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Lovin Leach!

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Lovin Leach!

Leach was 84-43 at Texas Tech and took the Red Raiders to 10 bowl games.  The hope on the Palouse is that he can restore the roar that saw the Cougs win 10 games in 3 consecutive seasons and strike offensive fear into opponents.

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Monday Mourning QB

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Don't Abandon Ship

As much as it hurts lets take a look back at Thursday's game.

BYU quarterback Riley Nelson threw for 285 yards on 25 for 36 passing and 2 touchdowns as he led his Brigham Young team to an Impressive 30-6 victory over the new look Washington State Cougars.

The hype and excitement surrounded LaVelle Edwards Stadium in Provo as the WSU Cougars and their new look offense took on the Cougars of BYU.  Many questions surrounded this game.  Was BYU’s offense going to start out where they left off last season averaging 35 points in their final 10 games?  Is WSU and Jeff Tuel going to be able to understand this new Mike Leach offense against the stacked defense of BYU? How is WSU’s young defense going to improve from a weak 2011 season?byupost1

A new coach with an impressive resume, a proven senior quarterback, and a star receiver gave WSU Cougar fans all the reason to be excited about the new season.  The only problem is that the Cougs were playing a loaded team both offensively and defensively in BYU.

It was a rude awakening to start the 2012 campaign for the WSU cougars.  After a defensive stop on BYU’s first drive, WSU put together a methodical drive that saw Jeff Tuel go 8 for 9 before a tipped ball interception at the 20 yard line of BYU by Uona Kaveinga.byupostrileynelson

BYU’s Riley Nelson then exposed the WSU secondary by putting together a 10 play 80 yard drive where he went 4-5 that ended with confusion in WSU’s secondary which enabled a wide open 7 yard touchdown pass to Skyler Ridley to give BYU a 7-0 lead to end the first quarter.

BYU didn’t stop there, they put together 3 more scoring drives in the first half that showed the youth in the cougars defense.   While WSU struggled to get in the end zone and move the ball in the first half, WSU kicker Riley Furney was able to get the cougars on the board with 2 field goals in the as BYU went into the locker room with a 24-6 lead.

It was more of the same for the cougars in the second half.  Jeff Tuel had time to throw, but the experienced BYU secondary had close coverage on WSU’s receivers all night.  WSU standout receiver Marquess Wilson had four catches for 61 yards not including two long passes that were called back due to holding calls.  After an incredible 2011 season, Wilson showed his frustration through body language, which seemed to reflect the night for the Cougs.

Quarterback Jeff Tuel, who found himself scrambling out of the pocket many times due to the tight coverage, finished 30 for 45 with 229 yards and 2 interceptions.  There were numerous times Tuel was in the red zone but wasn’t able to get the ball over the goal line.

byupost3Although it was a tough start to the season, the Cougs have a lot of things to take from this game.  It has been years since a quarterback in the crimson and grey has had the amount of time in the pocket that Tuel had.  The downside to that is that this was the first time Tuel was able to work with the new offense in game time situations.  The first drive that took up over 11 minutes looked very impressive, and showed the potential of the famed “Air Raid” offense.  WSU has three weaker opponents in Eastern Washington, Colorado, and UNLV coming up the next three weeks.  This will give both the offense and defense time to work out their kinks and smooth things out before they start Pac-12 play.  WSU’s rushing game which combined for negative 5 yards against BYU will have time to get on track and complement the passing game. 

Please check out washingtonsportsnetwork.com next Thursday as we will have the preview for the Cougs next home game on September 8th against the Eastern Washington Eagles.

WSU vs. BYU box score on espn.com:

http://scores.espn.go.com/ncf/boxscore?gameId=322430252

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Cougar Country

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Sweet Home Pullman!

After a disappointing first loss to BYU, the Cougs have shifted their attention to the showdown east of the mountains.  The Eastern Washington Eagles come to Pullman for the first meeting between these two teams in over 100 years.  The only two matchups in 1907 and 1908 were both Cougar victories 46-0 and 73-0 respectively.

The Eastern Washington Eagles are coming off an impressive opening week win at the sold out Kibbie Dome over the Idaho Vandals 20-3.  The Eagles defense held the Vandals to 237 yards of total offense.  The eagles have a good returning defense and one the Cougs will need to attack early to gain the confidence back in their defense.

