COUGARS KICKOFF 2014 HOSTING RUTGERS IN SEATTLE: Washington State opens the 2014 season hosting newly-added Big Ten Conference member Rutgers University Thursday, Aug. 28 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on FOX Sports 1.
NEXT WEEK: Washington State will hit the road to face the University of Nevada Friday, Sept. 5. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.
MIKE LEACH RADIO SHOW: Washington State Head Coach Mike Leach holds a weekly radio show on WSU’s flagship station 920 KXLY. This week’s show will be Tuesday, Aug. 26 from 6-7 p.m. live from Zeppoz in Pullman.
WSU IN SEASON-OPENERS: Washington State owns a 69-44-5 record in season openers in its 118-year history. When opening the season on the road, WSU is 20-29-3 all-time after dropping the road contest at Auburn last season 31-24. Head coach Mike Leach is a career 9-3 in season openers and has won seven of his last nine. The Cougars last BCS road win to open the season came against Illinois (20-13) in 1998. WSU is 79-34-3 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. The opener against Rutgers will be the earliest date of a season-opener in WSU history.
COUGARS AGAINST THE BIG TEN CONFERENCE: WSU owns a 13-22-1 record against the Big Ten Conference, last claiming a victory in the 2001 Sun Bowl, 33-27 over Purdue. The Cougars have dropped their last two meetings against the Big Ten, 25-7 at Ohio State in 2002 and 42-21 at Wisconsin in 2007. Washington State’s only meeting against a Big Ten opponent in Seattle came in 1974, a 42-7 defeat to Ohio State. Running back Archie Griffin went on to win his first Heisman Trophy that year.
MIKE LEACH AGAINST THE BIG TEN CONFERENCE: Mike Leach has matched up against a Big Ten Conference opponent three times as a head coach, dropping the 2001 Alamo Bowl to Iowa, 19-13, falling at Ohio State 45-21 in 2002 before beating Minnesota in the 2006 Insight Bowl, 44-41 (OT).
THE SEATTLE GAME: Once known at the Cougar Gridiron Classic, The Seattle Game, presented by Washington’s Beef Producers, features the Cougars opening the season in Seattle for the first time since facing Oklahoma State in 2008. WSU will be making its 12th appearance at the home field of the Seattle Seahawks, a series that started in 2002 with WSU hosting Nevada in the first football game played in the new stadium. WSU beat the Wolf Pack and have also defeated Idaho (2003), Grambling (2005), Baylor (2006) and San Diego State (2007) in Seattle. Since 2002 the Cougars are 5-6 when playing at CenturyLink Field (formerly Qwest Field). Last season in The Seattle Game, Stanford claimed a 55-17 win victory.
BOB ROBERTSON, NATION’S LONGEST TENURED RADIO ANNOUNCER: Hall of fame announcer Bob Robertson is in his 48th 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 148th 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.
COUGARS TO FACE EIGHTH-TOUGHEST SCHEDULE IN 2014: According to ESPN Insider Brian Fermeau, the Cougars own the eighth-toughest schedule in the country heading into the season. Utah sits atop the ranking while other fellow Pac-12 Conference members Stanford and Cal sit sixth and ninth, respectively. Last year, WSU played the fifth-toughest schedule in the country according to USA Today.
HALLIDAY APPEARS ON AWARD WATCH LISTS: Redshirt-senior quarterback Connor Halliday received recognition throughout the summer, appearing on a number of award watch lists including the Davey O’Brien Award, Manning Award, Johnny Unitas Award, College Football Performance Awards Quarterback Trophy. Halliday started all 13 games for the Cougars last season, setting a school-record with 4,597 passing yards, second-most in Pac-12 Conference history. The Spokane, Wash. native also set school records for pass completions (449), pass attempts (714) and tied the school record with 34 touchdown passes. Halliday tallied nine 300-yard performances including four 400-yard games and capped his season leading Washington State to the New Mexico Bowl where he tied an NCAA Bowl Game record with six touchdown passes.
