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Cougars Hit The Road To Face Nevada Friday on ESPN

Sep 1, 2014

7:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 5
Mackay Stadium (30,000)  •  Reno, Nev.

COUGARS HIT THE ROAD TO FACE NEVADA FRIDAY ON ESPN: Washington State University makes its first road trip of the season with a Friday night match up against the University of Nevada. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.

NEXT WEEK: Washington State returns to Pullman for its home-opener against Portland State University next Saturday. Kickoff is slated for 5 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks.

MIKE LEACH RADIO SHOW: Washington State Head Coach Mike Leach holds a weekly radio show on WSU’s flagship station 920 KXLY. This week’s show will be Wednesday, Sept. 3 from 6-7 p.m. live from Zeppoz in Pullman.

COUGARS AGAINST THE MOUNTAIN WEST: WSU owns a 6-3 record against Mountain West Conference opponents, having previously faced Nevada when they were in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). The Wolfpack joined the MWC in 2012. The Cougars last played a MWC opponent in last year’s New Mexico Bowl defeat to Colorado State. WSU’s last regular season meeting with a Mountain West opponent came in 2012, Mike Leach’s first season, a 35-27 victory at UNLV behind Connor Halliday’s 4-TD performance.

MIKE LEACH AGAINST NEVADA, THE MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE: Mike Leach owns a 7-2 career record against current Mountain West Conference members including a 1-0 mark against Nevada. Leach guided Texas Tech to a 35-19 victory in Reno in 2008. Former Red Raider quarterback and current WSU offensive analyst Graham Harrell threw for 297 yards and a touchdown in the win.

BOB ROBERTSON, NATION’S LONGEST TENURED RADIO ANNOUNCER: Hall of fame announcer Bob Robertson is in his 48th season calling Cougar football games, and according to a nation-wide survey of sports information directors, is the longest tenured radio announcer in the country with the next closest being Bill Hillgrove who has announced 44 straight seasons at Pitt. Robertson began calling WSU games in 1964 and with the exception of a three-year period in 1969-71, has been calling Cougar games ever since. Last season, Robertson slid over from his familiar play-by-play role and passed the microphone to Bud Nameck. Robertson now hosts the Cougars pre, halftime and postgame shows, while also providing analysis during the games.

COLLEGE GAMEDAY RECORD: In addition to Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso, ESPN’s College GameDay has had another constant – the WSU flag, which this weekend will be making its 149th consecutive appearance on the weekly show, dating back to the beginning of the 2004 season. Two flags – Ol’ Crimson and Gray – have been flown in the background of the GameDay set by dozens of friends and alumni. The Gray flag was added this year after Whitey was retired in honor of Steve Gleason’s “No White Flags.” WSU recognized the GameDay flag wavers in a pregame ceremony prior to the Montana State game in 2010. In addition to the flags that fly, there is a traveling flag signed by the holders after each episode. The traveling flag is retired after each season, the first of which is hanging in WSU’s Alumni Center.

COUGARS NEVADA CONNECTION: Members of the WSU coaching and support staffs won’t be making their first trip to Mackey Stadium in Reno this Friday. Current Cougar running backs coach Jim Mastro, linebackers coach Ken Wilson, defensive graduate assistant Mike Bethea, head football strength and conditioning coach Jason Loscalzo and head football athletic trainer Andy Mutnan all spent multiple years with the Wolfpack. Mastro was a member of  former Nevada head coach Chris Ault’s coaching staff for 11 seasons (2000-10), helping Ault develop the “Pistol” offense. Wilson spent 23 years at Nevada, 19 on the football staff and will also be seeing a familiar face on the Nevada sideline, his son Tyler is the Wolfpack’s long snapper. Bethea was a two-year letterwinner at linebacker, starting as a senior before joining the Nevada coaching staff for the 2011-12 seasons.  Loscalzo served as an assistant strength and conditioning coach from 1999-2001 while Mutnan spent five seasons in Reno, from 2008-13.

YOUNG COUGS MADE THEIR COLLEGIATE DEBUTS: Washington State saw 15 players make their collegiate debut last Thursday against Rutgers. Eleven freshmen played in thier first game including two true freshmen in punter Jordan Dascalo and wide receiver Calvin Green.

FOR STARTERS: Last Thursday’s opener against Rutgers saw eight Cougars make their first career start, five on offense and three on defense. Senior wideout Vince Mayle made the most of his first career start, catching a career-high 12 passes for 124 yards including a 26-yard touchdown. The offensive line saw three players, center Riley Sorenson, right guard Eduardo Middleton and right tackle Cole Madison, each make their first start in addition to Madison making his collegiate debut. Redshirt-freshman running back Jamal Morrow became the first Cougar freshman to start at running back since Rickey Galvin in 2011. The defense saw senior linebacker Mitch Peterson turn in a great performance in his start at the SAM linebacker position, making a game-high 16 tackles. Safety Teondray Caldwell and cornerback Tracy Clark also made their first career starts.

