Moos, Gesser eye 2-0 Pac-12 start for WSU

BILL MOOS AND Jason Gesser bleed crimson 24/7, but never more so than when they team up on the weekly “Cougar Calls” radio show. To say that Moos and Gesser occasionally get carried away with their optimistic views of Washington State athletics is an understatement.

Moos and Gesser were as optimistic as ever during Monday morning’s radio show in Spokane. However, both men made convincing arguments that the Cougars have a legitimate shot to start the Pac-12 Conference season 2-0 with upset wins the next two Saturdays at No. 24 California and at unranked – for the first time since 2009 – Oregon.

Moos, the WSU athletic director, praised the 4-0 Bears for winning close games on the road the past two weeks against Texas and Washington. The Longhorns and Huskies, traditionally powerful, are experiencing some rebuilding pains.

At last check, oddsmakers had Cal favored by 15 1/2 for Saturday's 1 p.m. tilt (Pac-12 Networks).

“I’m not completely sold on them (the Bears),” said Gesser, the former WSU quarterback who now works in the athletic department and on WSU football radio broadcasts. “Now that they’re ranked, they’re in their place (Memorial Stadium in Berkeley), they’re going to feel, ‘Hey, we beat Washington State last year. They’re going to come down here, we’re going to beat ‘em again. We’re on a roll right now.’

“I really do think, (with WSU) coming off the bye week, how Coach (Mike) Leach is going to prepare the offense, how (defensive coordinator Alex) Grinch is going to prepare the defense, I feel really positive about this game.”

Moos said Oregon may be “fragile” after opening Pac-12 play with a 62-20 loss to Utah in Eugene on Saturday. Moos said the 2-2 Ducks possess “a lot of talent,” but Gesser said he was encouraged after watching Saturday’s game on television and seeing the eyes of quarterbacks Vernon Adams Jr. and Jeff Lockie.

“Their confidence got shattered,” Gesser said.

The game time in Eugene, announced Monday morning, is 3 p.m. Oct. 10 on the Pac-12 Networks.

WSU thumped California 44-22 two years ago in Berkeley during the Bears’ first season under coach Sonny Dykes, who assisted Leach at Texas Tech. Last season, Cal rallied to edge WSU 60-59 when Quentin Breshears missed a 19-yard field goal with 19 seconds to go.

“We saw a great game last year here in Pullman,” Gesser said. “I think we’re going to see another great game down there in the Bay, and it’s going to come down to that last drive.”

Moos added, ““This is an important couple weeks for Cougar football. We’ve got two tough road games.

“We’ve had two weeks to prepare, heal up a little bit, get some of those little nagging injuries (treated), sort a couple things out, work with the younger guys. That’s always an important part of the bye. So we should be refreshed and ready to go.

“Now, I think Jason will tell you, or at least he will agree, you never know what you’re going to have after a bye. I’ve seen teams come out of byes flat. I’ve seen teams rested and come out and just blow it wide open.”

The 2-1 Cougars have turned in spotty performances in all three games. That includes a comeback, 37-34 victory over Rutgers in their only road contest.

“For whatever reason,” Gesser said, “I think this team likes to play on the road.”

Gesser said that’s particularly true when the Cougars’ many California natives play in their home state.

“A lot of players are going to have family members at the game,” Gesser said. “They’re going to want to go out there and put on a show for their family.”

The Bears rely heavily on standout quarterback Jared Goff, but Gesser pointed out that the Bears run the ball far more than the Cougars and play at a faster pace to try to wear down and confuse defenses.

“From Washington State’s standpoint,” Gesser said, “stop the run No. 1 and don’t give up explosive plays down the field No. 2.”

Gesser and Moos didn’t point this out, but the Bears have won nine of the past 10 meetings with WSU and lead the all-time series 45-26-5. Also, the Cougars are attempting to win on consecutive trips to Berkeley for just the third time (counting one winning streak of three games in the 1930s) since the series began in 1919.

The Cougars haven’t started 2-0 in conference play since 2003. WSU hasn’t won its first two conference road games since 2006, when the Cougars won their first three conference road outings.

“The next two weeks,” Moos said, “if you can get one or two of those, we’re sitting in really good shape as our schedule lays out for us.”

As Gesser noted, Washington State may benefit from not facing No. 10 Utah or No. 17 USC this season. Also, after the California and Oregon games, the Cougars play three of four at home, including homecoming Saturday, Oct. 17 (no time set) against rebuilding Oregon State.

MOOS PROUDLY POINTED OUT THAT WSU’s volleyball, soccer and football teams have a combined record of 22-4. Also, the women’s golf team won the 12-team Cougar Cup last week, when WSU junior Cherokee Kim claimed medalist honors with a 5-under-par score of 211 for 54 holes at Palouse Ridge Golf Club in Pullman.

“Cherokee has come back from the summer and just played awesome,” WSU coach Kelli Kamimura said on radio. “You know, 69, 69, 73 to shoot minus-5 is great play out at Palouse. She’s just worked hard, trained hard and is in a great mindset to go out there and do great things.” “I just love that name (Cherokee),<” Moos said. “You’re going to be a winner if you have a name like Cherokee Kim. It sounds like something out of the Saturday morning Westerns when I was growing up. She’s the real deal isn’t she, Kelly?”

“She is,” Kamimura said. “She’s a great student, great athlete. With a name like Cherokee, you’re meant to stand out. She embraces that and loves that.

“She loves to win. We’ve got a couple players like that on our team right now that just love to compete, work their tails off. It’s just a lot of fun and great energy to be around.”

WSU’S FRESHMEN-LEADEN VOLLEYBALL TEAM pushed sixth-ranked and unbeaten Washington to five sets before falling last Thursday. The Pac-12 opener was played before a raucous crowd of 1,458 at Bohler Gym.

“The best volleyball venue in the Pac-12,” Moos claims, “and I will argue that with anybody, because it’s the only one that’s exclusively for volleyball. It’s designed, branded, lined, everything for volleyball. It’s loud. It’s intimating … I’m sure that got into the Huskies’ heads.” Washington State rebounded from the Washington loss to sweep Utah on Saturday. The Cougars, buoyed by a pair of Top 25 recruiting classes the past three years, are 12-2.

“We’ve got better players than we’ve ever had,” Moos said.

THE WSU WOMEN'S SOCCER TEAM (8-1, 1-0 Pac-12) entertains USC (6-3-1, 1-0) and former Cougars coach Keidane McAlpine on Thursday night at 7. That contest, and Saturday’s 11 a.m. match with UCLA (5-4, 1-0), will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.

“All the ladies have a connection with Coach (McAlpine),” Gesser said, “but at the same time feel, ‘Hey, you want to leave us for somebody else? We’ll show you.’ “There’s absolutely an extra motivation to get up for that game.”

Gesser and Moos praised new coach Todd Shulenberger, WSU’s third head coach in as many years. Shulenberger won his Pac-12 debut Sunday when senior Kourtney Guetlin scored two goals and freshman Ella Dederick made a season-high nine saves in a 2-1 win at Arizona State. The Sun Devils outshot the Cougars 24-6, including 15-1 in a scoreless first half.

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