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Courtesy: Washington State Athletics
Cougars Face Colorado State Saturday In The New Mexico Bowl
Courtesy: Washington State Athletics
Release: 12/17/2013
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11 a.m., (PT) Saturday, Dec. 21
University Stadium (37,457)
Albuquerque, N.M.

COUGARS TO FACE COLORADO STATE IN THE NEW MEXICO BOWL: Washington State will be making its first bowl appearance since 2003 when it faces Colorado State Saturday, December 21 in the New Mexico Bowl.

WSU BOWL HISTORY: WSU is making its first bowl appearance since 2003 and 11th overall as a program. It will be the first appearance at the New Mexico Bowl, having previously played in the Rose Bowl (1916, 1931, 1998, 2003), the Holiday Bowl (1981, 2003), the Aloha Bowl (1988), The Copper Bowl (1992), the Alamo Bowl (1994) and the Sun Bowl (2001). The Cougars are 6-4 in bowl games all time.

COUGAR CONNECTIONS TO NEW MEXICO, MOUNTAIN WEST: Washington State will be making its first trip to New Mexico since beating the Lobos in the 2004 opener. At the time, the Cougars were coming off their 2003 Holiday Bowl win over No. 5 Texas, WSU’s last bowl appearence. This will be the first meeting between Washington State and Colorado State. The Cougars own a 6-2 record against Mountain West opponents and have never faced a MWC team in a bowl game, both BYU (1981) and Utah (1992) were members of the Western Athletic Conference at those times.

COUGARS REACH WINS MARKS AGAINST NATION’S TOUGH 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). The Cougars are looking to notch its first seven-win campaign since the 2003 team went 10-3 and capped its season by beating Texas in the Holiday Bowl. According to the USA Today, WSU has played the toughest schedule in the country, falling by a touchdown at Auburn, winning at USC and facing Stanford and Oregon away from Martin Stadium. The combined record of the six teams WSU lost to is 57-18, four teams appear in the top-15 of the latest BCS standings.

FIVE COUGARS EARN ALL-PAC-12 HONORS, BUCANNON NAMED FIRST TEAM: Five Cougars received All-Pac-12 Conference accolades led by Deone Bucannon earning first team honors. Center Elliott Bosch, wideout River Cracraft, kicker Andrew Furney and cornerback Damante Horton each received honorable mention. Bucannon is the first Cougar to earn first team accolades since wideout Brandon Gibson in 2007 and the first defensive back since safety Eric Frampton in 2006. It was the second career all-conference honor for Bucannon after being named to the second team last season. Bosch earns his second straight All-Pac-12 honorable mention, Cracraft earned his first career all-conference accolade, Furney receives his second career all-conference honor after earning a spot on the second team last season and Horton picks up his second career All-Pac-12 honorable mention honor, receiving the same recognition in 2011.

BUCANNON A JIM THORPE AWARD SEMIFINALIST: Safety Deone Bucannon was named a Jim Thorpe Award Semifinalist, given to the top defensive back in college football, becoming the first Cougar to be named a semifinalist since Jason David in 2003. Bucannon will enter the New Mexico Bowl leading the Pac-12 Conference with 109 tackles, his second straight 100-tackle season, giving him the first back-to-back 100-tackle seasons since Billy Newman (1999-2000). Bucannon made 106 tackles last season. His 109 this season are the most by a Cougar since James Darling made 136 stops in 1996. The Fairfield, Calif. native is also tied for fourth in the conference with five interceptions and owns team-highs of three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He was named a Midseason All-American by and to the Midseason All-America second team by

BUCANNON AMONG NCAA ACTIVE CAREER TACKLE, INT LEADERS: Senior Deone Bucannon has seen his name continue to climb up both the NCAA and the WSU record books this season. He enters the bowl game fourth in WSU history for career tackles (379) and second in career solo tackles (264). Bucannon picked off a pass in four straight weeks earlier this season and added another against Arizona State to now sit tied for third in school history with 14 career interceptions. He enters the postseason as the NCAA’s active career leader in solo tackles, tied for second in career interceptions and fifth in total career tackles. The Fairfield, Calif. native has posted four double-digit tackle games this season and owns 16 in his career. This season, he also played on the kickoff and punt coverage teams and finished tied for the team-lead with seven special teams tackles.

