WSU Grabs Much Needed Win

After disappointing back-to-back losses to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the Nevada Wolf Pack WSU took care of business at home beating Portland State 59-21 in front of an energized crowd at Martin Stadium. Connor Halliday torched the Viking’s defense completing 41 of 62 passes for 544 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions. To be technical, Halliday averaged one interception after 30 passes. Nine receivers accounted for a total of 544 yards through the air; however, senior wide receiver Isiah Myers and junior wide receiver Dom Williams combined for a total of 339 yards and 5 touchdowns.

The passing game is the primary reason why WSU won. However, the running game kept the defense off balance to open the passing game. A pair of freshmen running backs Gerard Wicks and Jamal Morrow rushed for 88 yards producing a touchdown, Wicks accounted for the touchdown.

WSU’s defense is a tale of two halves. The first half telling the story of zero points. PSU quarterback Kieran McDonagh had no answer to WSU’s defense. The second half PSU won the battle earning 21 points. McDonagh and senior wide receiver Alex Toureen matched each other for seven catches ending with 100 yards and one touchdown. McDonagh’s final stat line, 31 completed passes in 51 attempts for 269 yards, one touchdown and one interception caused by freshman corner back Charleston White. Senior running back Shaquille Richard ran the ball for 68 yards including one touchdown off of 11 carries.

Instead of heading into week four against Oregon 3-0 as many cougar fans suspected, the reality is a 1-3 record. Despite having one win, WSU improved in certain areas to pick up not only a much needed win but perhaps optimism heading into the coming weeks of college football. The passing game will receive all of the headlines however; the running game is a huge reason as to why the passing game became effective against Portland State. Through the first two weeks WSU earned a total of 44 rushing yards. No matter the type of quarterback and the arsenal he provides, a running game needs to be present. By not establishing a running game an offense will be predictable and vulnerable. If WSU is to have any chance of upsetting Oregon the running game has to be established.

WSU’s defense is very young. Viewers may already have observed this due to the amount of penalties caused. The Nevada and Rutgers game resulted in 19 penalties for 149 yards. The Portland State game provided progression of improvement with seven penalties for 70 yards. If WSU keeps the penalties down by not giving up free yards that is a second box to check in preparation for the Oregon game next week. On the subject of free yards, WSU did not provide PSU any second chances in the fumble category. Should WSU keep the momentum in that category a third box is checked for the Oregon game.

After reading the three areas of improvement: established a running game, cut down on penalties and zero fumbles, readers may wonder, “When is he going to talk about the interceptions?” Interceptions are crucial toward tipping the momentum in a favor of a team. However, interceptions are expected to happen in an Air Raid offense. It is expected for Halliday to throw one or two interceptions a game when he throws the ball sixty or seventy times a game. How do you cut down the interceptions? This goes back to my point of establishing the running game. If the running game is clicking the offense does not become one-dimensional. Doing so, Halliday will be less prone to interceptions and trying to do too much at once.

If all three areas are checked off next week maybe WSU still ends week four 1-4. When playing the number two team in the country you need a lot of things to go your way and a lot of luck. However, a win against other PAC-12 opponents is not out of the question. Turn back to last year when WSU stunned the city of Los Angeles beating #25 USC 10-7, or wins against Arizona and Utah. If you start to look at the cougar’s situation in this scenario then a bowl game is still possible. Perhaps a game against Oregon is too to a lesser extent.

Written By Matthew Segal


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.


Baseball Review: WSU v. Utah

By Nate Hanson

A disappointing three-game series this weekend for the Cougs ended with a bright star. That star came in the form of redshirt sophomore pitcher Scott Simon. Simon threw a five-hit shutout, the first by a WSU pitcher since Wade Parrish in 1999, to salvage a win in the finale of the three game series against the Utes.

WSU (17-13, 4-5) dropped the first two games of the series to Utah (14-14, 4-8) 7-4 and 2-1. Both were disheartening outcomes for a Cougs team that was looking to establish itself as an upper-tier Pac-12 team.