The Eagles opened the 2011 season at Husky Stadium where they had a chance to take the lead in the last minute of the game but weren’t able to punch it in the end zone.  The big difference in last year’s team is that Bo Levi Mitchell is no longer the quarterback.  Instead Eastern has junior transfer from SMU, Kyle Padron.

After 2 good seasons at SMU, Padron put up average numbers at Idaho last week.  He went 13 for 33 with 260 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.  The Eagles leading receiver, Junior Brandon Kaufman had 5 receptions for 148 yards against the Vandals.  Eastern has a tall receiving core overall so the Cougs will need to defend against the deep ball in this high passing offense.

Eastern is a pass heavy team which will be a good break for the Cougs after getting shredded on the ground and through the air last week against BYU.   The Eagles return leading rusher from a year ago Jordan Talley, finished the season with 413 yards on the ground and 5 TD’s.  

Coach Mike Leach said at his press conference on September 3rd that he was looking forward to getting better in practice.  “We have to be a mentally tougher team,” Leach said.  The Cougs found theirselves showing their frustration through body language and attitude.  Leach plans to change their mentality and help them gain their confidence.

The Cougs will look to perfect the passing and running game, and start on their winning ways in the first of two home games.  Next week they take on the Colorado Buffaloes who lost a close game last week against cross state rival Colorado State.  The Eastern game will be a good indication of how the Cougs will be able to adapt this Mike Leach offense.  It will be interesting to see how the Cougs will adjust from the BYU game a week ago.

Eastern moved up 4 spots in the division 1-AA rankings, and are now rated number 11 in the country.   Chiawana stand outs Miquiyah Zamora and Jordan Downing who play for Eastern, have red shirted this year but will be on the sidelines cheering on the Eagles.

This will be the home opener for Mike Leach in the Palouse as well as the first game with the completed press box renovation.  There are less than 800 tickets available for the game, if you would like to go they have tickets sold at http://www.wsucougars.com/tickets/

The game will be at 12pm Saturday on the Pac-12 network which is not available in this area.  For Directv, charter and Dish subscribers which is everybody in the area, it sounds like it’s going to be at least a few more weeks.  The Pac-12 had signed a huge deal to be exclusive with the Pac-12 which means no more ROOT(Fox Sports) coverage of Pac-12 teams.  Many residents in southern Oregon have also been voicing their displeasure since they will not be able to see the Ducks play Fresno State this weekend on television.  The Seattle area was in an uproar last week until Comcast made a last second deal with the Pac-12 Network so Husky fans were able to see the game against San Diego State. 

For years there has been talk about the east coast bias, because the east coast wasn’t able to see many Pac-12 games due to the regional coverage of fox sports.  This was supposed to change that, and get the Pac-12 visible to the whole country similar to what the Big 10 Network has done.  Doesn’t make a whole lot of since why they would cut out the largest cable company in the country in Directv.  I expect a deal to be reached by the end of the month, especially since Pac-12 play will be in full tilt.

 We will keep you posted via twitter if there are any updates on if the game will be available to watch on the net.  We will have the post game report from the game on Saturday.

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Cougs Eeag One Out

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Cougs Eeag One Out

The Cougars showed flashes of brilliance, but stumbled to the finish line where the fate of their game came down to a Hail Mary attempt as time expired to seal the cougars 24-20 win over Eastern.

With the new press box opening, and huge hype behind Mike Leaches first home game as a Coug, the excitement began to build as the game drew closer.  The Washington State Cougars met the Eastern Washington Eagles for the first time in over 100 years.  For the opening of the press box, they flipped the original coin that was used forty years ago when Martin Stadium opened.

As Washington State Cougars Kicker Andrew Furney lined up to kickoff the opening of the finished press box, the first home opening sold out crowd in sixty years anxiously awaited.  As the game got underway, the loudest cheers ever to come out of Martin Stadium were prevalent.   The new press box creates a large wall for the sound to bounce off and create a loud enough stadium to give goose bumps the first time it is heard. 

After punting it away on their first possession, quarterback Jeff Tuel hit Marquess Wilson for a 32 yard strike to the 4 yard line which set up a 2 yard touchdown pass to Isiah Myers in the back of the end zone to give the Cougs an early 7-0 lead halfway through the first quarter.

