Category Archives: WSU Football

A Sad Holiday

By Katherine Barner

The Cougar defense played well, but it wasn’t enough to overcome WSU’s slow offense in the Cougar’s 17-12 loss to the University of Minnesota in the 2016 Holiday Bowl. Photo credit: Katherine Barner

It was a sad holiday for Washington State University as they faced off against the University of Minnesota in the National Funding Holiday Bowl. The Cougs lost 17–12, which was a major upset for WSU fans.

Washington State was favored due to Minnesota’s attempt to boycott the game when 10 of its players were suspended for sexual assault. Most people favored the Cougs because Minnesota missed a few practices leading up to the game. Even though that is true, Head Coach Tracy Claeys said that the team was adjusting well to the new starters. He went on to say that it is something his team deals with week by week whether it is caused by injuries or in this case suspensions.

On the flip side, the biggest news surrounding WSU is whether or not quarterback Luke Falk will stay for his senior year. Prior to the Holiday Bowl, Coach Leach was asked about Falk’s plans and he said, “I don’t believe he is leaving.”

Throughout the 2016 football season, Falk completed an average of 70 percent of his passes. Claeys was asked how Minnesota was preparing for that kind of accuracy. He said, “Hopefully they’re having a little bit of an off day and whether that’s through drops, or whatever, but it’s hard to rely on him to be inaccurate because he’s done such a good job all year long.”

Claeys was lucky because it did seem Falk and his offensive linemen were having an off day at the Holiday Bowl. It is easy to say that this was Falk’s worst game of his college career. He completed 30 of 51 passes for 264 yards and one touchdown.

During the postgame press conference, it was easy to see that Falk was upset with his performance. He was asked why it was so tough to get the offense going, to which he responded, “We didn’t play like we practiced all week long, all year long, do the things that we do that make us successful on offense, we didn’t do those things. It’s on me.”

With everyone’s eyes on Falk he was then asked the ominous question of whether he will stay at WSU for his senior year to which he said, “next question.”

If Falk decides to head to the draft, the next question is who will Leach choose to take over the quarterback position. The current right-hand man of Falk is Tyler Hilinski. Hilinski played in three games this season against Idaho, Arizona, and California. In all three games the redshirt freshman did a great job at completing passes, averaging 74.4 percent with 245 yards and two touchdowns.

Even though Hilinski is stepping up to the plate, he may have some new competition. Back in November, it was announced that John Bledsoe, the son of WSU and NFL star Drew Bledsoe, has accepted a preferred walk-on at Washington State. For his senior year, Bledsoe completed 65 percent of his passes with 2,670 yards passing, 26 passing touchdowns, and eight rushing touchdowns.

If Falk leaves for the draft and Bledsoe redshirts, it is almost certain that Hilinski will be the starting quarterback for next season, but if Falk decides to stay and Bledsoe doesn’t redshirt, Hilinski’s days at WSU may be numbered.

Reality Check Time: Cougs Face Tough Test vs. No. 5 Stanford

By J.T. Menard

It’s a “home game” for the Washington State Cougars as they head to CenturyLink Field in Seattle to take on the No. 5 ranked Stanford Cardinal this weekend.

Washington State carries into the matchup a 3-1 record after a season-opening loss to Auburn and three successive wins against No. 25 USC, Southern Utah and Idaho. The Washington State defense has been dominant the last three weeks. Giving up only 7 points to USC, 10 to Southern Utah, and no points to Idaho; the first shutout for the Cougars since 2003 (also against the Vandals), and the first home shutout for the Cougars since 1999.

Having faced only two power six conference teams, it’s still a little early to pass judgment on the Cougar defense, but they’ve been very impressive so far. They’re allowing only 12 points per game, good enough to place them 13th best in the nation. The secondary has been fantastic, with corner DaMonte Horton and safety Deon Buchannon already combining for five interceptions, including two pick sixes by Horton. The Cougar defensive line had its best performance last week against Idaho, blowing up Idaho’s pass protection for a total of five sacks. They also stuffed the Idaho running game at the line, allowing only 79 yards rushing. The continued stinginess of the Cougar defense is going to be essential if they are going to hang tough with Stanford, which has shown a tendency to run up the score early in games. The Cardinal running game, led by seniors Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson, have gashed opposing defenses for an average of 211 yards per game. Junior quarterback Kevin Hogan has proved competent as well, sporting a 62.9 percent completion rating and a 7-2 touchdown/interception ratio.

On the offensive side of the ball, Washington State needs strong play from quarterback Connor Halliday. Halliday has excelled at times in running head coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense, having thrown for 1288 yards, and 10 touchdowns so far this year – including 346 yards and 4 touchdowns last week versus Idaho. The one knock on Halliday is his consistency. He seems to get frustrated easily, and has been prone to making poor throws into double or even triple coverage. Naturally, this foible is reflected in the 8 interceptions he’s thrown so far this season. For WSU to have a shot, Halliday will need to keep his cool in the pocket, and focus on spreading the ball around to Gabe Marks, Dom Williams, Kristoff Williams and Rickey Galvin, all of whom have proven to be competent and reliable targets for Halliday to throw to – provided they aren’t caught in double coverage.

On the ground, the Cougars have been essentially non-existent, averaging only 63 yards per game. That doesn’t mean the ground game is lacking as much as it is underutilized by Mike Leach. Running back Teondray Caldwell has been averaging 5.7 yards per carry on a mere 21 carries, and Jeremiah Laufasa has proven himself a powerful running back in short yardage situations.

The Cougars will face Stanford Saturday at 7:00 PM on ESPN. The game will take place a mere 366 days after then 3-0 No. 8 ranked Stanford lost to unranked UW in a 17-13 shocker at CenturyLink field. Perhaps CenturyLink still has some magic left in it for the Cougs.