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Courtesy: Washington State Athletics
Cougars Host Southern Utah Saturday For Home Opener
Courtesy: Washington State Athletics
Release: 09/09/2013
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3:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 14
Martin Stadium (32,740)
Pullman, Wash.

COUGARS HOST SOUTHERN UTAH FOR HOME OPENER: Washington State University makes is 2013 Martin Stadium debut Saturday hosting Southern Utah University. Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks.

NEXT WEEK: Washington State’s football game against the University of Idaho set for Saturday, Sept. 21 during Homecoming Weekend will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. and be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.

MIKE LEACH RADIO SHOW: Washington State Head Coach Mike Leach holds a weekly radio show on WSU’s flagship station 920 KXLY on Thursdays from 6-7 p.m. live from Zeppoz in Pullman.

BOB ROBERTSON, NATION’S LONGEST TENURED RADIO ANNOUNCER: Hall of fame announcer Bob Robertson is in his 47th season calling Cougar football games, and according to a nation-wide survey of sports information directors, is the longest tenured radio announcer in the country with the next closest being Bill Hillgrove who has announced 44 straight seasons at Pitt. Robertson began calling WSU games in 1964 and with the exception of a three-year period in 1969-71, has been calling Cougar games ever since. This season, Robertson will slide over from his familiar play-by-play role and pass the microphone to Bud Nameck. Robertson will host the Cougars pre, halftime and postgame shows, while also providing analysis during the games.

COLLEGE GAMEDAY RECORD: In addition to Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso, ESPN’s College GameDay has had another constant – the WSU flag, which this weekend will be making its 135th consecutive appearance on the weekly show, dating back to the beginning of the 2004 season. Two flags – Ol’ Crimson and Gray – have been flown in the background of the GameDay set by dozens of friends and alumni. The Gray flag was added this year after Whitey was retired in honor of Steve Gleason’s “No White Flags.” WSU recognized the GameDay flag wavers in a pregame ceremony prior to the Montana State game in 2010. In addition to the flags that fly, there is a traveling flag signed by the holders after each episode. The traveling flag is retired after each season, the first of which is hanging in WSU’s Alumni Center.

WILSON, YOST JOIN COUGAR COACHING STAFF: The 2013 Washington State coaching staff owns a pair of new faces in linebackers coach Ken Wilson and inside wide receivers coach David Yost. Wilson comes to WSU after spending the past 20-plus seasons at the University of Nevada. Yost joins Mike Leach’s offensive staff after working on Gary Pinkel’s University of Missouri staff as the recruiting coordinator and quarterbacks coach the past 12 seasons, including the Tigers inaugural season in the SEC in 2012.

HORTON NAMED PAC-12 DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Senior cornerback Damante Horton was named the Pac-12 Conference Defensive Player of the Week following his two-interception performance in Saturday’s win at No. 25 USC. Horton led a spirited defensive effort by the Cougars in their 10-7 upset win over No. 25/22 USC in Los Angeles. Trailing 7-0 late in the first half, Horton picked off a Cody Kessler pass and raced 70 yards for the touchdown. It marked Horton’s second career interception return for a touchdown, the first coming at Oregon in 2011. Horton then sealed WSU’s victory by stepping in front of a Max Wittek pass with less than three minutes remaining in the game, ending the USC comeback attempt. Horton led the WSU secondary that held All-American receiver Marquis Lee in check, limiting him to seven catches for only 27 yards. He added four tackles, including a career-best two tackles-for-loss for a combined 12 yards. The Oakland, Calif. native was also named the National Defensive Player of the Week by Athlon Sports and National Defensive Back of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards.

COUGARS IN HOME OPENERS: Washington State is 78-34-3 all-time in home openers, including games in Pullman, Spokane and Seattle. Since 1990 the Cougars boast a 16-7 record in home debuts, and are 26-12 dating back to the start of the 1975 season. WSU beat Eastern Washington 24-20 in the season opener last season.