We knew that the young cougar secondary was going to be tested, and Eastern showed the Cougs their deep game as Eastern quarterback Kyle Padron hit his receiver Brandon Kaufman for a 93 yard strike on third down to tie the game at 7. 

wsu game endzone1

Again the new Mike Leach offense looked impressive in the following drive.  For the first time in this young season, the running game awoke when Carl Winston ran for 27 yards which set up a 1 yard touchdown run by Winston to put the Cougs up 14-7 late in the first quarter.

The Eastern Eagles refused to go quietly.  They completed another big third down play good for 40 yards to tight end Zach Gehring.  They followed that with 2 more third down conversions.  A 3rd and 16 completions to Nicholas Edwards for 22 yards, and a Jordan Talley 3rd and Goal run for 5 yards to tie the game up at 14.

The Third down efficiency hit a snag for Eastern on their next drive when Kyle Padron was intercepted by Cougar linebacker Cyrus Coen who returned it 27 yards to the Eastern 17 yard line.  That was followed by another Jeff Tuel to Isiah Myers connection for 17 yards on the following play.  An acrobatic catch by Myers gave him his second touchdown of the day gave the Cougars a 21- 14 advantage halfway through the 2nd quarter.  After the game Myers said he had to play well since it was his first start and his family had all come to watch.

The Cougs ended the half with a 23 yard pass to Gabe Marks to the Eastern 43 yard line with 2 seconds remaining in the half.  That set up Cougar Kicker Andrew Furney for a 60 yard field goal.  The anticipation was all around and as soon as it left his foot, the crowd erupted immediately as the kick was good and the Cougs went into the locker room with a 24-14 lead.  Following game Furney was honored to be in the same breath with Cougar great Jason Hason.  When asked if he planned on breaking Jason Hanson’s 20 year old record of 62, he said he still has another year to do it. 

After a stagnant 3rd quarter for both teams, the Cougs lost quarterback Jeff Tuel due to injury early in the 4th.  The Cougs called on sophomore quarterback Conor Halliday.  With just over 6 minutes remaining in the game, Halliday hit Gabe Marks for a 37 yard pick up down to the Eagle 3.  After a pass interference that took it down to the 1, Teondray Caldwell fumbled the ball inches from the end zone.wsu tip

This is when things started to get shaky for the Cougs.  The Eagles put together and penalty filled 99 yard drive which ended 17 yard strike to Brandon Kaufman for his second touchdown of the day.

The Cougs got the ball back with 2:06 to go after a unsuccessful onside kick attempt by Eastern.  The Cougs went 3 and out after having 2 huge touchdown plays called back including Marquess Wilson’s second of the year that was taken back due to holding.

wsu eags num11WSU punted the ball back to Eastern giving them 1:29 for a final drive.  Eastern drove the ball down to the Cougar 32 yard line setting up one final play with 3 seconds remaining.  A final heave for quarterback Kyle Padron that was batted down by Cougar receiver Marquess Wilson who came in for his height, gave WSU a narrow victory over the competitive Eastern Washington Eagles.  For the Eagles, this makes it the second consecutive year that they took a Washington team down to the final minute with a chance to win, and come out on the losing end.

Leach after the game mentioned the fan involvement and how there was something special about the fans and how he looked forward to the future with WSU.  Leach mentioned that Jeff Tuel was fine and joked that they don’t get injured.

The Cougars will travel to Las Vegas next week to take on the Running Rebels of UNLV for a Friday Night showdown at 6:00.  Interesting note, Jason Hanson broke the record when he hit the 62 yard field goal at UNLV in 1992.

Box Score: http://scores.espn.go.com/ncf/boxscore?gameId=322520265

Around Campus

The cougar ribbon cutting ceremony for the new press box took place 3 hours before kickoff.wsu ribbon

wsu tuel parentsTalking with Jeff Tuel’s parents before the game, they were wearing their jerseys from the 2010 season as to not jinx him, because last year he spent most of the season injured.  The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, Jeff Tuel against his lines wishes cut his hair, because he didn’t play well last week with the longer hair.

This is the second year the Cougs park the bus outside the end zone, and the team led by Mike Leech gets off and touches the rock on the Cougar Statue and walk to the locker room.wsu touch the- coug

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What Happens In Vegas

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Cougars Win In Vegaswsu just win unlv

Connor Halladay went 26 for 44 with 378 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Cougars travel down to the desert and get their first non-conference road win since 2005 over the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.