HALLIDAY RIPS UP RECORD BOOKS:  Quarterback Connor Halliday has continued to put his name throughout the WSU record book after tallying eight 300-yard games and four 4-touchdown games this season. 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 records of 557 yards, 58 completions and 89 attempts at Oregon. He later went for 488 yards and four touchdowns in the win over Utah. The Spokane, Wash. native owns a school record 13 career 300-yard performances, passing the previous mark of 12 held by Ryan Leaf and Alex Brink. Halliday also owns five 400-yard games, two 500-yard games and eight career four-touchdown performances. He notched his first career five-touchdown game against UCLA last season and after throwing five touchdowns against Southern Utah, joins Alex Brink as the only Cougar QB’s with multiple five-TD games. Halliday owns 28 touchdown passes this season, tied for second-most in WSU history. His 52 career touchdown passes are good for fifth all time WSU history and surpassed former WSU quarterback greats Mark Rypien (28), Timm Rosenbach (39) and Drew Bledsoe (46) on the WSU career passing touchdowns list this season. His 4,187 passing yards this season are the most in school history and fourth-most in Pac-12 history, breaking Ryan Leaf’s school record of 3,968 set in 1997.

HALLIDAY’S RECORDING SETTING NIGHT AT OREGON: Connor Halliday went 58-of-89 for 557 yards and four touchdowns at No. 2 Oregon, 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.

INSIDE HALLIDAY’S 500-YARD DAY AT CAL: Connor Halliday’s 521-passing yard performance in the win at California was, at the time, the most yards thrown for in a game by any FBS quarterback in the country this season. The mark was the fifth-highest total in Pac-12 history and the most since WSU’s Alex Brink threw for a school-record 531 yards at Oregon State in 2005. Halliday finished the day 41-of-67, the second-most completions in school history and the most pass attempts in WSU history. The 44 points were the most points scored by WSU in a conference game since beating Oregon 55-10 in Eugene in 2003. The Cougars claimed their first win over Cal since 2002 (in Berkeley).

FURNEY DOING HIS THING: Kicker Andrew Furney picked up where he left off from last season, hitting from 44 yards at Auburn, kicking the game-winner from 41 yards out with 3:03 remaining at USC and connecting on three attempts at Cal. He had three makes in the win over Utah including a season-long 52 yarder. His career total sits at 46, third-most in program history. He enters the New Mexico Bowl second in WSU history for career field goal percentage at .767 (46-60), trailing Drew Dunning’s top mark of .773 (68-88). Last season, 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 capped his season by 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.

COUGAR OFFENSE TAKING OFF: The Washington State passing offense enters the New Mexico Bowl fourth in the country at 364.5 yards-per-game with quarterback Connor Halliday owning the fifth-highest passing average at 348.9 and the fourth-most passing yards in the country (4,187). The offense already owns the Pac-12 record for completions (433), surpassing the previous mark of 398 set by Arizona in 2011, and the record for pass attempts (698), passing last year’s mark of 624 set by WSU. Halliday owns the school record for passing yards in a season along with two of the top five single-game passing marks in the FBS this season including the top (557). WSU had 10 receivers catch a pass in a game ten times this season and owns three receivers with at least six touchdown catches (Dom Williams - 7, Gabe Marks - 6, Vince Mayle - 6).

OFFENSIVE LINE MADE HUGE STRIDES: 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. The Cougars have since rushed for 113 rushing yards against Oregon State and 101 at Arizona. Jeremiah Laufasa paces the team with seven rushing touchdowns and Cougars have rushed for 10 touchdowns this season after posting six rushing scores all of last season. Against Southern Utah, 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, again not allowing a sack to a Utes defense that had entered the week leading the country in sacks. The Cougars enter the postseason with the best pass attempts-to-sack ratio in the Pac-12 Conference at 25.8 (698/27), going the longest between allowing sacks. Oregon (379/16) and Oregon State (591/25) share the second-best ratio at 223.6.

