Seen & Heard on Planet Coug

PULLMAN – Washington State desperately wants to open the football season as scheduled next Saturday at Martin Stadium, but the Cougars aren’t nearly as desperate to play the game as Portland State.

Portland State’s athletic program is awash in red ink, so the Vikings are badly in need of the $525,000 paycheck they’re due to receive for taking a presumed beating at the hands of the Cougars. Only a “smoke-out” cancellation caused by fires in the region seems capable of sparing the Vikings the type of lopsided defeat routinely suffered by Big Sky Conference teams against Pac-12 Conference teams.

Average attendance at PSU home games last year was (blush) 4,583. That’s the official number; fewer people actually showed up for the games. The Portland Tribune reported that season-ticket sales totaled approximately 500. Washington State averaged more fans (30,813) at its seven home games than the Vikings drew for all five of their home games (22,914).

WSU opens the season with its three nonconference games, including a road contest with Rutgers on Sept. 12 and a home date with Wyoming on Sept. 19. The Cougars receive $300,000 for visiting Rutgers – a discounted price that matches what WSU paid the Scarlet Knights to come to Seattle last year. The Cougars pay Wyoming $600,000, double what the Cougars will haul in for a return game in Laramie in 2018.

  • Jeff Tuel was waived on Saturday by Jacksonville in their first wave of cuts to 75 players (the 75-man deadline is Tuesday but Jacksonville made their cuts early). Tuel was competing for the No. 3 job with Stephen Morris and was thought to potentially have a leg up having played in Buffalo for current Jaguars assistant coaches Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett.

    Tuel started one game for the Bills in 2013, the only start of his NFL career. The final cut date for NFL teams is Saturday when the initial 53-man roster must be set. Tuel finished his WSU career in 2012 in the school's top 10 for completions, pass attempts, touchdowns and passing yards.

  • The WSU football team has led the nation in pass attempts and finished last in rushing attempts three straight years since Mike Leach arrived as head coach. Leading 2014 rushers Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks showed promise as second-year freshmen last year, Keith Harrington has been added to the mix and the Cougars are expected to run the ball more this fall.

    “Our quarterbacks really understand our ground game right now, so they’re getting us into the right plays at the right time,” offensive line coach Clay McGuire said. “We’re not ‘running uphill,’ so to say. Those backs (Wicks and Morrow) – they’re sophomores, so they’ve spent three years in the system. They’re improved their bodies and they’ve improved themselves in the system. They understand what we’re trying to tell them to do.

    “They’re really running hard and making plays. You get a high school kid, he wants to come in here and outrun everybody and juke everybody.”

  • Another reason for optimism about WSU’s running game is the return of all five starters on the offensive line (and 17 of 18 o-line letter winners from last year). The group is led by senior left tackle Joe Dahl, who may be the Cougars’ top prospect for the 2016 NFL draft.

    “He’s one of our strongest kids, one of our most explosive athletes,” McGuire said. “I think if he can improve on what he did last year, he’ll have a bright future in football.”

    Left guard Gunnar Eklund agrees, saying, “Joey is a hard worker. He’s always making me do extra workout stuff with him, extra stretching and all that stuff. He definitely has the work ethic that it takes to get to the next level, and he’s also a good guy.”

  • Wide receiver Gabe Marks, every bit as confident as he is talented, has never been shy about expressing his desire to play in the NFL. After redshirting a year ago, Marks might be able to parlay a big junior season into an NFL gig next year.

    “I think he’s hungrier,” quarterback Luke Falk said. “I love his intensity.”

  • Add Marks to the long list of admirers of true freshman wideout Tavares Martin.

    “Most freshmen don’t come in with that kind of talent,” Marks said. “He attacks the ball with his hands. You’ve got to get used to the offense, but he’s going to be great.”

  • In case you've missed any of the recent Cougfan Radio pieces, former WSU football coach and broadcaster Jim Walden has returned to the Spokane airwaves.

    Walden, who has hosted sports talk shows in Spokane in the past, talks college football on “The Goal Line” at 9 a.m. Saturdays on KGA 1510 AM. will be a regular guest throughout the season and if you can't listen to it live, we'll have the audio clip up on our front page same day.

  • Globe-trotting Kyle Weaver is returning to Italy to continue his pro basketball career after spending part of last season with teams in Israel and Puerto Rico.

    Weaver, who played on Washington State’s last two NCAA tournament teams in 2006-07 and 2007-08, signed with a team in the small Central Italy city of Roseto. The former NBA guard starred in Naples, Italy, in 2013-14. The Naples and Roseto teams do not play in Italy’s top league.

  • Former WSU pitcher Adam Conley outdueled Washington Nationals star Max Scherzer to earn his second major league win Friday night in Washington. Conley lasted five-plus innings in Miami’s 4-3 victory to improve to 2-1 after nine games (five starts). The last Cougar to win more games in his first year in the bigs was Mark Hendrickson, who finished 3-0 with Toronto in 2002. Eddie Bonine went 2-1 as a rookie with Detroit in 2008.

    Aaron Sele, the all-time major league wins leader (148-112) among Cougars, set the wins record for first-year big leaguers out of WSU when he posted a 7-2 record with the Boston Red Sox in 1993. Gene Conley holds the MLB rookie wins record for Cougs (14-9 with the 1954 Milwaukee Braves), but he went 0-3 in four games with the 1952 Boston Braves.

  • Washington State rising junior Ian Hamilton, dominant in the prestigious Cape Cod League, has been named a third-team Summer College Baseball All-American by Perfect Game USA.

    Hamilton, WSU’s career saves leader, posted a 1-1 record, 0.89 earned run average, one save, 39 strikeouts and just eight walks in 40 1-3 innings with the Wareham (Mass.) Gatemen. He appeared in 12 games, including four starts. His ERA ranked second in the league, and he was named to the All-Cape Cod team.

  • Another WSU pitcher, Sam Boone, earned honorable mention on the All-West Coast League team along with infielder Patrick McGrath.

    Boone posted a 4-1 record, 1.92 ERA and one save in 17 games (all in relief) for the league champions of Bend, Ore. McGrath hit just .223 with three home runs in 30 games, but he had 17 runs batted in for Bellingham.

  • Joe Pistorese is a long ways from the major leagues, but the crafty left-hander has been nothing short of spectacular in his first season of pro ball.

    Pistorese was named Pitcher of the Week in the Northwest League after improving to 6-0 recently. In 15 games (all in relief) with Seattle’s short-season Class A farm club in Everett, Pistorese has posted a 1.38 earned run average and two saves. He’s struck out 43 in 39 innings, given up just 28 hits and walked only six.

  • Nick Tanielu, who started at third base in the Midwest League All-Star Game, has been named to the Class A league’s all-star team for the 2015 season.

    The second-year pro out of Washington State ranks second in the league with a .309 batting average. He has five homers and 66 RBIs in 107 games with Houston’s Quad Cities affiliate in Davenport, Iowa.

  • Former WSU point guard Rosie Adzasu, who starred in pro hoops in Finland before trying her luck in Spain last season, has signed with the women’s pro team in Espoo, Finland.

    Espoo plays in Finland’s No. 2 pro league. Adzasu played a reserve role in Spain’s No. 2 league last season. In 2013-14, Adzasu averaged 17.9 points and a league-leading 4.7 steals per game in Finland’s top league.

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