In Game 1 the Cougs got another strong start from their Friday night ace, Joe Pistorese, who gave up three runs, two earned, in seven innings of work. He left the game with a 4-3 lead. However, WSU reliever, Kellen Camus, gave up four runs in the eighth that allowed Utah to secure the win. It was an unexpected meltdown from Camus who came into the game with a 3-0 record out of the bullpen.

The Cougs had their chances to add to their early 4-0 lead. WSU put a runner on base each inning from the third through the eighth.  Give credit to Utes sophomore hurler Mitch Watrous who scattered 12 hits, while holding the Cougs to four runs through eight innings to earn his second win of the season. Jason Monda led the Cougs going three for five with two RBI.

In Game 2, it was the Cougs’ bats that experienced an unexpected meltdown. The Cougs came into the series as the best hitting team in the Pac-12 with a .321 team batting average. Apparently Dalton Carroll of Utah didn’t get the memo. Carroll only gave up six hits and one run in 6 1/3 innings to get his record up to 3-2 in his inaugural campaign.

Shadowed by the performance of Carroll, WSU’s Tanner Chleborad put together arguably his best performance of the year. Chleborad, who came into the game with an ERA over five, gave up only two runs in 5 1/3 innings. Both runs came from the bat of Trey Nielson who homered twice, once in the fourth and again in the sixth to break the 1-1 tie. Patrick McGrath picked up the only RBI of the game for the Cougs.

WSU needed a standout performance to avoid a sweep, and it came from Simon. He struck out a career-high six in his 116 pitch performance.

“Scott got stronger as the game went on,” manager Donnie Marbut said. “I don’t want to call it a must win for us, but it was and Scott definitely put our team on his back.”

Simon, who is now 3-0 on the season, received early run support as the Cougs plated runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings. Adam Nelbowich, Yale Rosen, Austin Pernell and Trace Tam Sing each had an RBI to lead the balanced attack. Pernell went three for four on the day.

Despite losing two of three to a struggling Utes squad, there is still a reason for optimism moving forward. WSU’s starting pitchers gave up only four earned runs in 21 1/3 innings. Pistorese continued his all-conference season, while Chleborad and Simon each stepped up and had their best appearances of the season. Wins will come if the Cougs can consistently get three quality starts from their young pitching staff. In a conference that only has five teams above .500; the Cougs are still in the midst of competing for a high finish.

WSU will look to get another stellar pitching performance tomorrow in the finale of its four-game road trip in the Beehive State. In a battle of Cougars, BYU (17-14) will host WSU in a non-conference matchup. First pitch is scheduled for 9 a.m. Pacific. The game will be televised on BYUtv and can be heard on

Baseball Preview: WSU v. Utah

By Nate Hanson

After a 5-4 homestand, the Cougs (16-11, 3-3) will leave Bailey-Brayton Field for the first time in two and a half weeks to take on the Utah Utes (12-13, 2-7) for a three game series starting today at 11 a.m.

WSU is coming off a stagnant 7-2 loss to Gonzaga Tuesday night. Nick Tanielu and Adam Nelbowich each had an RBI. The story following the loss, as it has been all season, is the inconsistency of the Cougs this year. “I wish I know how to get our guys motivated every night,” said WSU Manager Donnie Marbut.

The Cougs’ lack of focus seems to come in non-conference contests. Fortunately for Marbut’s team, Utah is a Pac-12 foe. The Cougs have exceeded expectations through their first six conference games.  Going .500 against then-ranked number 14 Arizona State and then-ranked number 23 Stanford has to be uplifting for Coug fans. It shows that WSU has the ability to compete with the best in the country. However, if WSU wants to make a run into the NCAA Tournament, they need to win at least two of three against the Utes this weekend.

Utah comes into the series on a three-game losing streak after they were swept by defending national champions, Arizona (3-6 in conference play this year). Although Utah’s overall and conference record fail to impress, the Utes are not a team the Cougs can afford to take lightly. Utah won two of three in a series in Palo Alto last month against Stanford. The Cardinal, of course, took two of three from the Cougs last weekend.

