Byes haven't been all that good to Cougars

PULLMAN – Bye weeks often provide a welcome respite for football teams, but that may not be the case for the Washington State Cougars.

This week’s bye comes on the heels of a second-straight win, a first for the Cougars since 2013. Also, the Cougars are 1-4 under Mike Leach after byes, and 1-5 if one includes the three-week break leading up to the New Mexico Bowl in 2014.

The only win came in 2013 at Arizona. WSU gave up 52 or more points in three of the losses, including both 2014 games that followed byes (59-37 to Arizona and 52-31 to Arizona State).

This year’s early bye, the only one this season, gives the Cougars extra time to prepare for their Pac-12 Conference debut Oct. 3 at California (1 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).

“I feel like this bye is going to be good before Pac-12 play,” running back Keith Harrington said after Saturday night’s win over Wyoming.

Linebacker Peyton Pelleur said, “We’re all excited for the bye and excited to get better and use this week for the best of our potential. We’re all pretty healthy.”

Fellow linebacker Jeremiah Allison added, “Take this week to get our bodies right, our minds right and work on playing together all four quarters.”

A COMMON THEME EXPRESSED AFTER Saturday’s game was the need for the offense and defense to play hard and well at the same time. Energy and execution has been excellent on both sides of the ball at times, not so much on other occasions.

“We need to rise up together,” quarterback Luke Falk said.

“We just have to play all minutes,” Harrington said.

The briefest of letdowns may be fatal against California. The Bears are 3-0 heading into their Pac-12 opener Saturday at Washington (2 p.m., Pac-12 Networks). Cal came in 29th in voting for The Associated Press Top 25 poll this week.

The Bears rank seventh in the nation in scoring (51.0 points per game), ninth in passing (563.0 yards per game) and 11th in total offense (563.0). Cal’s defense remains porous (97th at 424.0), but the Bears have won nine of the past 10 meetings with WSU, including a 60-59 shootout last year in Pullman.

California coach Sonny Dykes assisted Leach at Texas Tech, so Dykes is quite familiar with Leach’s offensive schemes. Of course, that didn’t prevent WSU’s Connor Halliday from setting a Football Bowl Subdivision record with 734 passing records in last year’s game with Cal.

WASHINGTON STATE'S PASSING/RECEIVING RECORD book continues to be a dynamic document under Leach. Junior receiver Gabe Marks (pictured above) has moved into a tie for seventh with 148 career receptions. Senior receiver Dom Williams tied Hugh Campbell for third in career touchdown catches (22) and passed Mike Levenseller for 10th in career receiving yards (2,059) with his work against Wyoming. Next up for him on the TD receptions list is Marquiss Wilson, followed by No. 1 Brandon Gibson.

Falk’s career pass completion percentage of 71.1 is well ahead of the school record of 62.0 held by Halliday. After just six career starts, Falk -- a third-year sophomore -- needs only six more touchdown passes to tie Bob Newman for 10th in WSU history with 27. Falk is just 945 yards away from Chad Davis for 10th in career passing yards (4,167).

THE COUGARS HAVE PLAYED 11 freshmen this season, including starting cornerback Darrien Molton, who this week was tabbed by analyst Jamie Newberg as one of the nation's impact true freshmen. Molton one of six true freshmen who have seen action thus far for the Cougs, including defensive back Hunter Dale, who made his debut against Wyoming.

Washington State will receive no sympathy from the Cowboys, since they started five freshmen Saturday. Four of those players are true freshmen, including Zach Wallace, who was surprisingly effective for an offensive tackle with just 265 pounds spread over a 6-foot-7 frame.

OF NOTE: Wyoming cornerback Robert Priester was kicked out of the game for targeting on a fourth-quarter tackle of River Cracraft, but Leach came to Priester’s defense. “I’m not a big fan of the rule,” Leach said. “There’s too much gray area … I think ejection’s too harsh.”

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