CALDWELL MAKES FIRST CAREER START...ON DEFENSE: Junior safety Teondray Caldwell made his first career start on the defense last Thursday, tallying four tackles after switching from running back midway through fall camp. Caldwell had played the first two seasons on offense, appearing in 22 games and making eight starts at running back. Caldwell became the first Cougar to make starts on both sides of the ball since Dan Spitz made five starts as a defensive lineman in 2009 before making 11 starts as an offensive lineman in 2011-12.

HALLIDAY AMONG NATION’S LEADERS: Quarterback Connor Halliday posted the second-best performance in the country last week, going 40-of-56 for 532 yards and five touchdowns against Rutgers. Only Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty put up bigger numbers, going 46-of-56 for 569 yards and six touchdowns in a win over Bowling Green.

HALLIDAY FIRES AWAY ON RECORD BOOKS: Quarterback Connor Halliday continued to push his name up the WSU record book with his fourth career five-touchdown game and third career 500-yard performance. Last season, the redshirt-senior tallied nine 300-yard games, five 4-touchdown games and his 4,597 passing yards were the most in school history and second-most in Pac-12 history, breaking Ryan Leaf’s school record of 3,968 set in 1997.

HALLIDAY’S IMPRESSIVE FIVE-GAME STRETCH: Dating back to last season, Connor Halliday has enjoyed one of the best five-game stretches by any quarterback in the country. Starting in the win at Arizona last season, Halliday has averaged 406 ypg (2,031) while completing 65 percent of his passes and tossing 19 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He threw for 319 yards and two scores in the win at Arizona, 488 yards and four touchdowns in the win over Utah, 282 yards and two touchdowns at Washington, 410 yards and six scores in the New Mexico Bowl and 532 yards and five touchdowns last Thursday against Rutgers.

HALLIDAY ADDS TO TOP MARKS:  Connor Halliday added to his school records with another impressive performance last Thursday against Rutgers. Halliday now owns 15 career 300-yard performances, seven 400-yard games, three 500-yard games, 10 four-touchdown performances including four 5-touchdown games, all school records. Halliday’s 34 touchdown passes last season tied Ryan Leaf (1997) for the most in WSU single season history. His five scoring throws against Rutgers pushed him past Ryan Leaf and into third all time with 63 career touchdown passes, trailing only Jason Gesser (70) and Alex Brink (76). Halliday also moved past Leaf and Jack Thompson on WSU’s career passing yards list, and into third all-time with 7,963 career passing yards, closing in on Gesser (9,830) and Brink (10,913).

WIDE RECEIVER CORE STARTS STRONG: Washington State receivers picked up where they left off from 2013, as 10 players caught a pass last Thursday against Rutgers led by Vince Mayle’s 12 receptions for 124 yards. Sophomore River Cracraft made eight grabs for 83 yards and a touchdown, senior Isiah Myers caught six passes for 94 yards and two scores and senior Rickey Galvin added four catches for 86 yards and a score. The Cougars returned their top eight pass catchers from last year, all recording at least 37 receptions, making up 89.9 percent of their pass catchers from last season, sixth-most in the country, according to a national survey from sports information directors.

YOUTH MOVEMENT CONTINUED IN 2013: The Cougars continued their youth movement last season after 17 freshmen, including nine true freshmen made their debuts in 2012. In 2013, WSU saw 10 freshmen play including five true freshmen. Last season, the Cougars started eight sophomores in each game, four on each side of the ball and saw 17 sophomores contribute. In the season-opener at Auburn, the Cougars started true freshman wideout and eventual All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection River Cracraft and also saw freshman cornerback Daquawn Brown make his debut. A week later, Brown made his first collegiate start at No. 25 USC and made a game-high 11 tackles and two pass break-ups. He finished the season with 50 tackles, two interceptions and second on the team with five pass breakups. Cracraft finished the year with 46 receptions, three touchdowns and averaged 13.3 yards-per-catch. Cracraft capped his freshman campaign with season-best nine catches for 125 yards and touchdown in the New Mexico Bowl, tying a WSU bowl record for receptions.

COUGAR OFFENSE TOOK OFF IN 2013: The Washington State passing offense produced the fourth-best passing offense in the country last season at 368.0 yards-per-game with quarterback Connor Halliday owning the third-highest passing average at 353.6 and the third-most passing yards in the country (4,597). The offense set the Pac-12 record for completions (470), surpassing the previous mark of 398 set by Arizona in 2011, and the record for pass attempts (756), passing last year’s mark of 624 set by WSU. Halliday posted the school record for passing yards in a season along with two of the NCAA’s top five single-game passing marks in the FBS last season including the top (557). WSU had 10 receivers catch a pass in a game 11 times last season and three receivers catch seven touchdown passes (Dom Williams, Gabe Marks, Vince Mayle).