The Cougs were looking to light a fire on the offensive end, after showing signs of success in the first two games, but nothing consistent.  Although, suited up and walking the sideline, Cougar quarterback Jeff Tuel sat out Friday night’s game due to a knee injury last week against Eastern.  Sophomore quarterback Connor Halliday started the game with this Cougar offense and did not disappoint. 

MarquesunlvAfter an interception in their first offensive possession, Halliday put together an 8 play 70 yard drive that ended in a 4 yard Marquess Wilson touchdown and his first of the season.  This started an onslaught from quarterback Connor Halliday.  Halliday threw all 4 of his touchdown passes in the first half.  He added an 81 yard bomb to Marquess Wilson for his second of 2 touchdowns, and touchdown passes to Isiah Myers and freshman Gabe Marks for a 52 yard scamper. 

The Cougs jumped out to a 28-10 lead halfway through the 2nd quarter before the Rebels added a75 yard touchdown pass of their own when UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry hit sophomore receiver Marcus Sullivan in coverage.  UNLV also added an 18 yard Nolan Kohorst field goal as time expired to narrow the Cougs lead to 28-20 at the half.

The Cougs have been plagued by second half offensive ineptitude this season, and it was more of the same on Friday night.  The third quarter didn’t provide any points and led to a not so entertaining fourth quarter for Coug fans

The Cougs were able to get a 4 yard touchdown rush from Leon Brooks early in the 4th quarter to give the Cougs what seemed to be the game clincher to make the score 35-20.  But Coug fans know that it’s never over until it’s over.  The Cougs were able to get a stop in the following possession and Halliday followed that with an interception to give the Rebels another chance in Cougar territory.

This is where it gets interesting.  Sound familiar?  That is because this game had an eerily similar resemblance to the game last Saturday against Eastern.  When a pass by Nick Sherry on 3rd and two sailed over his intended receivers head, Cougar safety Deone Bucannon laid a late hit on a defenseless player which gave UNLV a first down on the Cougar 24.  This is the same Deone Bucannon who was suspended for the 1st half of this game because of an awful late hit against Eastern which helped get the Eagles back in the game.  Sherry then hit Caleb Harring for a 20 yard pass to the cougar 4, and then a touchdown run by Jake Phillips to pull the rebels within 8 with 1:44 to go in the game and 3 timeouts. 

The next 1:44 appeared to take a lifetime.  After a recovered onside kick by the Cougs, they were able to get a first down.  The puzzling play here is that the Cougs passed the ball on 1st down which went incomplete.  That saved the Rebels a timeout and gave them some time to use if they got the ball back.  Then on 4th and 4 at the UNLV 38 with 44 seconds remaining, the Cougs elected to go for it and failed.unlv

This Gave the Rebels 40 seconds to tie it.  Fortunately for the Cougs, they deflected a 42 yard hail mary pass by Nick Sherry and escaped with a win.

Looking back at this game, as I let the frustration and question marks subside, the offense showed us what it could be when it is clicking.  Many of us have wondered when this famed “air raid” offense can be when it gets going.  The Rebel defense was so terrified of the deep ball, that it opened up the underneath routes as well.  There were some badly thrown balls to open receivers and dropped balls that could have added additional scores.  Gabe Marks and Marquess Wilson had over 100 yards receiving, and last game we saw Isiah Myers hit that feet.  With so many weapons on this team the offense is going to continuously get better.  The question is, how long will it take for them to jell?

On the other side of the coin, the Cougar defense and young secondary continue to struggle.  A quarterback who was averaging a little more than 100 yards a game coming in, was able to throw for 351 yards against the Cougs.  There are so many holes in this defense that it is hard to patch up.  The good thing is that once the offense starts rolling, they will be able to outscore opponents similar to the Baylor team of a year ago.  The other thing is that Connor Halliday doesn’t quite have the consistency of Jeff Tuel yet, so we should continue to see Tuel getting the starts.  Tuel still needs some time with the offense in game situation, so it would have been nice for him to get some reps this game.

unlv3The Cougs face another beatable opponent Saturday in the Colorado Buffaloes.  This will give them one last chance to fine tune their offense before they start facing the tougher Pac-12 opponents.  Leach is definitely one of a kind, and although it can be frustrating at times to see his unorthodox play calling in crunch time, it should grow on us as the Cougs get back to prominence.