COOPER NAMED TO AWARD WATCH LISTS: Redshirt-junior defensive lineman Xavier Cooper was named to a couple award watch lists this summer, appearing on the Lott Trophy watch list and the College Football Performance Awards Defensive Lineman Trophy watch list. Cooper started all 13 games for the Cougars last season, making 50 tackles including team-highs of 13.5 tackles-for-loss and five sacks. The Tacoma, Wash. native also recovered two fumbles, forced two and scored one touchdown on a fumble return. Cooper has also received preseason All-Pac-12 recognition from Phil Steele Magazine and Athlon Sports.
WIDE RECEIVER CORE RETURNS: Washington State returns its top eight pass catchers from last year, all recording at least 37 receptions. The Cougars return 89.9 percent of their pass catchers from last season, sixth-most in the country, according to a national survey from sports information directors.
YOUTH MOVEMENT CONTINUED IN 2013: The Cougars continued their youth movement last season after 17 freshmen, including nine true freshmen made their debuts in 2012. In 2013, WSU saw 10 freshmen play including five true freshmen. Last season, the Cougars started eight sophomores in each game, four on each side of the ball and saw 17 sophomores contribute. In the season-opener at Auburn, the Cougars started true freshman wideout and eventual All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection River Cracraft and also saw freshman cornerback Daquawn Brown make his debut. A week later, Brown made his first collegiate start at No. 25 USC and made a game-high 11 tackles and two pass break-ups. He finished the season with 50 tackles, two interceptions and second on the team with five pass breakups. Cracraft finished the year with 46 receptions, three touchdowns and averaged 13.3 yards-per-catch. Cracraft capped his freshman campaign with season-best nine catches for 125 yards and touchdown in the New Mexico Bowl, tying a WSU bowl record for receptions.
WHO’S GONE?: Last season, Washington State sent off a group of seniors that posted a 2012 Apple Cup victory and led the Cougars back to a bowl game in 2013, the first bowl appearance since 2003. Gone is first-team All-American safety Deone Bucannon (15 career INT) to the Arizona Cardinals, cornerbacks Damanté Horton (9 career INT) and Nolan Washington (31 starts) both graduated along with two-time All-Pac-12 center Elliott Bosch (25 starts), offensive lineman John Fulllington (43 starts) and kicker Andrew Furney (third-most FG in school history).
COUGAR OFFENSE TOOK OFF IN 2013: The Washington State passing offense produced the fourth-best passing offense in the country last season at 368.0 yards-per-game with quarterback Connor Halliday owning the third-highest passing average at 353.6 and the third-most passing yards in the country (4,597). The offense set the Pac-12 record for completions (470), surpassing the previous mark of 398 set by Arizona in 2011, and the record for pass attempts (756), passing last year’s mark of 624 set by WSU. Halliday posted the school record for passing yards in a season along with two of the NCAA’s top five single-game passing marks in the FBS last season including the top (557). WSU had 10 receivers catch a pass in a game 11 times this season and three receivers catch seven touchdown passes (Dom Williams, Gabe Marks, Vince Mayle).
OFFENSIVE LINE MADE HUGE STRIDES: Washington State showcased its improved offensive line last season, nearly doubling rushing yards and allowing 25 fewer sacks than 2012. WSU debuted the improved running game in the season opener at Auburn, rushing for 120 yards and two touchdowns, its highest rushing total since rushing for 125 yards at Oregon in 2011. The Cougars also rushed for 113 yards against Oregon State and 101 at Arizona. WSU finished with 10 rushing touchdowns in 2013 after posting six rushing scores all of 2012. Against Southern Utah last year, the offensive line hit another mark, not allowing a sack for the first time since against Utah in 2011. They turned in another highlight against Utah in week 11, again not allowing a sack to a Utes defense that had entered the week leading the country in sacks. The Cougars finished the season with the second-best pass attempts-to-sack ratio in the Pac-12 Conference at 23.9 (756/32), going the second-longest between allowing sacks while dropping back to pass the most times in Pac-12 history. Oregon State led the conference at 25.0 (625/25).