Young starting pitching is the strength of the Utes. Their pitching staff is led by sophomore right-hander Mitch Watrous and freshman Dalton Carroll. Watrous has a 3.51 ERA through 33 1/3 innings pitched, and Carroll posts a 3.78 ERA with the same amount of innings pitched. It will be up to the two underclassmen to stall a WSU offense that leads the Pac-12 with a team .321 batting average. The Utes pitching staff held Stanford to less than four runs per game in the series win.

WSU is obviously looking for consistency. Utah doesn’t have the stigma and history of Arizona State and Stanford. This is a series the Cougs should win at least two, if not all three games. If the Cougs are going to pull off a sweep, all three starting pitchers must have solid outings. Joe Pistorese was outstanding throwing a complete game despite getting the loss against Mark Appel, who shutout the Cougs. However, Tanner Chleborad continued to struggle and Scott Simon didn’t get through the fifth inning. Chleborad needs to return to his 2012 form, and Simon needs to continue to improve to solidify the starting rotation. If the Cougs can get three quality starts this weekend against the worst hitting team in the Pac-12, the end result will be a sweep and a 6-3 conference record. If not, Donnie Marbut will still be left with more questions than answers about his squad.

Game 1 (Friday, 11 AM): Joe Pistorese (3-2, 2.08 ERA) vs. Mitch Watrous (1-1, 3.51 ERA)

Game 2 (Saturday 11 AM): Tanner Chleborad (3-4, 5.26 ERA) vs. Dalton Carroll (2-2, 3.78 ERA)

Game 3 (Sunday 5:30 PM): Scott Simon (2-0, 4.18 ERA) vs. Joe Pond (2-3, 6.14 ERA)

Baseball Review: WSU v. Gonzaga

By Nate Hanson

Once again, after falling behind to Gonzaga early, the Cougs couldn’t battle back as the Bulldogs defeated WSU 7-2. This is the second time Gonzaga (17-10-1) has beat the Cougs (16-11) this season.

Sam Triece made his first-career start for WSU and lasted 3 2/3 innings before being chased after giving up two earned runs. The Bulldogs extended their lead to 6-0 before the Cougs were able to get a run up on the board in the bottom of the seventh. Derrick Callahan threw five shutout innings to pick up his second win of the season. Nick Tanielu and Adam Nelbowich each had RBI doubles to cut the lead down to 6-2. Gonzaga responded by adding another run in the top of the eighth. The Cougs put up one more threat in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded before Tyler Olson of the Bulldogs put the game to bed.

WSU Head Coach Donnie Marbut is still left with the challenge of getting his young team focused day in and day out. “I wish I knew how to get our guys motivated every night,” said Marbut.

The top six hitters for the Cougs all had a base hit, but the bottom-third of the order only got one man on base. Marco Gonzalez went 3 for 3 with two RBI and Caleb Wood also picked up two RBI to lead Gonzaga.

The Bulldogs will hit the road for a three-game series with the Portland Pilots starting Friday. The Cougs will also leave Pullman as they head to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Utes for a three-game conference series starting Friday at noon.

The Bulldogs and Cougs will play each other for the third and final time on April 16th in Spokane.

Baseball Preview: WSU vs. Gonzaga

By Nate Hanson

The Cougs return to the diamond after a couple of days off to finish a nine-game homestand. WSU (16-10, 3-3) will host Gonzaga (16-10-1, 4-2) for the second time this season. The Bulldogs won the first meeting two weeks ago 10-8.

WSU salvaged a win in the final game of a three-game series against then-No.23 ranked Stanford. Jason Monda led the Cougs with a two-run home run, while also picking up the win in relief of Scott Simon who threw 4 2/3 innings. It was a fitting performance for the Baseball America preseason third-team All-American as it came on the day the Cougs retired John Olerud’s #18. Of course, the award for the best two-way player in the country is named after Olerud.

Nick Tanielu continues to tear the ball apart as his batting average is up to .424. The redshirt freshman, who also has 2 HR and 19 RBI, went 3 for 5 in the previous matchup against the Bulldogs.

Gonzaga led that previous game 7-0 after five innings before the Cougs put up a furious comeback. However, the closest WSU would get was one run before Arturo Reyes was able to put the game to bed for his first save of the season.