YOUTH MOVEMENT CONTINUES: The Cougars saw a youth movement in 2012, as 17 freshmen, including nine true freshmen, appeared in a game. Overall, Washington State had 20 players make their first career start last season including five freshmen who earned starts. In the season opener at Auburn, WSU started true freshman wideout River Cracraft (3-catches for 14 yards) and later saw freshman cornerback Daquawn Brown tally four tackles, including one for loss. Brown made his first collegiate start Saturday at No. 25 USC and answered the call by tallying a game-high 11 tackles and two pass break-ups while helping hold the Trojans Marqise Lee to 27 receiving yards. The Cougars have started eight sophomores in each of the first two games, four on each side of the ball.

WSU VS. THE BIG SKY: Dating back to a 34-0 victory over Montana in 1903, the Cougars have played 46 games against teams currently in the Big Sky Conference. WSU is 43-2 in those games - including 19 shutouts - and has not lost to a team currently in the Big Sky in more than 60 years. The Cougars have won 16 straight meetings against Big Sky schools since a 13-12 road loss to Montana in 1947. The Cougars are 28-0 when playing a current Big Sky school in Pullman following last season’s 24-20 victory over Eastern Washington. Since the formation of the Pacific-10 Conference in 1978, the Cougars have won all 17 games played against Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) schools.

BUCANNON CLIMBING WSU RECORD BOOK: Senior Deone Bucannon has placed his name throughout the WSU record book. Following his team-leading 14 tackles (12 solo) at Auburn and eight tackle performance in the win at USC, the Fairfield, Calif. native sits fifth in career solo tackles (206) and just outside the top-10 for total tackles (292). Bucannon also owns nine career interceptions, needing just two more to break into the WSU’s career top-10, and has posted 13 career double-digit tackle performances.

BUCANNON POSTED 100-TACKLE SEASON: Safety Deone Bucannon picked up his first career all-conference accolade last season, earning All-Pac-12 second team honors after making a team-high 106 tackles, tied for second-most in the Pac-12 and was the highest total by any non-linebacker. The 106 stops is WSU’s first 100-tackle season since Eric Frampton made 100 in 2006 and is the most since James Darling made 136 in 1996. Bucannon also made a team-best four interceptions including a two-interception performance against Oregon. The Fairfield, Calif. native posted seven double-digit tackle performances including a 17-tackle game at Arizona State. Bucannon also pushed his career solo tackle total to 190, seventh-most in school history.

FURNEY DOING HIS THING: Kicker Andrew Furney picked up where he left off from last season, hitting from 44 yards at Auburn before hitting the game-winner from 41 yards out with 3:03 remaining at USC. Furney’s has pushed his career made field goal total to 33, moving him past Rian Lindell and into sole possession of fourth place for the most makes in program history. Furney earned All-Pac-12 second team honors after going 14-for-20 on field goal attempts, tied for second in the conference. The Burlington, Wash. native was a perfect 7-for-7 on attempts inside 30 yards and 6-of-10 on kicks outside of 40 yards including a conference-best 60-yarder against Eastern Washington. Furney went 25-of-26 on PATs and capped his season earning Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week after going 3-for-3 in the Apple Cup victory, kicking a game-tying 45-yarder  with 1:59 remaining and later hitting the game-winner from 27-yards in overtime.

HALLIDAY AT IT AGAIN:  Quarterback Connor Halliday picked up where he left off from 2011, tearing up the record books in 2012 and in this season’s opener at Auburn. The Spokane native opened the 2013 campaign by going 35-of-65 for 344 yards, the second-most pass attempts in WSU single-game history trailing only Drew Bledsoe’s 66 against Montana in 1992. Halliday also recorded his sixth career 300-yard performance, tying for third-most in school history with Timm Rosenbach and Jason Gesser. Last season, Halliday passed for 378 yards and four touchdowns at UNLV then followed with 401 yards and four touchdown passes against Colorado. It was the first time a WSU quarterback has posted back-to-back four-touchdown games since 2007 when Alex Brink threw for five scores against San Diego State and four against Idaho. Halliday owns five 300-yard performances, two 400-yard games and four four-touchdown performances after passing for 494 yards and four scores against Arizona State in 2011. He notched his first career five-touchdown game against UCLA, the tenth such game in WSU history. Following his seven-yard touchdown pass to Bobby Ratliff at Auburn, Halliday now owns 25 career touchdown passes, needing one more to move into WSU’s  top-10.

