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Seen & Heard on Planet Coug

IN THE MOUNTAIN OF statistics surrounding the 2016 Cougar football team, here’s one that stands out in the crowd: In a possible 60 player starts along the offensive line, the Cougars started the exact same guys in the exact same spots 59 times.

Barring something unforeseen between now and the Holiday Bowl, the total will be 64 out of 65 when the sun sets on the season the evening of Dec. 27.

Here’s the specific roll call:

  • Junior Andre Dillard, 12-straight starts at left tackle
  • Junior Cody O’Connell, 11 of 12 starts at left guard
  • Senior Riley Sorenson, 12-straight starts at center
  • Senior Eduardo Middleton, 12-straight starts at right guard
  • Junior Cole Madison, 12-straight starts at right tackle

The only miss along the way was O’Connell at Oregon State. He was dinged up the week before at ASU so sat out the first half (B.J. Salmonson took his spot) but then came in to knock heads in the second half.

Bottom line, this level of stability bolsters the chemistry and communication of the entire offense in a massive way.

The fact three of those guys also started in 2015 and another (Dillard) made starts down the stretch in 2015 in place of injured Joe Dahl is no coincidence. And when the newcomer for 2016 – Cody O’Connell – is a unanimous first-team All-American, you have a recipe for success.

Perhaps no better testament to the production of the OL is this: With 19 more receiving yards, Cougar running backs will be the first group of RBs with 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in a season under a Mike Leach-coached team.

Cougar backs lead Pac-12 ball carriers with 31 collective TDs and are third in total yards with 2,591.

A finally, a random stat that you might find interesting. WSU's starting offensive line averages 322.6 pounds per man. That's up 34 pounds, from 288.6, in 2012.

SPEAKING OF THE COUGAR OFFENSE, if Gabe Marks and Luke Falk go on a scoring binge in the Holiday Bowl, Marks could add yet another lofty record to his resume. He needs four TD receptions to tie USC's Dwayne Jarrett for the most in Pac-12 history. Jarrett caught 41 as a Trojan from 2004-06. Marks already is the all-time conference receptions leader (312).

Cougar junior running back Jamal Morrow is expected to serve as team captain for the Holiday Bowl coin toss. It will be his 22nd-straight. The Cougars have gone 15-6 during the stretch and Morrow is 7-2 in correctly calling the toss, WSU is 6-2 when he wins a coin toss and WSU has been on the winning end of the toss 16 times in those 21 games.

It was announced on Friday morning that Marks accepted an invitation to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

UNLESS DARRIEN MOLTON TURNS in the greatest tackling day in the history of defensive backs and Peyton Pelluer doesn’t suit up when the Cougars play Minnesota in the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl, it’s clear Pelluer will take his second-straight crown as WSU’s tackling king.

The junior from Sammamish leads the team with 89 total stops. And the next-closest guy on the team (Molton) is 22 tackles back at 67.

The top five rounds out with Shalom Luani (59), Isaac Dotson (56) and Robert Taylor (54).

Last season Pelluer led the Cougs with 101 total tackles so in 2017 he’ll be gunning for his third tackling crown – a feat that would put him in the rarefied company of former WSU All-American (and current Arizona Cardinals star) Deone Bucannon.

Bucannon won WSU tackling titles in 2010, 2012 and 2013.

In addition to his tackling totals, Pelluer is third on the team in tackles for loss, with 7.5. The TFL leader is sophomore Hercules Mata’afa (12.5), followed by Shalom Luani (8.0).  Dotson and Frankie Luvu round out the top five with 6 each.

FORMER COUGAR QUARTERBACK Austin Apodaca recently concluded his college career with a win in the New Mexico Bowl. His New Mexico Lobos defeated Texas-San Antonio 23-20 to send the Longmont, Colo., native out on a winning note. He split time at QB with a junior this season in the run-heavy Lobos offense and concluded the year completing 53 of 98 passes for 654 yards, 5 TDs and 2 INTs.

Another former WSU quarterback, Tyler Bruggman, concluded his first season at Montana State with a victory over rival Montana to improve the Bobcats to 4-7 for the campaign. Bruggman shared duties at QB and finished the season with 888 passing yards on 76 of 163 accuracy, with 6 TDs and 6 INTs. His next game will be in Pullman, when the Cougs and Bobcats open the 2017 season against each other.

Meanwhile, in basketball, former Cougar Que Johnson is averaging 14.7 points per game for the 4-7 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. And Valentine Izundu is averaging 1.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game for the 5-4 San Diego State Aztecs.

WSU'S ANNUAL NIGHT WITH COUGAR FOOTBALL events to celebrate the 2017 recruiting class are all set across the state. Mike Leach and staff will share insights on the new Cougs and breakdown video highlights. Among the emcees are ESPN anchor and WSU grad Jaymnee Sire in Vancouver and Pac-12 Networks analyst Yogi Roth in Seattle.

  • SPOKANE on Feb. 1 (Signing Day) at Northern Quest. 5 pm start
  • TRI-CITIES on Feb. 3 at the Red Lion, 5:30 pm start
  • VANCOUVER on Feb. 11 at the Hilton, 5 pm start
  • SEATTLE on Mar. 4 at Bellevue Hyatt, 5 pm start

To register, click here.

Pictured at the top of this story: Middleton (73) and Sorenson.

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