach said that he expected Auburn to be a strong opponent.

"They are way better than last year," he said. "I mean they have had one top recruiting class after another so they are bound to have a great team."

BUT IN POSTGAME remarks to The Birmingham News, Marks didn't give their opponent too much credit.

"They weren't very physical," he said. "You hear about the SEC and stuff you think they're gonna be all in your face, but they were playing a lot of off-man."

Junior quarterback Connor Halliday summed up the experience as "frustrating."

"(But) we don't let this get to us," he said. "We're going to stay confident for next week."

  • Washington State scored on its opening drive for the first time since Halliday's 32-yard pass to Marks against Colorado last season.

  • Washington State's 120 rushing yards were the most it amassed since 2011 at Oregon, when it finished with 125.

  • Halliday threw for 344 yards, his sixth 300-yard game, tying him for third all-time with Jason Gesser and Timm Rosenbach.

  • Halliday's 65 pass attempts were the second-most in school single-game history. Drew Bledsoe caught 66 against Montana in 1992.

  • Andrew Furney's 44-yard field goal was the 32nd of his career, moving him into a tie for fourth place on the schook's career list with Rian Lindell.

  • Rickey Galvin matched a career high with five catches.

  • Deone Bucannon added 14 tackles for a career total of 284, including 202 solo, good for the sixth-most all time.

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