UCLA head coach Jim Mora, who coached the Seattle Seahawks in 2009 (5-11), needs two more wins to reach the Pac-12 championship game. / Wiki Commons
GAME: UCLA (7-2 overall, 4-2 Pac-12) at Washington State (2-7 overall, 0-6 Pac-12). WHEN: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., PT, Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA. MEETING: 59th (UCLA leads 39-18-1). COACHES: Jim Mora, UCLA; Mike Leach, WSU. RANKINGS: UCLA 18 BCS, 17 AP, 19 USA Today. LINE: UCLA by 14½. TV: ESPN2. RADIO: ESPN 710 and IMG College Sports Network.
Reeling from six consecutive defeats and the circus that accompanied the suspension of WR Marquess Wilson, the Washington State Cougars return to Martin Stadium Saturday night to host No. 17 UCLA, which became bowl eligible in October for the first time since 2005.
Under former Seahawks coach Jim Mora, the Bruins (7-2, 4-2) surprisingly sit atop the Pac-12 South -- surprising because USC was the unanimous preseason pick to win the division and also considered a national title contender.
"UCLA's got big, strong, powerful guys, and then I think they’ve got a quarterback (Brett Hundley) that’s pretty explosive and they’ve got some receivers," said WSU coach Mike Leach. "Their running back (Jonathan Franklin, 133.8 yards per game, eight TDs) is really good. And defensively, they’ve played pretty well.
"They’re stout up front, mix their coverages up a little bit. Really, I think they kind of brought some elements together that were there and emerging some at times last year. I think they’ve done a good job and they’re a talented team.”
As Leach stated repeatedly, the same cannot be said for the Cougars, who were eliminated from bowl eligibility last week when they were trounced at Utah 49-6. WSU has three games left and the only positive thing it can accomplish is to avoid its fourth year of double-digit defeats in the past five years.
“We just have to steadily improve," said Leach, when asked about his goals for the final three games. "We need to improve as a team and we need to get better. That’s the only thing you’ve got control over. Just focus on improvement, being committed to the effort and being the best team you can be. We’ve got plenty of work to do and we’ve got guys we’re going to work with four or five years in a lot of cases.”
UCLA could be forgiven for overlooking the Cougars, who have yet to win a Pac-12 game. But the Bruins have a lot at stake. If they win their next two (they play USC next week), they will reach the Pac-12 championship game.
"We haven't been distracted up to this point," Mora said. "We've done a tremendous job of focusing on the here and now -- the goal that's directly in front of us. That now is the Washington State Cougars."
While the Cougars are coming off their most lopsided loss in more than two years, UCLA enters off its highest-scoring performance in 15. The 56-point blowout (66-10) of a ranked opponent (Arizona) is among the best moments in the Bruins' mediocre recent history.
"I was pleased with it," Mora said of the blowout of Arizona. "I wouldn't say that I was surprised by it, though. These guys, ever since we got here, have worked extremely hard. When you start to experience some success, I think you get anxious to get out there and do it again, and I felt that through the week. The effort was good, but the effort is expected to be good. That's what we're trying to establish as our standard."
Weather forecast for Saturday night calls for temperatures in the 20s, but Mora said that is of no concern to him.
That stuff doesn't matter to us," Mora said. "Once you let temperature, environment and the psyche of another team bother you, you've got issues. We don't address it. It doesn't matter to us. It's not in our orbit. We don't care. We're worried about the UCLA Bruins."
SERIES: Dates to Oct. 10, 1928 when the Cougars won 38-0 in Portland. The teams Cougars and met 58 times since then. WSU is 8-10-1 in Pullman. Following a 43-7 defeat in 2009, UCLA's last trip to the Palouse, WSU has lost four straight to the Bruins, but has won six of the last nine against the Bruins when playing in Pullman.
WSU HEAD COACH: Mike Leach (87-48 overall, 2-7 WSU):Hired Nov. 30, 2011 to replace Paul Wulff, who went 9-40 in four seasons, Leach in 10 seasons at Texas Tech (2000-09) earned 10 bowl bids. The Susanville, CA., native, who was raised in Cody, WY., recorded a school-record 84 victories. Leach's offenses led the nation in passing six times and three times accumulated the most total yards. In 2009, the Red Raiders finished second in passing offense and fourth in total offense, both marks tops among BCS conference schools. Prior to Texas Tech, Leach spent one season as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma (1999). That year, the Sooners set six Big 12 and 17 school records.WSU STATS / NOTES
- SEASON SUMMARY: Record: 2-7. Home: 1-3. Road: 1-4. Neutral: 0-1. Vs. Pac-12: 0-6. Vs. Pac-12 North: 1-2. Vs. Pac-12 South: 0-2. Vs. Non-Conference: 2-1.