RUNNING GAME: Washington State showcased its improved running game in the season opener at Auburn, rushing for 120 yards and two touchdowns, its highest rushing total since posting 125 rushing yards at Oregon in 2011. Sophomore Teondray Caldwell led the way with seven carries for 57 yards, junior Marcus Mason added 47 yards on six carries and redshirt-sophomore Jeremiah Laufasa rushed for two scores.

COUGARS KNOCK OFF NO. 25 USC: Washington State’s 10-7 win at No. 25 USC last Saturday was its first victory over the Trojans since 2002 and first win over USC in Los Angeles since 2000. The victory was also the first win over a ranked team since beating No. 16 Oregon in Pullman in 2006 and the first win over a ranked opponent on the road since beating No. 5 Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl.

DEFENSE SETTING THE TONE: The Cougars defense has posted some impressive numbers in the first two weeks, holding Auburn University to 99 yards passing and 4-of-13 on third down before limiting No. 25 USC to 54 yards passing, 193 yards in total offense and All-American wideout Marqise Lee to 51 all-purpose yards. WSU enters the week third in the country in pass defense, fifth in total defense and eighth in scoring.

BUCANNON GARNERS PRESEASON ACCOLADES: Senior safety Deone Bucannon was named to the Jim Thorpe Award 2013 watch list, the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame and Jim Thorpe Association announced in July. Bucannon is one of 48 players included on the watch list for the award that honors the nation’s best defensive back. The Fairfield, Calif. native was an All-Pac-12 second team selection last season after making a team-high 106 tackles, tied for second-most in the Pac-12 and was the highest total by any non-linebacker. Bucannon also made a team-best four interceptions including a two-interception performance against Oregon. Bucannon posted seven double-digit tackle performances including a 17-tackle game at Arizona State. Earlier this summer, Bucannon was named to the Preseason All-Pac-12 Second Team by both Athlon Sports and Phil Steel Magazine and was also named to the Preseason All-America Fourth Team by Athlon Sports.

BOWLIN, FURNEY NAMED TO PRESEASON AWARD WATCH LISTS: Senior punter Mike Bowlin and senior kicker Andrew Furney were each named to preseason award watch lists this summer. Bowlin is one of 25 candidates named to the Ray Guy Award preseason watch list that honors the nation’s top collegiate punter. Bowlin averaged 41.9 yards-per-punt last season, his first with the Cougars. The Aliso Viejo, Calif. native put eight punts inside the 20, recorded 14 kicks of 50+ yards including a season long of 69. Bowlin also recorded 18 touchbacks on kickoffs, the most by a Cougar since 2005. For the second straight season, Furney is one of the 30 players named to the Lou Groza College Place-Kicker Award Watch List. Furney, a Groza Award semifinalist in 2011, earned second team All-Pac-12 accolades along with Phil Steele Midseason second team All-American honors last season after going 14-for-20 on field goal attempts. The Burlington, Wash. native was a perfect 7-for-7 on attempts inside 30 yards and 6-of-10 on kicks outside of 40 yards including a conference-best 60-yarder against Eastern Washington. Furney went 25-of-26 on PATs.

DEFENSE RACKED UP THE SACKS: The Washington State defense tallied 35 sacks in 2012, fifth-most in the Pac-12 Conference and tied for No. 11 in the country at 2.9 per game. Following a year in which the Cougars recorded 17 in the 2011 season, the switch to a 3-4 defense saw more linebackers in the backfield as 23 of the 35 sacks came from linebackers. The Cougars also racked up 92 tackles-for-loss, the fifth-highest total in the Pac-12, and seventh-most per game (7.7) in the country. The 35 sacks are the most by a Cougar defense since the 2006 team had 36 while the 92 tackles-for-loss are the most since the 2003 team had 93. WSU also picked off 15 passes, the most since the 2006 team finished with 16 interceptions.

