The Cougars play their final road game of the season Saturday in Sun Devil Stadium against Arizona State. The Cougars have yet to win a Pac-12 game. / Wiki Commons
GAME:Washington State (2-8 overall, 0-7 Pac-12)at Arizona State (5-5 overall, 3-4 Pac-12). WHEN: Saturday, noon PT, Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ. MEETING: 39th (Arizona State leads 23-13-2). COACHES: Mike Leach, WSU; Todd Graham, Arizona State. RANKINGS: Neither ranked. LINE: ASU by 14½. TV: Pac-12 Networks. RADIO: ESPN 710 and IMG College Sports Network.
Two investigations, one by Washington State, the other by the Pac-12 Conference, will shortly verify or reject ex-Cougas wide receiver Marquess Wilson's allegations of physical and mental abuse of players by Mike Leach's coaching staff. More imminently, the Cougars are 2-8 and looking at their fourth season of double-digit defeats since 2008.
But while many might see turmoil in the Palouse, Arizona State Coach Todd Graham sees something else -- a vastly improved WSU team, regardless of its miserable record.
"You can tell the difference between where their system was four weeks ago to where it is now," said Graham, whose Sun Devils host the Cougs Saturday afternoon in Sun Devil Stadium. "They came back (despite four blocked kicks) and gave UCLA a run for their money. You look at the Stanford game (24-17 WSU loss) and they're sitting there in the red zone getting ready to score and tie the game up.
"They're making great strides there, and it's a very difficult offense to defend. They're a very capable football team. I see a very capable offense that's putting up 400 yards, as they did against Stanford and UCLA, two really good defenses. They play hard, these guys. Obviously defensively, their guys play extremely hard and extremely physical.
"We have to play well, and our guys know that. We've come up short four games in a row, and we have to go out and get the win. Our guys are going to be very motivated and focused and know that they're playing a capable team."
Arizona State spent the first month and a half of the season in the national rankings, winning five of six. The Sun Devils have since lost four consecutive games to fall to .500 (5-5). They need one win in their final two to become bowl eligible.
"Arizona State is a lot like us," said Leach. "They play in spurts. The difference (in the first six games vs. the last four) is that their level of competition has changed (ASU's four losses were to Oregon, UCLA, Oregon State and USC, all nationally ranked). Plus, they are probably getting thin, as teams do this time year. But they are still a really good team with a really good defense and some explosive skill guys."
Leach has yet to name his starting quarterback. UCLA knocked senior Jeff Tuel out of last Saturday's game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. But Tuel practiced this week and said he is fit to play. Conner Halliday, who replaced Tuel, threw five touchdown passes against the Bruins, trying a school record as the Cougars rallied from a 30-point deficit.
Halliday also had a monster game last year against Arizona State, throwing for 494 yards and four touchdowns.
For a program supposedly in turmoil, the Cougars certainly got UCLA coach Jim Mora's attention last week. Asked how his club could blow a 30-point lead and lose the second half 27-7 to a 2-7 team, Mora said, "We did not lose intensity. Washington State fought their butts off the whole game."
"Guys are buying into this program," said Tuel. "We just need to bring it all four quarters and be nasty dudes who never give up. We know we can play with the best. We just have to find a way to mass produce it."
SERIES: Dates to Oct. 1, 1960, when Arizona State recorded a 24-21 win in Tempe, AZ. ASU has won seven of the last eight meetings, but WSU won the last one, 37-27, last season behind Connor Halliday's 494 yards and four touchdowns in Pullman. ASU won the last meeting in Tempe, 42-0, in 2010. WSU coach Mike Leach has never faced Arizona State.
WSU HEAD COACH: Mike Leach (87-49 overall, 2-8 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: 2-8. Home: 1-4. Road: 1-4. Neutral: 0-1. Vs. Pac-12: 0-7. Vs. Pac-12 North: 1-2. Vs. Pac-12 South: 0-3. 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 (20.7); Scoring Defense -- 10th (33.0); Total Offense -- 9th (370.4); Total Defense -- 9th (428.1); Rushing Offense -- 12th (32.9); Rushing Defense 7th (162.4); Pass Offense -- 1st (337.5); Pass Defense -- 9th (265.7); Pass Efficiency -- 10th (120.9).
- WSU's defense tallied four more sacks against UCLA and will enter the week fifth in the Pac-12 Conference and tied for No. 17 in the country with 28. The Cougars had just 17 sacks in 2011. The Cougars have also racked up 65 tackles-for-loss, fifth-most in the Pac-12 and tied for No. 13 nationally.
- Connor Halliday threw for 330 yards against UCLA and now owns five 300-yard performances, two 400-yard games and four four 4-TD performances. He notched his first career five-touchdown game against UCLA last Saturday, the 10th such game in WSU history.
- Halliday is tied for second in the Pac-12 with USC’s Matt Barkley for the second-most 300-yard performances (4) this season. Arizona’s Matt Scott owns five.
- Senior quarterback Jeff Tuel is ranked fifth on WSU's career top-10 for completions (490) and seventh in passing yards (5,519).
- Travis Long is tied for ninth in the country with a career-best 9.5 sacks this season. Long is also the Pac-12’s active leader in career sacks with 20.5,
- WSU has had 17 freshmen (9 true freshmen) appear in a game this season; five have started.
|Tackles||Bucannon 78, Monroe 65, Long 58|
|Sacks||Long 9.5, Monroe 3.0, Mayes 2.5|
|Interceptions||Bucannon 4, Coen 3, 3 tied with 1|
|Passes Defensed||Bucannon 7, Coen 7, Long 5, Simmons 5|
|Forced Fumbles||Monroe 2, Palacio 2|
|Fumbles Recovered||Monroe, Locker, Coen 1|
|Oregon||10-0||7-0||Saturday vs. Stan., 5 p.m., ABC|
|Stanford||8-2||6-1||Saturday at Oregon, 5 p.m., ABC|
|Oregon St.||7-2||5-2||Saturday vs. Cal, 7:30 p.m., Pac-12|
|Washington||6-4||4-3||Saturday at Colo., 10:30 a.m., FX|
|California||3-8||2-6||Saturday at OSU, 7:30 p.m., Pac-12|
|WSU||2-8||0-7||Saturday at ASU, 12 p.m., Pac-12|
|UCLA||8-2||5-2||Saturday vs. USC, 12:05 p.m., TBD|
|USC||7-3||5-3||Saturday at UCLA, 12:05 p.m., TBD|
|Arizona||6-4||3-4||Saturday at Utah, 7 p.m., ESPNU|
|ASU||5-5||3-4||Saturday vs. WSU, 12 p.m., Pac-12|
|Utah||4-6||2-5||Saturday vs. Arizona, 7 p.m., ESPNU|
|Colorado||1-9||1-6||Saturday vs. UW, 10:30 a.m., FX|
ASU HEAD COACH: Todd Graham is in his first year as head coach of the Sun Devils after working one year at Pittsburgh (2011), four years at Tulsa (2007-10) and a year at Rice (2006). Graham has taken his teams to five bowl games, including the 2005 Liberty, 2006 New Orleans, 2007-08 GMAC and 2010 Hawaii. Graham started his coaching career at East Central University in 1991. He graduated from East Central in 1987 and is a native of Mesquite, TX.
COMING UP: The Cougars return to Martin Stadium Saturday to play their final game, the Apple Cup against Washington.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|