GABE MARKS BREAKS OUT: Sophomore Gabe Marks was added to The Biletnikoff Award Watch List in early October and enters the New Mexico Bowl tied for sixth in the Pac-12 with 69 receptions, 770 receiving yards and six touchdown catches. His 69 catches are the fourth-most in WSU single-season history. The Los Angeles native 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. Earlier this season he had 11 receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns against Idaho. Last season, Marks was second on the team in receiving yards (560), third in catches (49) and caught two touchdowns. 

TWO-TIME ALL-PAC-12 SELECTION BOSCH NAMED BURLSWORTH TROPHY NOMINEE: Redshirt-senior center Elliott Bosch was named a Burlsworth Trophy nominee earlier this season, one of 53 football student-athletes selected as nominees for the award given to the most outstanding collegiate football player who began his career as a walk-on. Bosch walked on at WSU in 2009 and took over at center as redshirt-junior last season, starting all 12 games and playing every offensive snap before earning All-Pac-12 honorable mention accolades. The Spokane, Wash. native started all 12 games this season and against received All-Pac-12 honorable mention after leading an offensive line that blocked for the country’s fourth-best passing offense and posted 10 rushing touchdowns, surpassing last year’s total of six. He also earned Pac-12 All-Academic honorable mention this season, posting a 3.25 GPA while majoring in social sciences.

FULLINGTON KEEPS STARTING STREAK ALIVE: Senior offensive lineman and right tackle John Fullington has started in 42 straight games dating back to his freshman season in 2010 when he started the final six games. The Belfair, Wash. native has started at every position for the Cougars, except center; left tackle (7), left guard (22), right guard (5) and right tackle (8). Fullington’s streak is tied for the third-longest by a Cougar offensive lineman with Mike Utley and trails Micah Hannam (43). Former defensive end Travis Long owns the school record with 47 consecutive starts.

WSU DEFENSE SETTING THE TONE: The Cougars defense has posted some impressive numbers this season, holding Auburn to 99 passing yards and 4-of-13 on third down. WSU then 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 enters the week third in red zone defense, trailing only USC and Stanford, and also enter the postseason fourth in third-down defense. The Cougars forced 27 turnovers this season, tied for second in the Pac-12 and the most by a Cougar defense since the 2006 team forced 30.

COUGARS POST 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, the most since recording six against Colorado last season.

LINEBACKERS: The Cougar’s 3-4 defense has seen its linebackers fill up the stat sheet this season. Linebackers Justin Sagote (91), Darryl Monroe (81) and Cyrus Coen (53) make up three of the Cougars top five tacklers. All three have registered a double digit tackle performance this season with Sagote making 10 stops at USC and a career-high 13 in each of the past three weeks. Coen tallied 10 against Southern Utah and Monroe set a career high with 12 tackles against Idaho. WSU’s linebackers have combined for 26.5 tackles for loss including nine sacks.

YOUTH MOVEMENT CONTINUES: The Cougars have continued their youth movement this season after seeing 17 freshmen, including nine true freshmen, make their debuts last season. Overall, WSU had 20 players make their first career start in 2012 including five freshmen. This season has seen 10 freshman play including five true freshman. In the season-opener at Auburn, WSU started true freshman wideout River Cracraft and also saw freshman cornerback Daquawn Brown make their debuts. 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 and now owns 50 tackles (sixth-most on WSU), two interceptions and made a team-high five pass breakups. Cracraft enters the New Mexico Bowl with 37 receptions, two touchdowns and averaging 13.2 yards-per-catch. This season, the Cougars have started eight sophomores in each game, four on each side of the ball and have seen 17 sophomores contribute.

SPECIAL TEAMS AMONG PAC-12 LEADERS: The Cougars kickoff and punt return teams saw improvement last season and both have continued the trend in 2013. Last season, 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. This season, Rickey Galvin owns a 22.4 kickoff return average, third-best in the Pac-12. The kickoff coverage team ranks second in the conference. For the punt return team, last year it nearly doubled the 2011 return average and improved its national ranking by 30 spots with a 6.8 return average. So far this season, the punt return team ranks sixth in the Pac-12 at 8.6 ypr, all by Leon Brooks who already owns returns for 22 yards (Southern Utah), a career-best 51-yarder against Idaho and a 26-yarder against Oregon State. The special teams unit picked up another tally this season, blocking its first punt (Theron West vs. Oregon State) since 2007.