2014 COUGAR OFFENSIVE LINE BREAKDOWN: The Cougars return two starters from last year in left tackle Joe Dahl and left guard Gunnar Eklund who combine for 33 starts, the fewest by any Pac-12 offensive line. WSU replaces the center and right side of the line after all three positions were occupied by seniors in 2013. Sophomore center Riley Sorenson is the only offensive lineman with game experience, appearing in three games at right guard last season.
HALLIDAY FIRED AWAY ON RECORD BOOKS: Quarterback Connor Halliday continued to push his name up the WSU record book last season after tallying nine 300-yard games and five 4-touchdown games in 2013. The Spokane native erupted for 521 yards and three touchdown throws in the win at Cal and then blew blast those marks with WSU and Pac-12 single-game records of 557 yards, 58 completions and 89 attempts at Oregon. His 4,597 passing yards last season were the most in school history and second-most in Pac-12 history, breaking Ryan Leaf’s school record of 3,968 set in 1997.
HALLIDAY’S TOUCHDOWN MARKS: Connor Halliday closed 2013 with a six-touchdown performance against Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl, tying the NCAA Bowl Game record and the WSU single-game record. Halliday comes into 2014 owning a school-record 14 career 300-yard performances, including six 400-yard games, two 500-yard games and nine career four-touchdown performances. His first career five-touchdown game came against UCLA in 2012, his second was against Southern Utah last year and the six he threw in the New Mexico Bowl allowed him to become the only Cougar QB with three career five-TD games. Halliday’s 34 touchdown passes last season tied Ryan Leaf (1997) for the most in WSU single season history. His 58 career touchdown passes are good for fourth all time WSU history, trailing only Leaf (59), Jason Gesser (70) and Brink (76).
HALLIDAY’S RECORDING SETTING NIGHT AT OREGON: Connor Halliday went 58-of-89 for 557 yards and four touchdowns at No. 2 Oregon last season, setting Pac-12 and WSU single-game records for pass completions, attempts, passing yards and total offense. His 58 completions tied an NCAA Division I record with Andy Schmitt of Eastern Michigan in 2008 and were the second-most completions in NCAA history. The 89 pass attempts were the second-most in NCAA history and were a Division I record, surpassing the previous mark of 83 thrown by Drew Brees in 1998.
GABE MARKS BREAKS OUT: Gabe Marks piled up big numbers in his second season with Cougars last year. The Los Angeles native finished the season with a team-high 74 catches, fifth-most in the Pac-12 and second-most by a Cougar in a season. He also tallied a team-best 807 receiving yards, seventh in the conference, and caught seven touchdown passes. Marks led the Cougars in catches in six contests and posted his best game of his young career at No. 2 Oregon, catching a WSU single-game record 13 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown.
WSU DEFENSE HITS THE MARK: The Cougars defense posted some impressive numbers last season, holding eventual SEC champion Auburn to 99 passing yards and 4-of-13 on third down. The following week, WSU limited No. 25 USC to 54 yards passing, 193 yards in total offense including All-American wideout Marqise Lee to 51 all-purpose yards. The defense did not stop once returning to Martin Stadium, holding Southern Utah to 219 yards in total offense and Idaho to 253, the first time WSU held three straight opponents under 260 yards in total offense since the last two games of the 1994 season and the 1995 season opener. WSU finished the year tied for third in the Pac-12 in red zone defense with Oregon, trailing only USC and Stanford. The Cougars forced 30 turnovers in 2013, second-most in the Pac-12 and the most by a Cougar defense since the 2006 team forced 30.
LINEBACKING CORE RETURNS: The Cougar’s 3-4 defense saw its linebackers fill up the stat sheet last season. Linebackers Justin Sagote (106), Darryl Monroe (94), Cyrus Coen (60) and Tana Pritchard (55) made up four of the Cougars top five tacklers. Gone is Sagote to graduation but Monroe, Coen and Pritchard all return along with 2011 starter Chester Su’a who sat out last season. WSU’s returning linebackers combined for 25.5 tackles-for-loss including nine sacks last season.