COUGARS PRODUCE PAC-12’S TOP PASSING MARK: Washington State finished 2012 with the top passing attack in the Pac-12 Conference at 330.4 yards-per-game. That figure ranked ninth nationally and marked the second-highest average in school history. Six times the Cougars threw for more than 300 yards led by Connor Halliday’s four 300-yard performances, tying for third-most in the conference. WSU posted school single-season records for completions (363) and pass attempts (624), breaking the previous marks of 309 completions and 525 attempts, both set in 2007.

NEW FACES MADE BIG IMPACTS IN 2012: Washington State saw a number of new faces on the field in 2012 as 17 freshmen (nine true freshmen) made their debuts and 20 players made their first career start. The newcomers were led by junior nose tackle Ioane Gauta who started all 12 games, made 31 stops including 8.5 tackles-for-loss, three sacks and an interception. Freshman wideout Brett Bartolone earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention after leading WSU with 53 receptions and added four touchdowns while fellow freshman Gabe Marks finished third on the team with 49 catches and tallied a pair of 100-yard performances in his first collegiate season. Freshman running back Teondray Caldwell was second on the team in rushing and earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention as a kick returner after finishing the year third in the Pac-12 in kickoff return average at 25.0, posting a 63-yard return at BYU, a 54-yarder against Colorado and a 92-yarder against Oregon.

MONROE MADE HIS MARK: Linebacker Darryl Monroe produced some impressive numbers in his first full season for the Cougars in 2012, starting all 12  games at MIKE linebacker. Monroe earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention after finishing second on the team in tackles with 80 including 8.5 tackles-for-loss. He also forced two fumbles, recovered one fumble and made three sacks. The Orlando, Fla. native redshirted the 2011 season after suffering a leg injury in the season opener but has bounced back after adding 15 pounds to his frame since arriving from Dr. Phillips High School where he was named one of the top five linebackers in the state of Florida as a senior.

COOPER, WILLIAMS PRODUCE AFTER REDSHIRT SEASON: After redshirting the 2011 campaign, their first seasons campus, defensive lineman Xavier Cooper and wideout Dom Williams both put up impressive numbers in 2012. Cooper earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention after tying for third on the team with 8.5 tackles-for-loss including three sacks while Williams made 34 catches for 546 yards and three touchdowns. Williams started the final five games and capped the season with his first career 100-yard performance, catching eight passes for 143 yards in the Apple Cup victory.

BOWLIN BLASTS AWAY: Kicker Mike Bowlin provided a big boost to the WSU kicking game in 2012, recording 18 touchbacks on kickoffs to surpass 2011’s total of one, Nick Grasu’s mark of 11 in 2010, Loren Langley and Romeen Abdollmohammadi’s combined total of 14 in 2006 and matched Graham Siderius’ recorded 18 in 2005. Bowlin also recorded 14 punts of 50+ yards and put eight punts inside the 20.

SPECIAL TEAMS IMPROVED: The Cougars return game saw improvement in 2012 as Teondray Caldwell earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention as a kick returner after finishing third in the conference with a 25.0 kick return average. Caldwell recorded kick returns of 63 yards at BYU, a 54-yarder against Colorado and nearly took one to house against No. 2 Oregon, going for 92 yards. The punt return team nearly doubled the 2011 return average and improved its national ranking by 30 spots with a 6.8 return average. Leon Brooks led WSU with a 10.6 return average, more than three times the average of 2011. Additionally, the kickoff coverage team finished No. 61 in the country, allowing 21.3 per return, a big improvement from 2011’s coverage team that ranked No. 99.

TALIULU MADE IMPRESSIVE COUGAR DEBUTS: Safety Taylor Taliulu showed little nerves while making his collegiate debut in last year’s season opener at BYU, racking up nine tackles and breaking up two passes. It was the most tackles by a freshman in his debut since Chima Nwachukwu also recorded nine tackles at Wisconsin in 2007. The Aiea, Hawaii native followed that performance with by tying for a WSU game-high with seven tackles in the home opener against Eastern Washington.

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