OFFENSIVE LINE MADE HUGE STRIDES: Washington State showcased an improved offensive line last season, nearly doubling rushing yards and allowing 25 fewer sacks than 2012. WSU debuted  the improved running game in the season opener at Auburn, rushing for 120 yards and two touchdowns, its highest rushing total since rushing for 125 yards at Oregon in 2011. The Cougars also rushed for 113 yards against Oregon State and 101 at Arizona. WSU finished with 10 rushing touchdowns in 2013 after posting six rushing scores all of 2012. Against Southern Utah last year, the offensive line hit another mark, not allowing a sack for the first time since against Utah in 2011. They turned in another highlight against Utah in week 11, again not allowing a sack to a Utes defense that had entered the week leading the country in sacks. The Cougars finished the season with the second-best pass attempts-to-sack ratio in the Pac-12 Conference at 23.9 (756/32), going the second-longest between allowing sacks while dropping back to pass the most times in Pac-12 history. Oregon State led the conference at 25.0 (625/25).

2014 COUGAR OFFENSIVE LINE BREAKDOWN: The Cougars return two starters from last year in left tackle Joe Dahl and left guard Gunnar Eklund who combined for 33 starts to start the season, the fewest by any Pac-12 offensive line. WSU replaces the center and right side of the line after all three positions were occupied by seniors in 2013. Sophomore center Riley Sorenson and redshirt-sophomore Eduardo Middleton are the only offensive linemen with game experience, appearing in a combined four games last season. The re-vamped line protected for Connor Halliday who went 40-of-56 for 532 yards and five touchdowns while allowing just three sacks.

DAHL NAMED OFFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE WEEK: Each week, Washington State coaches award the “Bone” award to the offensive lineman who performs the best during the previous game. Redshirt-junior left tackle Joe Dahl is the week one recipient after grading out at 90 percent and delivering two knockdown blocks in last Thursday’s game against Rutgers.

WSU DEFENSE HITS THE MARK: The Cougars defense posted some impressive numbers last season, holding eventual SEC champion Auburn to 99 passing yards and 4-of-13 on third down. The following week, WSU limited No. 25 USC to 54 yards passing, 193 yards in total offense including All-American wideout Marqise Lee to 51 all-purpose yards. The defense did not stop once returning to Martin Stadium, posting a shutout in the 42-0 win over Idaho in week four, notching the first shutout since 2003 (Idaho, 25-0 in Seattle) and the first home shutout since 1999 (Louisiana-Lafayette, 44-0). WSU finished the year tied for third in the Pac-12 in red zone defense with Oregon, trailing only USC and Stanford. The Cougars forced 30 turnovers in 2013, second-most in the Pac-12 and the most by a Cougar defense since the 2006 team forced 30.

LINEBACKING CORE RETURNS: The Cougar’s 3-4 defense saw its linebackers fill up the stat sheet last season. Linebackers Justin Sagote (106), Darryl Monroe (94), Cyrus Coen (60) and Tana Pritchard (55) made up four of the Cougars top five tacklers. Gone is Sagote to graduation but Monroe, Coen and Pritchard all return along with 2011 starter Chester Su’a who sat out last season. WSU’s returning linebackers combined for 25.5 tackles-for-loss including nine sacks last season. The Cougars got another boost last Thursday when redshirt-senior Mitch Peterson stepped in at SAM linebacker and made a game-high 16 tackles in his first career start.

SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Reigning WSU Special Teams Player of the Year Kristoff Williams picked up where he left off last season, earning the Cougars’ Special Teams Player of the Week honor following his performance against Rutgers. Selected by the coaches, the redshirt-senior wideout tallied a pair of tackles on kickoffs and also averaged 22.1 yards-per-return on his seven kickoff returns. Last season, Williams totalled six special teams tackles and was a Pac-12 All-Academic First Team selection.

SPECIAL TEAMS FINISHED AMONG PAC-12 LEADERS: The Cougars kickoff and punt return teams saw improvement in 2012 and both continued the trend in 2013. Teondray Caldwell earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention as a kick returner in 2012 after finishing third in the conference with a 25.0 kick return average. Last season, Rickey Galvin finished fourth in the Pac-12 with a 22.4 kickoff return average. The kickoff coverage team finished the year tied for first in the in the conference with Stanford. For the punt return team, it ranked fourth in the Pac-12 at 9.0 ypr, all by graduated Leon Brooks. The special teams unit picked up another accomplishment last season, blocking its first punt (Theron West vs. Oregon State) since 2007. The Cougars, and West, blocked another punt in the New Mexico Bowl. In 2014, WSU will have to replace Andrew Furney at kicker and kickoff, and punter Mike Bowlin after both graduated.

