With the season kickoff less than four days away we are starting a new series of opponent previews on the football blog. Up first is the Washington State Cougars.
BYU leads: 2-1
Last Meeting: BYU won 50-36, 9/15/90
Washington State 2011 Recap
The Cougars doubled their win total from 2010 to 2011 with a 4-8 record, with two wins in Pac-12 play. Washington State won three of its first four games, including its conference opener on the road against new conference member Colorado 31-27. WSU, however, would struggle from there on out, winning just one game the remainder of the season, eventually leading to the hiring of new head coach Mike Leach for the 2012 season. Despite the struggles to winning the Cougars still had a potent offense, finishing the year No. 9 in passing yards, scoring nearly 30 points per game. That will serve as a good baseline for Mike Leach and his famed “Air Raid” offense to build on in the upcoming season in Pullman.
WSU Cougars 2012 Outlook
The expectations rise in 2012 for WSU with Coach Leach at the helm of a team rich with talent but lacking in winning experience. Leach will look to change that as his 84-43 record as a head coach will be put to the test. The BYU alumni spent 10 seasons leading Texas Tech, going 7-6 in his inaugural season, putting together a winning season each and every year as coach of the Red Raiders, including an 11-2 campaign in 2008 with a Big 12 title.
WSU returns several key playmakers, including senior quarterback Jeff Tuel and promising sophomore signal caller Connor Halliday. Tuel was injured for most of 2012 and Halliday passed for 960 yards and nine touchdowns in four games, inlcuding one start.
The Cougars return 14 starters (6 off/6 def/2 sp). WSU’s best wide receiver, 6-foot-4, Marquess Wilson returns as a junior. Wilson has had back-to-back 1,000 receiving-yard seasons, including catching 82 passes for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2011.
WSU's defense is led by senior linebacker Travis Long. Long, a Butkus, Nagurski and Lombardi preseason watch list honoree totaled 12 tackles for loss and four sacks in 2011.
WSU Key Players to Watch
#86 Marquess Wilson WR
83 receptions, 1,388 yards, 12 touchdowns
#10 Jeff Tuel QB
2011 Stats (Played in 3 games)
Completed 29 of 45 passes, 276 yards, 1 touchdown
#5 Rickey Galvin, RB
2011 Stats 114 rushing attempts, 602 yards, 5 touchdowns, 28 receptions, 242 yards, 1 touchdown
#89 Travis Long LB
2011 Stats 42 tackles, 31 solo, 12.0 tackles for loss, four sacks