Cougars Prepare for Notre Dame in San Antonio

Oct. 26, 2009

PULLMAN, Wash. -

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Washington State Cougars (1-6) vs.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-2)
Alamodome • San Antonio, Texas
October 31 • 4:30 p.m. (PT) • NBC TV
Radio: Cougar Sports Radio Network

SATURDAY'S GAME: Washington State (1-6) continues its longest stint away from Martin Stadium in 2009 when it travels to San Antonio to face Notre Dame (5-2) for a Halloween night contest from the Alamodome at 6:30 p.m., local time (4:30 p.m. PT). The game will be televised nationally by NBC, with Tom Hammond (play-by-play), Pat Haden (analyst) and Alex Flanagan (sidelines) calling the action.

WASHINGTON STATE vs. NOTRE DAME - THE SERIES: Saturday's contest marks only the second all-time meeting between the two teams. The first came Sept. 6, 2003, when the Irish came from 16 points down at halftime to produce a 29-26 overtime victory in South Bend.

COUGARS ON HALLOWEEN: Saturday's contest coincides with Halloween, which has not been kind to the Cougars. WSU is 4-7 when playing on Oct. 31. The most recent time was 1998, a 38-28 loss against Arizona State. The last time WSU won on Halloween dates back to 1959, a 14-0 victory at Oregon State.

WSU ON NBC: This week's game against Notre Dame will be the sixth appearance by the Cougars on NBC television. WSU is 2-3 in its previous five games, the most recent contest coming Sept. 6, 2003 at Notre Dame, won by the Irish 29-26 in overtime. Prior to that it had been almost 40 years since NBC televised a WSU game, a 29-23 win over Stanford in 1964. The first appearance on the network came in 1957, a 21-18 win at USC. In 1958 WSU lost both times they appeared, at California and against USC in Spokane.

FOUR COUGARS RECEIVE MIDSEASON RECOGNITION: Four Cougars were included on Phil Steele's Midseason All-Pacific-10 Conference list. Redshirt junior punter Reid Forrest was named to the first team, redshirt senior center Kenny Alfred was named to the second team and freshman defensive end Travis Long and junior safety Chima Nwachukwu were each named to the third team.

COUGARS IN TEXAS: The Cougars have a combined 4-9 record when playing in the state of Texas, and are 1-1 when playing in San Antonio. The last time the Cougars were in San Antonio they came away with a 10-3 victory over Baylor, Dec. 31, 1994, in the Alamo Bowl. WSU's last win in Texas came at the 2001 Sun Bowl, a 33-27 win over Purdue in El Paso.

LINEUP SHUFFLE: Through the first seven games of the 2009 season, the Cougar coaching staff is still searching for continuity within its starting lineup. Midway through the campaign, injuries have forced the Cougars to use five different starting lineups in its offensive live, six different starting lineups on offense and five different starting units on defense. There has yet to be two games this year where WSU has used the same starting offense and defense.

PUTTING IN TIME: Looking at the 2009 WSU roster reveals few names who have been in the program more than two years. Of the 114 players currently on the Cougar roster, only 37 have been a member of the team more than two years. That includes only six current fifth-year seniors and 15 total players who have earned more than one varsity letter. Compare that to the success of WSU during the 2002 and 2003 season, when the Cougars had 28 and 24 players, respectively, with multiple varsity letter winners.

INJURIES TAKING A TOLL: Through the first seven games of the 2009 season, the Cougars have been hit hard by the injury bug, particularly on the offensive and defensive lines. So far this season WSU has missed 53 player games due to injury or illness. On the offensive line five players who have started this season have 13 missed games due to injury, while the defensive line has missed a total of 12 games from four players.

TUEL GOES OVER 300: Freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel's 354 passing yards are the second-most by a true freshman quarterback in school history. Drew Bledsoe holds WSU's record by a true freshman, throwing for 385 yards against Arizona, Oct. 27, 1990. Tuel had eclipsed his career high with 232 yards in the first half. The last Cougar quarterback to throw for 300 yards in a game was Alex Brink,who threw for 399 yards against Washington in 2007.