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Bears Kill Cougs

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Un-Bear-Ableun bear able

For the second straight week,  Jeff Tuel fills in for Connor Halliday in the first half but can’t overcome the weapons of Cal, as the Cougs lose their fourth straight game 31-17

The Cougs came out Saturday night where they left off last week, coming up big on the defensive end.  Cal’s Zach Maynard was intercepted by Cougar Linebacker Cyrus Coen on their second play from scrimmage.  That followed by a Golden Bear three and out forced by the Cougar defense. 

But when one side of the ball works for the Cougs this year, that means the other side of the ball doesn’t.  The Cougs first three drives consisted of a three and out on the first possession, and 2 Connor Halliday interceptions, one of which was in the end zone.

The defense was taken back down to earth on California’s third drive when Maynard hit wide out Keenan Allen for a 67 yard touchdown pass in which Allen evaded tackles from three Cougar defenders. On Cal’s next offensive drive, Maynard drove them down to the Cougar ten yard line, before Anthony Carpenter from the Cougs secondary handed the senior his second interception of the game.  Allen had 11 of Maynard’s 15 completions for 166 yards.

Jeff Tuel was inserted into the game after Halladay’s second interception, similar to last week against the Beavers.  On Tuel’s second drive, he put together and 86 yard 16 play drive that ended in a 20 yard Andrew Furney field goal because of the Cougs inability to convert in the red zone once again.  In that drive, Cougar star receiver was injured on a personal foul from Cal’s Aver Sebastian.  Wilson would not return.  He finished with 4 catches for 87 yards.

California was able to add another touchdown on a C.J. Anderson 4 yard rush which sent the Bears in the locker room with a 14-3 lead at half.California Washington St-keenen allen

The Golden Bears Came out of the locker room and began where they left off in the first half.  This time Cal quarterback Zack Maynard got in on the action, with a 1 yard rushing touchdown to put Call up 21-3 early in the third.

The red zone woes of the Cougars were stalled momentarily as Tuel found receiver Brett Bartolone for an 8 yard strike and get the Cougs into the end zone for the first time in 8 quarters.  On that drive, Tuel awoke the crowd and the offense with a third down conversion that went to receiver Dominque Williams on a crossing pattern good for 31 yards.  Williams finished with 3 catches for 60 yards, and Tuel told him after the game that he grew up today.

The Cougs unfortunately were not able to overcome the deficit in the second half as the Cougs fell to the Golden bears 31-17.

Tuel finished the game 30 for 53 with 320 yards passing and 2 touchdowns.  Unfortunately, the Cougs squandered 4 opportunities inside the 30 that resulted in only 3 points.   Coach Mike Leach said following the game that the quarterback situation will be evaluated before the next game.  He said Tuel looked good, so maybe he is starting to have a change in heart after Halliday’s 5 interceptions in his last 3 quarters. 

Tuel said about coming in for the second straight game in the second quarter, that it’s not an ideal situation, but he is going to come in when called on and give the game his all.  Leach was impressed with the teams overall response after being down 21-3 in the second half.  He said that they are making steps forward, they just have a tendency to get wide eyes when they get in scoring position and over think it.

Although the Cougs fall to 2-5, the offense is starting to play consistently, especially with Tuel at the helm.  The bye week coming up will give guys a chance to heal and allow the quarterbacks more reps.  Isiah Myers stepped up big in the absence of Wilson with 8 catches for 108 yards.   Myers said following the game that he loves to step into the roll, and that he is getting more comfortable with the offense.   With such a young team, and big recruits coming in, the offense is going to get better as they get more familiar with the offense.

Marquese Wilson who watched the second half in street clothes from the sideline after the game said that it was “just a nick” and he was fine.  The Cougs will have a much needed bye and will resume Pac-12 play against Stanford in Palo Alto on October 27th.

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Cup Check

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Apple Cup 2012

The Apple Cup comes calling this Friday just in time to get all of the black Friday sales and settle into the couch for what is sure to be a game full of suspense and thrills.

