News and nuggets surrounding Washington State's 2016 season opener vs. Eastern Washington

WSU FANS DRIVING THROUGH COLFAX Saturday on the way to the game (5 p.m., Pac-12 Network) will notice an influx of Eastern Washington flags waving alongside those of Washington State. It would be a good idea for Cougar fans not to roll down the windows and overreact – the posting of the EWU flags is a project being advanced by Colfax police chief Rick McNannay.

McNannay’s son, Tyler McNannay, was a kicker for EWU the past three years according to Eastern's release this week (Tyler originally walked on at WSU in 2011 before heading to Eastern). Former Eagle long snapper Cory Alcantar - who recently joined the Colfax Police Department - has been working with EWU to get the flags and poles transported and posted along Main Street.  Drive safe and observe the speed limit in Colfax, Cougar fans.

The gap between FCS and FBS teams has closed considerably – FCS teams claimed nine victories over FBS teams last season.

Headed into 2016, Eastern is ranked No. 14/17 in the nation in the FCS polls.  Sporting News ranks EWU ninth in the country, Lindy's has the Eagles 10th and Athlon Sports has EWU 12th.  Eastern posted a 49-46 victory over 25th-ranked Oregon State in 2013 and also suffered a close defeat at Washington, 59-52, in 2014.

Eastern is 1-4 in their last five games against Pac-12 foes, but the average score of those games was 44-38.

WSU led the country in passing offense (389.5) and red zone offense (95 percent) in 2015. Eastern led the FCS in passing last season (353.3 yards per game) and have the reigning FCS Offensive Player of the Year in WR Cooper Kupp. EWU’s biggest challenge on offense against WSU’s D: EWU loses all five o-line starters and two backups from last season.

Kupp, in his three years at EWU, has a ridiculous 311 receptions for 4,764 yards and and 56 TD's, putting him on pace to break all the FCS national receiving records.

Former WSU signee Matt Meyer of Lynden is expected to start on Eastern's o-line on Saturday. Eastern punting standout Jordan Dascalo is a former Cougar. Sophomore rover back Cole Karstetter is the brother of former Wazzu wideout Jared Karstetter.

Over on D, the crimson stop corps last year were second in the Pac-12 in tackles-for-loss per game at 7.8, and No. 8  in the country.

On offense, WSU in 2015 was second in the country in fourth-down conversions (26) and posted the third-most fourth-down attempts (39).

Former WSU All-America safety Paul Sorensen, a longtime CF.C contributor, called WSU games for 14 seasons on TV and radio.  He is now entering his 14th season as the radio color man for the Eagles.

You probably know Gabe Marks caught 104 passes last year, has 227 career receptions and is 68 catches away from becoming the all-time grabmaster in Pac-12 history (and if you don’t, you’re not spending enough time on  But you might not know that during the 2015 season, 60 of Marks’ 104 grabs resulted in first downs (58 percent).

Leach has led the Cougars to a 3-1 mark in home openers since arriving at Washington State, but is 0-4 in season openers at Washington State.

The Cougars are 45-3 all-time against Big Sky teams. Before the loss to PSU in 2015, WSU had gone nearly 70 years since a 13-12 road loss to Montana in 1947. The Cougs are 30-1 vs. Big Sky schools in Pullman.

Cougar fans on Saturday will have their first chance to see new outside receivers coach Dave Nichol and inside receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard coaching their troops in game day action.

Cougar fans are hoping it won’t be necessary against EWU but in just 18 games, including 15 starts, Cougar quarterback and Heisman hopeful Luke Falk has already led Wazzu to five fourth quarter comebacks.

Saturday will be the first of seven home games for Washington State in 2016 – its most since 1999.

Washington State appeared late last year in the Associated Press and the Coaches polls. The Cougars debuted at No. 23 in the Coaches poll and No. 24 in the AP poll following the win at UCLA. After the win over Colorado, WSU rose to No. 20 in both polls.

In the 2016 preseason polls, WSU is effectively rated No. 29 in the AP, No. 30 in the Coaches poll.

Headed into Week One, top 20 teams in the preseason polls (or others receiving votes) that WSU will need to climb over to break into the top 25 include: USC, North Carolina, Oregon, Florida, Miami, Texas A&M and Utah.  USC and North Carolina are both underdogs in Week One.

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