SPECIAL TEAMS FINISHED AMONG PAC-12 LEADERS: The Cougars kickoff and punt return teams saw improvement in 2012 and both continued the trend in 2013. Teondray Caldwell earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention as a kick returner in 2012 after finishing third in the conference with a 25.0 kick return average. Last season, Rickey Galvin finished fourth in the Pac-12 with a 22.4 kickoff return average. The kickoff coverage team finished the year tied for first in the in the conference with Stanford. For the punt return team, it ranked fourth in the Pac-12 at 9.0 ypr, all by graduated Leon Brooks. The special teams unit picked up another accomplishment last season, blocking its first punt (Theron West vs. Oregon State) since 2007. The Cougars, and West, blocked another punt in the New Mexico Bowl. In 2014, WSU will have to replace Andrew Furney at kicker and kickoff, and punter Mike Bowlin after both graduated.
ALLISON NAMED TO ALLSTATE AFCA GOOD WORKS TEAM: Cougar linebacker Jeremiah Allison is a nominee for the Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team®. For 23 years the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team® has served as one of the most coveted and prestigious off-the-field honors in college football. The award recognizes players whose charitable involvement and community service contributions stand out among all other student-athletes participating in the sport. Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) announced a record-breaking 182 nominees from across the country who represent the sport’s finest in the areas of volunteerism and leadership among their peers. Allison, a junior, has been involved with many community service projects in and around Pullman, Wash., assisting in Habitat for Humanity, the Washington State Athletics Reading Buddies with local elementary schools, Sr. Buddies at the local retirement home , a Special Olympics basketball tournament and Butch’s Holiday Bash for local children. The Los Angeles native has also helped out with National Women In Sports Day and is a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for football. Allison was named to the WSU Athletics All-Academic Team as a freshman. Last season as a sophomore, Allison appeared in all 13 games, made seven tackles and recovered one fumble.
WSU TO INDUCT STEVE GLEASON IN TO ATHLETIC HALL OF FAME: WSU will induct Steve Gleason as the lone member into the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame, WSU Director of Athletics Bill Moos announced this summer. In an unprecedented move, Gleason will be the sole member of the 2014 class and will be recognized in an in-game ceremony during a home football game later this fall. “Steve exemplifies all we stand for at Washington State University and will be our exclusive honoree for the 2014 class,” said Moos. “It’s an opportunity to focus on everything he has accomplished, as a student-athlete, as a professional athlete and as a role model and hero for so many. After consultation with the Hall of Fame committee, I felt it was appropriate, and most deserving, to have Steve as the lone inductee this year. Throughout his battle with ALS, he has served as an inspiration to Cougars young and old.” Gleason was a four-year letterwinner in both football and baseball during his time at Washington State (1995-99). On the football field he was a two-time team captain, garnered All-Pacific-10 Conference honors three times and finished his career with 282 tackles, ninth-most in school history. As a member of the baseball team Gleason served as team captain his senior year and his 12 career triples were tied for third when he left. Academically Gleason was a four-time Pacific-10 All-Academic selection for football, including first-team honors his junior and senior seasons. As a senior he was also a GTE Academic All-District VIII First Team selection and received WSU’s Beulah M. Blankenship Outstanding Student-Athlete award and the Student-Athlete Advisory Board Outstanding Senior Award. Gleason went on to play in the NFL for seven seasons (2000-07), all with the New Orleans Saints. As a player he may be best remembered for blocking a punt that resulted in a touchdown in the Saints first game in New Orleans’ in nearly 21 months following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Gleason was diagnosed with ALS in 2011 and since that time he, along with his foundation, Team Gleason, has been a global leader in raising awareness of and improving the lives of those affected by the disease. Gleason will join the current 177 members of the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame.
2015 QUARTERBACK TYLER HILINSKI TO ENROLL EARLY: Incoming freshman quarterback Tyler Hilinksi has signed a Financial Aid Agreement and will join the Washington State football program in January, 2015. Hilinski will graduate from Upland High School in Upland, Calif. this winter, enroll at WSU in January, 2015 and be able to participate in spring drills with the Cougars. As a junior last fall, Hilinski earned Inland Valley Offensive Player of the Year honors after throwing for 3,053 yards, 34 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He completed 177-of-260 (.680) pass attempts and also rushed for 334 yards and four touchdowns. Against perennial power Corona Centennial High School, Hilinski threw for 442 yards and seven touchdowns and later helped UHS post a 9-4 mark and claim a share of the Baseline League title. Hilinksi, 6-4, 190, is rated a four-star prospect by Rivals.com and three stars by ESPN.com and Scout.com. He is ranked the No. 106 prospect in the Western-150 and the No. 41 quarterback prospect in the country by Scout.com. His brother, Kelly, is a quarterback at Columbia University.