- Points For: 171 (19.0). Rushing Yards Per Game: 29.3. Passing Yards Per Game: 324.0. Total Offense Per Game: 353.3.
- Points Against: 286 (31.8). Opp. Rushing Yards Per Game: 172.3. Opp. Passing Yards Per Game: 266.2. Total Defense Per Game: 438.6.
- PAC-12 Ranks: Scoring Offense -- 11th (19.0); Scoring Defense -- 10th (31.8); Total Offense -- 9th (353.3); Total Defense -- 10th (438.6); Rushing Offense -- 12th (29.1); Rushing Defense 9th (172.3); Pass Offense -- 2nd (324.2); Pass Defense -- 9th (266.2); Pass Efficiency -- 10th (116.4).
- Senior quarterback Jeff Tuel is fifth on WSU's career top-10 for completions (478) and seventh in passing yards (5,388). The Fresno native's last-second touchdown pass at Utah pushed his career total to 33, seventh-most in WSU history. Tuel completed a school-record 42 passes in 59 attempts at Stanford and has a career completion percentage of .612 (478/781), best by any quarterback in WSU history.
- The WSU defense had three more sacks at Utah, tied for sixth in the Pac-12 and No. 20 in the country with 24. Following a year in which the Cougars recorded 17 sacks. The Cougars have also racked up 65 tackles-for-loss, fifth-most in the Pac-12 and tied for No. 22 nationally.
- Junior safety Deone Bucannon made his ninth career interception against Oregon State and enters the UCLA game tied for third in the Pac-12 with four. Bucannon picked off two passes against Oregon to post the first multiple-interception game by a Cougar since Xavier Hicks at Oregon State in 2008. Bucannon notched two picks as a freshman in 2010 before making three interceptions last season.
- WSU's 24 sacks is the most since the 2007 team tallied 27.
- WSU defense has picked off 12 passes, the most since the 2007 team had 14.
|Tackles||Bucannon 76, Monroe 60, Long 49|
|Sacks||Long 7.5, Monroe 3.0, Mayes 2.5, Hoffart, 2.0|
|Interceptions||Bucannon 4, Coen 2, 3 tied with 1|
|Passes Defensed||Simmons, Coen, Bucannon, 4|
|Forced Fumbles||Monroe 2, six players with 1|
|Fumbles Recovered||Monroe, Locker 1|
|Oregon||9-0||6-0||Saturday at Cal, 7:30 p.m., ESPN|
|Oregon St.||7-1||5-1||Saturday at Stanford, 12 p.m., FOX|
|Stanford||7-2||5-1||Saturday vs. OSU, 12 p.m., FOX|
|Washington||5-4||3-3||Saturday vs. Utah, 7:30 p.m., Pac-12|
|California||3-7||2-5||Saturday vs. Oregon, 7:30 p.m., ESPN|
|WSU||2-7||0-6||Saturday vs. UCLA, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2|
|UCLA||7-2||4-2||Saturday AT WSU, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2|
|USC||6-3||4-3||Saturday vs. ASU, 12 p.m., Pac-12|
|ASU||5-4||3-3||Saturday at USC, 12 p.m., Pac-12|
|Arizona||5-4||2-4||Saturday vs. Colorado, 10:30 a.m., FX|
|Utah||4-5||2-4||Saturday at UW, 7:30 p.m., Pac-12|
|Colorado||1-8||1-5||Saturday at Arizona, 10:30 a.m., FX|
UCLA HEAD COACH: Jim Mora graduated from the University of Washington and began his coaching career in 1985 as a quality control coach with the San Diego Chargers. He coached defensive backs with the New Orleans Saints from 1992-96, worked as defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers (1997-03), was head coach of the Atlanta Falcons (2004-06). Mora worked as defensive backs coach with the Seahawks in 2007-08 and served as head coach in 2009. Out of football in 2010-11, this is Mora's first year at UCLA.
COMING UP: Cougars travel to Arizona State (Nov. 17) before returning to Martin Stadium to host Washington in the Apple Cup (Nov. 23).Washington State 2012 Schedule/Results
|Date||Opponent||WSU Rnk||Opp Rnk||W/L||Score||Rec.|
|9/8/12||vs. E. Wash||---||---||W||24-20||1-1|