We’ll start by breaking down the Washington Huskies.  The Huskies come into the game with a record of 7-4 and winnin their past 4 games in a row including the undefeated Oregon State Beavers when they were ranked 8th in the country.  The Huskies came into the season behind Junior quarterback Keith Price who was coming off a decent season and an incredible Alamo Bowl last season.  He has not lived up to the high expectations coming into the season.  Price had 33 touchdowns with 11 interceptions a year ago, but so far this season has only 16 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.  The Huskies come into the game with the 10th ranked offense in the Pac-12.  The bright spot this year for the huskies has been their turnaround on defense.  They are 4th in the conference in total defense and 2nd against the pass which is where the Cougs have excelled in this season.

The Huskies started out the season with a disappointing loss to LSU in Baton Rouge.  They followed that up with an upset win versus the 8th ranked Stanford Cardinal.  The Huskies then lost their next 3 games before stringing together their past four wins.  One thing is for certain, the Huskies tend to be a different team on the road.  Another interesting twist is that Bishop Sankey who originally verbally committed to WSU, decided to go to UW at the last moment.  He has led the Huskies rushing attack this year with 1150 rushing yards.

The WSU Cougars as many know, come in to the Apple Cup with about as disappointing of a season than any Coug fan could have imagined.  The Cougs finished last season 4-8 but had a few games down the stretch that could have pushed them in to their first bowl game since 2004.  This season though a year older, are only 2-9.  The defensive side of the ball has shown signs of getting better from game to game, but has definitely been a weak spot.  The Cougs passing game has been strong as expected and one of the best in the conference.  Mike Leaches “Air Raid” offense has not been known for its running attack, but the Cougs have the 124th ranked rushing game in the nation which is dead last in division one football.

The quarterback controversy along with the new offense has also been a hindrance for the Cougs.  Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday have swapped starting duties numerous times this season, but even after eleven games, Leach doesn’t appear to be certain about either of them.  Leach is not afraid to take out either quarterback after a couple of drives.

Coming into the Apple Cup, both teams are playing in a huge game for bragging rights in Washington.  The Cougs could make this season look a lot better with their first Apple Cup with since 2008 and give Coug fans some hope going into next season by beating a top 25 team.  Either way, it is sure to be exciting.

The game kicks off at 12:30p on FOX 11.

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Cougars in Compton - Preview

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The WSU Cougs come off an impressive loss against Auburn and head down to Los Angeles to face the Trojans.  The Cougs travel to southern California where they have been dreadful in their history to say the least.  WSU is 8-57-4 all-time versus the Trojans.  Fortunately for the Cougs who played in probably the toughest environment they will face last week according to Mike Leach, the Trojans looked less than impressive last week at Hawaii.

usc-pre

The Cougs look to knock off the number 25 ranked Trojans in the Coliseum, a place where they have lost 27 of their last 30.  The numbers and history show us that the Cougars don’t stand a chance tonight against the Trojans, but if last week was any indication, this could be a barn burner.  With a new defensive coordinator, the Trojans defense is stacked and looked very impressive last week against a freshman quarterback.  The Cougs offense is going to have a big test, but if they can manage the balance between the pass and the run, they will be able to put up some points.

We have all heard of their future NFL receiver Marqise Lee who was 2nd in the nation in receiving yards with 1721 in 2012,  the problem for USC is who is going to throw it to him.  Sophomore Cody Kessler had a very shaky start last week, getting flustered in the first half and only finishing with 95 yards with an interception against a Hawaii team that had 3 wins last year.  Sophomore quarterback Max Wittek got some snaps last week, and looked a little more solid with 77 yards and no interceptions, but is nowhere near the Trojan quarterbacks of old.  The Cougs gave up 2 big plays last week which ultimately cost them the game, but the defense has done a 180 from last year and may be able to limit this USC offense.

This is another huge game and a must win for the Cougs, especially because it is a conference game.  The Cougs have Southern Utah next week and Idaho the following week at home, so if they can pull off the upset, they will have some tune up games to get ready for number 5 Stanford on September 28th.  Kickoff is at 7:30p tonight on the new channel Fox1.