Cody LeBrun led the Zags by going 3 for 3 with 3 RBI. Clayton Eslick and Zach Abbruzza each had 2 RBI as well.

WSU will travel to Utah to take on the Utes for a three-game series this weekend before facing BYU in a non-conference matchup April 8. Gonzaga will also hit the road for a three-game series against the Portland Pilots. The Cougs and Bulldogs will battle each other for the third and final time of the season on April 16 in Spokane.

Starting pitchers have not yet been announced for tonight’s game. First pitch is scheduled for 6 PM tonight at Bailey-Brayton Field.

Baseball Review: WSU v. Stanford

By Nate Hanson

WSU (16-10, 3-3) went 1-2 this weekend in its three game series with #23 Stanford (11-9, 3-3). Stanford won game one 3-0, beat the Cougs again in game two 9-3 before WSU salvaged the final game with an 8-5 win.

In my preview of this weekend’s series I posed the following questions: “Is the Cougs lineup powerful enough to scramble one of the best pitching staffs in the Pac-12? Is Stanford’s seven game hitting slump a phase or reflective of a poor hitting team? Are the young Cougs for real? Is Stanford overrated? By Saturday night we might know the answers to all of these questions.”

We got an answer to three of these questions. First off, Stanford proved that good pitching beats good hitting. The Cougs amassed 13 hits and 3 runs against the Cardinal’s top two arms, Mark Appel and Bobby Zarubin. Thursday night’s 3-0 Stanford win was a classic pitcher’s duel we could possibly see in the big leagues five years from now. Appel, the eighth overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, silenced the Cougs’ bats with a four-hit shutout. He also had 10 k’s. For the Cougs, lefty Joe Pistorese also went the length of the game. However, a shaky second inning, in which Brian Ragira’s two-RBI single cost Pistorese. All three of the Cardinal’s runs came in the second inning and it was all they would need. WSU had their chances, especially in the fourth inning when they had the bases loaded with one out, but Appel struck out the next two Coug hitters to get out of the jam. In Game 2, the combination of Zarubin, McArdle, Hughes, and Vanegas combined for seven strikeouts and only gave up three runs to a Coug lineup that came into the series averaging more than seven runs per game.

We also learned that Stanford’s lack of run production over the previous seven games was a phase. The Cardinal put up 17 runs this weekend, which is just two shy of their total production during their 1-6 struggle. The aforementioned Ragira went 6 for 13. Austin Slater and Wayne Taylor each had 3 RBI to lead the Cardinal. It was a balanced attack all weekend that really tested the WSU pitchers.

After being swept at home by UNLV and losing two of three to Utah in their first Pac-12 series, Stanford had to prove they were still worthy of a national ranking. They did that by taking two of three from the feisty Cougs. WSU has proven itself in the early part of the season a legitimate threat in the Pac-12, especially after taking two of three from then-ranked #14 Arizona State in Tempe. It’s not easy to win at Bailey-Brayton Field, where the Cougs were 10-2 before the series began. Stanford rose to the occasion and if this weekend’s pitching is a sample of what’s to come, the Cardinal are still a legitimate contender to win the Pac-12 title.

The one question that still hasn’t been answered: Are the young Cougs for real? Inconsistency continues to plague the Cougs. Manager Donnie Marbut mentioned that even in their win, his team was flat for the middle three innings. Marbut also said after the win that he doesn’t think his team is playing their best baseball. There is potential for this Coug team to make the NCAA Tournament. They have an explosive lineup and one of the best pitchers in the conference. However, their weakness is the starting rotation after Pistorese. Tanner Chleborad had a solid outing Friday by giving up only four runs in 6 2/3 innings. Still, the sophomore has an ERA over five. Scott Simon has shown signs of greatness, but he only lasted 4 2/3 innings in the win on Sunday. If Chleborad and Simon can solidify the rotation, the Cougs may get back to the tournament after misses in their last two seasons. If not, the Cougs are bound for more ups and downs as they head into the meat of their Pac-12 schedule.