COUGARS KNOCKED OFF NO. 25 USC: Washington State’s 10-7 win at No. 25 USC week two 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 34-23 in Pullman in 2006 and the first win over a ranked opponent on the road since beating No. 10 Oregon 55-13 in 2003.
COUGAR DEFENSE POSTED FIRST SHUTOUT SINCE 2003: Washington State’s 42-0 win over Idaho in week four gave the Cougars their first shutout since 2003 (Idaho, 25-0 in Seattle) and the first home shutout since 1999 (Louisiana-Lafayette, 44-0). The defense tallied 14 tackles-for-loss, the most since making 14 against Arizona State in 2007, and a season-high five sacks.
COUGARS CAPPED 2013 SEASON WITH TRIP TO NEW MEXICO BOWL: Washington State capped an improved 2013 campaign by earning a trip to the New Mexico Bowl, the school’s first bowl appearance since 2003.
COUGARS REACHED WINS MARKS AGAINST NATION’S FIFTH-TOUGHEST SCHEDULE: For the first time since 2006, the Cougars reached the six-win mark, recorded four conference wins, won consecutive conference games (Arizona, Utah) and tallied three conference road wins in a season (USC, Cal, Arizona). According to the USA Today, WSU played the fifth-toughest schedule in the country, falling by a touchdown at eventual SEC champion Auburn, winning at USC and facing Stanford and Oregon away from Martin Stadium. The combined record of the seven teams WSU lost to was 67-27, with four of the teams finishing the year in the top-15 of the final BCS standings.
BUCANNON GONE TO THE NFL: Safety Deone Bucannon was selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft as the No. 27 overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals last spring. Bucannon was the first Cougar taken in the first round since cornerback Marcus Trufant was the No. 11 overall selection in the 2003 draft by the Seattle Seahawks. Bucannon was the first WSU defensive back drafted since safety Eric Frampton was taken in the fifth round by the Oakland Raiders in 2007 and is Washington State’s 13th overall first-round pick. Bucannon closed out his Cougar career with one of the best seasons in WSU history, being named a First-Team All-American by the Associated Press, a Jim Thorpe Award Semifinalist and an All-Pac-12 First Team selection. The Fairfield, Calif. native led the Pac-12 with 114 tackles and tied for the conference lead with six interceptions. Bucannon, a three-time all-conference pick, notched 100-tackle seasons as a junior and senior, also owned team-highs of three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He finished his career fourth in WSU history in career tackles (384), second in career solo tackles (268) and third in career interceptions with 15. He closed the season as the NCAA’s active career leader in solo tackles, tied for the lead in career interceptions and fifth in career total tackles. Bucannon also played on the kickoff and punt coverage teams last season and finished tied for second on the team with seven special teams tackles, five coming on kickoff.
WSU OPENS COUGAR FOOTBALL COMPLEX: Washington State opened its state-of-the-art Cougar Football Complex this summer. The 84,000-square football building will house the Cougar football program including a locker room, players lounge, team and position meeting rooms, coaches offices, training and equipment rooms, an 11,153-square foot football-only weight room, the Cougar Football Hall of Fame and Heritage Area and a gameday home for Gray W letterwinners.
COUGAR FOOTBALL FACILITIES GET NEW FIELDTURF: WSU installed new FieldTurf to Martin Stadium and the Rogers Practice Field this summer. The updated FieldTurf replaced the turf that had been utilized at Martin Stadium since 2006 and on the practice field since 2010. The company, FieldTurf, put down FieldTurf Revolution Fiber, the same surface used by the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink field, the New England Patriots, Ohio State and Notre Dame. The surfaces of both WSU facilities feature the iconic Cougar logo at midfield along with crimson end zones and will be completed in late July.