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WSU-USC Monday Morning Review

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The Cougs march into Los Angeles, and do something they have only done 3 times in the past 30 years, beat USC.  The Cougs’ defense held the Trojan passing attack to only 54 yards for the game and pull away a win at the Coliseum 10-7 over the 25th ranked Trojans.

usc1

After seeing USC last week versus Hawaii, I was confident that the Cougs could put up a fight, but I was also expecting both teams to have some good offensive numbers.  After a 344 yard passing game last week, Cougar junior quarterback Connor Halliday passed for 215 yards with 2 interceptions and no touchdowns.  The running game was only able to produce 7 yards for the Cougs for 222 yards of total offense.  usc 3

The Cougs came into this game knowing that they needed a big road win for bowl hopes.  The Cougars second drive on offense was their most impressive of the game.  Halliday lead a 12 play 75 yard drive to the USC 9 yard line.  On 3rd and goal Halliday heaved a pass into the endzone and was intercepted by Torin Harris.  Early in the 2nd quarter a forced Halliday fumble was recovered by USC at the Cougar 22 yard line.  6 plays later the Trojan’s quarterback Cody Kessler ran it into the end zone to give the packers a 7-0 lead.

usc-4

The Cougs only touchdown of the game came off of an interception by Damante Horton who returned it 70 yards to tie the game at 7.  The game remained deadlocked at 7 until late in the 4th quarter.  On 3rd and 9 from the WSU 21, Halliday hit sophomore receiver Dominique Williams for a 50 yard gain to the USC 29 yard line.  Kicker Andrew Furney then hit a 41 yard field goal to give the Cougs a 10-7 lead.  That gave USC’s backup quarterback Max Wittek 3 minutes to get USC in field goal range.  On the third play of the drive,  Wittek threw a ball directly to Damante Horton for his second interception of the game to seal the fate of the Trojans.

usc2

Following the game, the USC fans were chanting “Fire Kiffen.”  The Cougs pick up a much needed victory and their bowl hopes are looking good for the future.  While this was an impressive win for the Cougs on the road, USC has seemed to have bottom out after their probation. What still remains is the quarterback situation which looks to be hurting the Cougs more than helping at this point.  Red shirt freshman Austin Apodaca has had some good reviews, but I think the Cougs will have to lose a game or two for Leach to pull the Trigger and show a lack of confidence in Halliday.  The Cougs will have some tune up games against Southern Utah and Idaho before returning to Century Link field to face the 5th rated Stanford Cardinal on September 28th.  

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SU vs Cougars Preview

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The Cougs come off one of their biggest wins in the past 10 years as they knocked off the 25th ranked USC Trojans.  The Cougs are ready for some home cooking and welcome Division 1-AA opponent, the Southern Utah Thunderbirds.  The Cougs look to improve and sharpen up their offense and defense the next two weeks before they take on Pac-12 powerhouse Stanford at Century Link Field.

su qb

The Thunderbirds out of the Big Sky Conference, some into this matchup 2-0 fresh off a 49-0 win over Fort Lewis College out of Colorado. The Thunderbirds defense forced seven turnovers and returned two for scores against the Skyhawks but they are going up against a much stronger offense in WSU’s and I don’t think they can prepare for the “Air Raid” offense by playing a couple low level teams. The Cougars’ all time record against Big Sky opponents is 43-2.  Looking around for some information on this Southern Utah team, I found numerous sites who think this game will be close.  I would think after the way they played on the road in SEC country and then the big win last week, the Cougs would gain a little respect, but I guess the less respect the better when it comes to the Cougs.

 The Thunderbirds bring in junior quarterback Aaron Cantu who has passed for over 300 yards and 5 touchdowns in his first two games but the Cougs D should eat him for lunch. Southern Utah put up 344 yards of total offense against a team in Fort Lewis that doesn’t even have a stats page on ESPN.com.  If the Cougs defense is as great as it has looked the past two games, we will see minimal scoring from Southern Utah.  Cantu is trying to fill the shoes of Brad Sorensen from last year’s Southern Utah team who was drafted by the Chargers and is currently the third string quarterback behind Charlie Whitehurst.

Let’s face it, this is going to be one of two warm ups games for the Cougs’ before they move full force into conference play.  They should have a good idea after the next two weeks, if Halliday is going to be the guy or not.  He has looked great in spurts, but has had 5 interceptions and a fumble the past two games, with two of those interceptions being in the end zone.  His decision making at times is suspect and as a junior, that is something that need to be fixed. 

The game will be on the Pac-12 Network at 3:30pm on Saturday which is still only available for Dish Network customers.  A way around that is to use the username and password of someone who has Dish.  You can then log into the Pac-12 Network website and watch the game on your computer.  The Cougs renew the Battle of the Palouse rivalry against Idaho next week before playing the 5th ranked Stanford Cardinal at Century Link Field in Seattle on September 28th.

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