Pac-12 Networks preview: Washington State
This post is the first in a series of 12 as we visit each Pac-12 school on the Pac-12 Networks Football Training Camp tour. Check Pac-12.com the day of each school's Football Training Camp stop for a quick season preview ahead of that night's show.
The Washington State Cougars host Rutgers on Thursday, Aug. 28, beginning their quest to go to a bowl game in back-to-back seasons for the first time in over a decade. The Cougs have 14 starters returning from a 2013 squad that won six games and are looking to make the leap into the Pac-12 North title picture in 2014. If Mike Leach can help the Cougs find their inner pirate, then the fans in the Palouse will be all Coug’d up in 2014. Here we #GoCougs!
- Since the Mike Leach era began in 2012, the Cougs have been known for their air attack. This season should be no different as senior QB Connor Halliday returns after shattering WSU single-season and single-game passing records ion 2013. Halliday set the WSU single-season record for attempts (714), completions (449) and yards (4,597), and tied the record for TD passes with 34. His 4,597 passing yards ranks as the second most in Pac-12 Conference history. Those records may be short-lived, though, as WSU returns Halliday's top eight pass catchers at the receiver position from last year. All told, the Cougars bring back a combined 422 receptions, 4,462 yards and 34 touchdown catches. There are far too many studs to mention, so I’ll just say that WSU has a stacked passing game coming back a season after averaging 368 yards per game in the air, which ranked fourth in the nation. Maybe the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine can hook up the wide receivers with some special gloves so they can improve on last year’s numbers and do more TD dances.
- The Cougs bring back six starters on the defensive side of the ball, including their defensive line of nose tackle Kalafitoni Pole, defensive end Xavier Cooper and D-lineman Destiny Vaeao. Washington State will have to account for the loss of three starters in the secondary and its top two tacklers from 2013 in strong safety Deone Bucannon and linebacker Justin Sagote. Linebackers Darryl Monroe and Cyrus Coen are on deck to step up and lead in 2014: the two 'backers ranked third and fourth in tackles for the Cougs a year ago and combined for a total of 154 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. The Cougs' D can make big strides in 2014 after finishing 10th in the Pac-12 in both scoring defense and total defense in 2013. An improvement on the defense could forecast a sunny Cougar football future.
- The running game will be interesting to watch this season: In 2013 the Cougs finished last in the nation (123rd) in rushing at just 53 yards per game. They bring back their top two rushers in Marcus Mason (429 yards) and Teondray Caldwell (271 yards), but they only averaged 10 carries per game last season. If the run game can become a factor for the Cougs in 2014, then it could make things real tough on opposing defenses and Coug fans of all ages will be singing the WSU fight song.
How many pass attempts did QB Connor Halliday have in the Oregon game last season when he broke Drew Brees’ single-game NCAA Division I record for pass attempts?
(Credit: Washington State Sports Information Department. Bill Stevens and Bobby Alworth are so money and they don’t even know it.)