Early WSU numbers lead to optimism, pessimism

PULLMAN – Early season statistics in college football must be consumed with a grain of salt, if not a whole plate of it, since nonconference schedules vary widely in difficulty. Still, after the bye week Washington State will head into Pac-12 Conference play with a stats sheet that provides plenty of reasons for optimism and pessimism.

As usual, the Cougars rank among the nation’s best in passing yards per game (362.7, eighth in the 127-team Football Bowl Subdivision). However, the Cougars stand 119th in passing yards per completion (9.7), 110th in third-down conversion percentage (32.6), 81st in points per game (28.3), 78th in red zone scoring percentage (81.8) and 47th in total offense (449.3).

The pass-oriented Cougars rank 124th in rushing (86.7), but that’s more than double last year’s output (39.8).

Defense and special teams, the primary culprits behind a 3-9 record last season, have shown progress in some areas but remain a concern.

The Cougars have improved from 97th in total defense (442.3) to 66th (368.3), 124th in passing defense (296.6) to 44th (187.0) and 114th in scoring defense (38.6) to 67th (24.0). The 2015 numbers figure to climb in Pac-12 play, and WSU’s defense has already dropped from 56th in third-down conversion stops (39.3 percent) to 110th (47.4).

Washington State has shown marginal improvement in kick returns, but opponents have improved their average return numbers on kickoffs (25.8, 109th) and punts (21.0, 115th).

Only Washington and Missouri have more blocked kicks than WSU (3-2).

The Cougars have already gained five turnovers (45th), just three less than all last year.

WSU’s 25 tackles for loss are tied for 11th, and the team’s nine quarterback sacks are tied for 13th.

The Cougars ranked among the most penalized teams in the nation last year, but they’re currently 24th in fewest penalties per game (5.0) and 25th in fewest penalty yards per game (41.7).

Individually, Luke Falk leads the nation in pass completions (111) and attempts (152). He’s fifth in passing yards per game (356.7), eighth in total offense (361.7), ninth in completion percentage (73.0), tied for 12th in touchdown passes (eight, with only one interception), 70th in passing yards per attempt (7.0) and 103rd in passing yards per completion (9.6).

Gabe Marks ranks fourth in receptions (25) and tied for 29th in receiving yards (273).

Linebacker Jeremiah Allison is tied for 29th in tackles with 29.

The Cougars, with new punter Zach Charme, rank 81st in net punting at 36.4 after coming in 120th last year at 32.9. Kicker Erik Powell (pictured above) is 36th nationally in field goal percentage (83.3). Last year WSU's primary kicker (Quentin Breshears) ranked 55th.

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