COUGARS KNOCK 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.

HORTON MAKES THE HOUSE CALL(S): Senior cornerback Damante Horton returned an interception for a touchdown two straight weeks earlier this season (USC, Southern Utah) and added another against Utah. The Oakland, Calif. native owns four career interception returns for touchdowns, passing Jason David for the most in WSU history. Horton’s first career pick-6 came at Oregon in 2011. Horton was named the Pac-12 Conference Defensive Player of the Week following his two-interception performance in the win at No. 25 USC. Trailing 7-0 late in the first half, Horton picked off a Cody Kessler pass and raced 70 yards for the touchdown. Horton then sealed the 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 was also named the Jim Thorpe Defensive Back of the Week, National Defensive Player of the Week by Athlon Sports and National Defensive Back of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards. Horton owns nine career interceptions and has picked off five passes this season.

EIGHT COUGARS EARN ALL-ACADEMIC HONORS: Eight Cougars received Pac-12 Conference All-Academic accolades this season. To be eligible for selection to the academic team, a student-athlete must have a minimum 3.0 overall grade-point average and be either a starter or significant contributor. The Cougars had one first-team selection, one second-team selection and six student-athletes receive honorable mention. Redshirt-junior wide receiver Kristoff Williams earned first team honors after posting a 3.65 GPA while majoring in criminal justice. Williams earns is third career academic honor after receiving all-academic honorable mention the past two years. Senior right tackle John Fullington received second team honors after producing a 3.25 GPA while majoring in movement studies. The Belfair, Wash. native has garnered All-Academic honorable mention in each of the past two seasons and has started 42 straight games including the last seven games at right tackle. Receiving honorable mention were; redshirt-senior center Elliott Bosch (3.25 GPA, Social Sciences), redshirt-senior offensive lineman Zach Brevick (3.28 GPA, Entrepreneurship), redshirt-senior linebacker Jared Byers (3.00 GPA, Mechanical Engineering), junior longsnapper Alex Den Bleyker (3.01 GPA, Undeclared), senior kicker Andrew Furney (3.26 GPA, Marketing), and sophomore safety Taylor Taliulu (3.03 GPA, Undeclared).  Furney earns his third career all-academic honor, Brevick receives his second after being named to the second team last season, Den Bleyker earns his second, while Bosch, Byers and Taliulu each garner their first career all-academic accolade.

BUCANNON GARNERS PRESEASON ACCOLADES: 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 was 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. Prior to the season, 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.

COUGARS OPEN 2014 HOSTING RUTGERS IN SEATTLE: WSU’s 2014 season-opener against Rutgers University has been moved up to Thursday, August 28. The game will be played at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. The game was previously scheduled for Friday, August 29. Rutgers begins play in the Big Ten Conference next season. The Cougars will make the return the trip to face the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway, N.J. Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015. 

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.

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.

JACK THOMPSON ELECTED TO POLYNESIAN HALL OF FAME: WSU Athletic Hall of Famer Jack “The Throwin’ Samoan “ Thompson was one of seven inductees named to the inaugural Polynesian Football Hall of Fame class, it was announced October 9. Thompson was one of the most prolific passers in Pacific-8 Conference and NCAA history following three record-breaking seasons, 1976-77-78. Thompson was a Sporting News first-team All-America pick in 1978 and won all-league first-team honors as a sophomore and senior. Twice Thompson finished high in the Heisman Trophy balloting. The third athlete drafted in 1978, he spent three seasons with Cincinnati, then his final two NFL years with Tampa Bay. Thompson was born in American Samoa and prepped at Evergreen High in Seattle before arriving at WSU in 1974. He is only the second Cougar football Athlete to have his jersey number (14) retired. The other is Mel Hein (7). Inductees will be honored January 23, 2014 (prior to the NFL Pro Bowl) at the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame’s Inaugural Enshrinement Ceremony held in Honolulu.

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 made its 147th consecutive appearance on the weekly show during championship week, 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.

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