One factor even impressed WSU’s Mike Leach
In the end, however, Leach had to admit there was much to like about a 31-14 victory over the ultra-young, mistake-prone Wyoming Cowboys. “I thought the crowd was awesome, and I thought the crowd was very instrumental to our win,” Leach said. “Then one of the brightest spots and best things about this game was, it was a really good team win. There were contributions on all three sides of the ball.” The Cougars shut out Wyoming after the first quarter; racked up 303 passing yards and 75 rushing yards (96 rushing yards if not for three sacks); and Robert Barber blocked a field-goal attempt. Still, Washington State came up on the short end in total yardage (409-378) against an 0-3 Wyoming squad that is one of the youngest and most inexperienced in the Football Bowl Subdivision. After a bye, the Cougars open Pac-12 Conference play Oct. 3 at California, and the 3-0 Bears appear to be significantly better than WSU’s three nonconference foes. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, there’s no question,” Leach said. “We ease off the gas pedal sometimes,” linebacker Jeremiah Allison said. “We don’t have room to ease off the gas pedal.” Quarterback Luke Falk said the Cougars have played down to the level of their opponent “a few times.” “We’ve got to put four quarters together,” Allison said. The Bears are averaging 51 points per game, and CBSSports.com ranks Cal junior Jared Goff the No. 1 quarterback prospect (and No. 6 overall) for the 2016 NFL draft. “We just really need to focus on a faceless opponent each week,” linebacker Peyton Pelluer said. “It doesn’t matter about them. We need to focus on what we can do.” Defensive end Darryl Paulo said, “I feel like some of the people on this team don’t realize yet how good we could be. I can see it. I’ve been here for a long time. This is definitely the best team I’ve been on in my five years here.”
Falk completed 37 of 45 passes for 303 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, but Leach said the redshirt sophomore has a “lot of room for improvement.”
No doubt Leach feels the same way about running back Keith Harrington, but the redshirt freshman continues to impress. Harrington led the Cougars with 66 rushing yards on just four carries (a 16.5 average), and he’s scored a touchdown every game. On a gorgeous Saturday evening on the Palouse, he raced 36 yards to the end zone to push WSU ahead for good at 21-14 with 5 minutes, 17 seconds left in the third quarter.
“The first couple games, (Harrington was) a little tight,” Leach said. “He started to come out of it late in the Rutgers game. I think he’s developing into a real weapon.”
The good news for the Cougars? WSU has won two straight games for the first time since November 2013 versus Arizona and Utah.
The bad news for the Cougars? They haven’t won a conference opener after winning the previous game since 2006, when WSU followed a win over Baylor with a victory at Stanford. Washington State is 2-6 in conference openers since 2007, with the wins coming in 2011 at Colorado and in 2013 at USC.
More good news: A win over Cal would give the Cougars just their second three-game winning streak since 2006. The last time the Cougars won three in a row, in 2013, they went to the New Mexico Bowl.
More bad news: WSU has started 2-1 or better seven times during their current streak of 11 years without a winning record (including 6-6 in 2006). Three of WSU’s Pac-12 opponents are ranked in the current Associated Press Top 25 poll: No. 10 UCLA, No. 12 Oregon and No. 20 Arizona. The Cougars play all three of those teams on the road.
More good news: The Cougars snapped a six-game home losing skid. More than a year had passed since a Sept. 13, 2014, home win over Portland State. The record for consecutive Pullman losses is seven in 1998-99. WSU also lost seven straight home games in 1970-71, when all home games were played at Spokane’s Albi Stadium while WSU’s fire-damaged stadium was rebuilt. The Cougars lost eight consecutive “home” games in 1974-75, when three of the games were played at Albi and one at the Seattle Kingdome.
More bad news: Saturday’s win improved Mike Leach’s home record to just 7-14 (counting an 0-3 mark in Seattle). His overall record of 14-26 (.350) ranks 29th among the 31 head football coaches in WSU history. Predecessor Paul Wulff went 9-40 (.184) from 2008-11, and Jim Sweeney finished 26-59-1 (.306) from 1968-75.
The 25 newest members of the WSU Athletics Hall of Fame were honored at halftime. A dinner was held in their honor Friday night at the new Davenport Grand Hotel in Spokane.
Eight of the inductees were football players: Steve Broussard, Marcus Trufant, Jerome Harrison, Keith Millard, Lamont Thompson, Allan Kennedy, Wayne Foster and Pat Beach. The vast majority of the 31,105 fans remained in the stadium at halftime for the introduction of the Hall of Famers (and stayed for the second half).
Trufant, the Tacoma native who starred for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and has long been involved in community activities, received the loudest ovation.
The Pac-12 has encouraged schools to add more details about athletes’ off-field endeavors in weekly news releases. The Cougars responded Saturday with a two-sided page of notes that focused on football players’ academics, community service, outside interests, etc.
The Cougars listed the top 10 cumulative grade-point averages among players. Economics major Brandon Evers, a redshirt freshman offensive lineman, leads the way at 3.71.
Redshirt senior wide receiver Dom Williams caught two touchdown passes to tie Hugh Campbell for third in WSU history with 22. Marquess Wilson had 23, and Jason Hill had 32.
Redshirt sophomore running back Gerard Wicks hauled in a career-high eight passes for 33 yards. Wicks, one of 10 Cougars to catch passes, led the team with eight receptions.
WSU wide receiver Kyrin Priester and Wyoming cornerback Robert Priester said they are not related, though both hail from the St. Petersburg-Tampa, Fla., area. Robert was kicked out of the game for targeting River Cracraft on a tackle early in the fourth quarter.
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