FIRST STARTS: Continuing a trend from 2008, WSU has had a number of players make their starting debuts in 2009. Through the first seven games, 19 Cougars have made their first career starts, six on offense and 13 on defense. In 2008 26 players registered their first start for WSU, 17 on offense and nine on defense. First-time offensive starters in 2009 include Gino Simone (WR), Zack Williams (OG), Jeffrey Solomon (WR), Alex Reitnouer (OL), Jeff Tuel (QB) and Tyson Pencer (OT). Defensive starters include Travis Long (DE), Bernard Wolfgramm (DT), Josh Luapo (DT), Jason Stripling (LB), Brandon Jones (CB), LeAndre Daniels (S), Alex Hoffman-Ellis (LB), Casey Hamlett (DE), Daniel Simmons (CB), Anthony Laurenzi (DT), Mike Ledgerwood (LB), Terrance Hayward (CB) and Dan Spitz (DE).

A SECOND TIME FOR A FIRST: True freshman Jeff Tuel was given the starting nod at quarterback at Oregon, marking only the second time in school history WSU started a true freshman signal caller. The first was Drew Bledsoe in 1990, who made his first career start at Oregon State in the seventh game of the season. Tuel made his Cougar debut against USC, entering in the second quarter and finished by game completing 14-of-22 passes for 130 yards. Tuel is only the second true freshman quarterback to attempt a pass for the Cougars since Bledsoe in 1990 (JT Levenseller was the other in 2008).

FRESHMEN STARTS APPROACHING DECADE HIGH: Through the first seven games of 2009, the Cougars have had a combined 36 starts by freshmen, more than in nine of the last 10 full seasons. In the last 10 years, only 2008 (47) saw more combined starts by freshmen. Additionally, 10 freshmen have garnered starting roles this year, the most by a Cougar team since WSU also started 10 freshmen in 2000.

WSU IN CENTRAL TIME ZONE: The Cougars have won six of their last 10 games played in the Central Time Zone dating back to the 1988 season. WSU has wins over Illinois (three), Minnesota, TCU and Baylor, and losses to Nebraska, Auburn, Wisconsin and Baylor during that span.

IN THE MIDST OF A LONG ROADTRIP: Since WSU's home game against SMU, the Cougars have embarked on a part of their schedule that sees them play five of six games on the road. Following contests at USC and Oregon, WSU returned home to host Arizona State Oct. 10. After a bye, the Cougars play their following three games on the road at Cal, Notre Dame (San Antonio) and Arizona. All added up, WSU will be away from Martin Stadium for 35 days.

FORZANI GOES DEEP: Redshirt junior wide receiver Johnny Forzani's 68-yard touchdown was his second of more than 65 yards in the last two games (he also caught a 99-yard touchdown against Arizona State). The last time a Cougar wide receiver caught multiple 65-yard-plus touchdowns in the same season was Chris Jackson in 1997. Jackson caught 72- and 78-yard touchdown passes against California and UCLA, respectively.

TURNOVERS DOWN DRASTICALLY FROM 2008: The Cougars have a turnover margin of -1 in 2009. Through the first seven games of 2008, WSU had a turnover margin of minus-12. Against both Stanford and California this season the Cougars have played turnover-free, something they did not accomplish at any point during 2008.

DEFENSE GETTING OPPORTUNITIES: The WSU defense has forced 19 turnovers, and ranked second in the Pac-10 entering the week. The total is already more than in all of last season (13). Last year WSU won the turnover battle just once while in 2009 it has fewer turnovers in three of the first seven games.

NOTABLES FROM CALIFORNIA: WSU ended its first-quarter scoring drought with Nico Grasu's 24-yard field goal with 2:20 remaining in the opening stanza...the last time WSU scored in the opening period was against Arizona, Nov. 8, 2008...true freshman running back Carl Winston's 37-yard run in the second quarter was the longest rush by a Cougar in 2009...WSU's 440 yards of total offense were the most since Portland State in 2008 (638), and the most against a Pac-10 foe since Washington in 2007 (509)...the Cougars scored 17 first-half points, the most in a half against a Pac-10 opponent since scoring 21 second-half points against Washington in 2007...redshirt junior defensive tackle Toby Turpin's blocked field goal at the end of the second quarter is the first by a Cougar since 2005, when Aaron Johnson - also a defensive tackle - blocked a Stanford field goal attempt...true freshman wide receiver Gino Simone's second-quarter 19-yard touchdown reception was the first of his career.
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