COUGARS TO FACE EIGHTH-TOUGHEST SCHEDULE IN 2014: According to ESPN Insider Brian Fermeau, the Cougars entered the season with the eighth-toughest schedule in the country. Utah sits atop the ranking while other fellow Pac-12 Conference members Stanford and Cal sit sixth and ninth, respectively. Last year, WSU played the fifth-toughest schedule in the country according to USA Today.

HALLIDAY APPEARS ON AWARD WATCH LISTS: Redshirt-senior quarterback Connor Halliday received recognition throughout the summer, appearing on a number of award watch lists including the Davey O’Brien Award, Manning Award, Johnny Unitas Award, College Football Performance Awards Quarterback Trophy. Halliday started all 13 games for the Cougars last season, setting a school-record with 4,597 passing yards, second-most in Pac-12 Conference history. The Spokane, Wash. native also set school records for pass completions (449), pass attempts (714) and tied the school record with 34 touchdown passes. Halliday tallied nine 300-yard performances including four 400-yard games and capped his season leading Washington State to the New Mexico Bowl where he tied an NCAA Bowl Game record with six touchdown passes.

COOPER NAMED TO AWARD WATCH LISTS: Redshirt-junior defensive lineman Xavier Cooper was named to a couple award watch lists this summer, appearing on the Lott Trophy watch list and the College Football Performance Awards Defensive Lineman Trophy watch list. Cooper started all 13 games for the Cougars last season, making 50 tackles including team-highs of 13.5 tackles-for-loss and five sacks. The Tacoma, Wash. native also recovered two fumbles, forced two and scored one touchdown on a fumble return. Cooper has also received preseason All-Pac-12 recognition from Phil Steele Magazine and Athlon Sports.

2015 QUARTERBACK TYLER HILINSKI TO ENROLL EARLY: Incoming freshman quarterback Tyler Hilinksi has signed a Financial Aid Agreement and will join the Washington State football program in January, 2015. Hilinski will graduate from Upland High School in Upland, Calif. this winter, enroll at WSU in January, 2015 and be able to participate in spring drills with the Cougars. As a junior last fall, Hilinski earned Inland Valley Offensive Player of the Year honors after throwing for 3,053 yards, 34 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He completed 177-of-260 (.680) pass attempts and also rushed for 334 yards and four touchdowns. Hilinksi, 6-4, 190, is rated a four-star prospect by and three stars by and He is ranked the No. 106 prospect in the Western-150 and the No. 41 quarterback prospect in the country by His brother, Kelly, is a quarterback at Columbia University.

ALLISON NAMED TO ALLSTATE AFCA GOOD WORKS TEAM: Cougar linebacker Jeremiah Allison is a nominee for the Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team®. For 23 years the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team® has served as one of the most coveted and prestigious off-the-field honors in college football. The award recognizes players whose charitable involvement and community service contributions stand out among all other student-athletes participating in the sport. Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) announced a record-breaking 182 nominees from across the country who represent the sport’s finest in the areas of volunteerism and leadership among their peers. Allison, a junior, has been involved with many community service projects in and around Pullman, Wash., assisting in Habitat for Humanity, the Washington State Athletics Reading Buddies with local elementary schools, Sr. Buddies at the local retirement home , a Special Olympics basketball tournament and Butch’s Holiday Bash for local children. The Los Angeles native has also helped out with National Women In Sports Day and is a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for football. Allison was named to the WSU Athletics All-Academic Team as a freshman. Last season as a sophomore, Allison appeared in all 13 games, made seven tackles and recovered one fumble.

WSU TO INDUCT STEVE GLEASON IN TO ATHLETIC HALL OF FAME: WSU will induct Steve Gleason as the lone member into the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame, WSU Director of Athletics Bill Moos announced this summer. In an unprecedented move, Gleason will be the sole member of the 2014 class and will be recognized in an in-game ceremony during a home football game later this fall. “Steve exemplifies all we stand for at Washington State University and will be our exclusive honoree for the 2014 class,” said Moos. “It’s an opportunity to focus on everything he has accomplished, as a student-athlete, as a professional athlete and as a role model and hero for so many. After consultation with the Hall of Fame committee, I felt it was appropriate, and most deserving, to have Steve as the lone inductee this year. Throughout his battle with ALS, he has served as an inspiration to Cougars young and old.” Gleason was a four-year letterwinner in both football and baseball during his time at Washington State (1995-99). On the football field he was a two-time team captain, garnered All-Pacific-10 Conference honors three times and finished his career with 282 tackles, ninth-most in school history. As a member of the baseball team Gleason served as team captain his senior year and his 12 career triples were tied for third when he left. Academically Gleason was a four-time Pacific-10 All-Academic selection for football, including first-team honors his junior and senior seasons. As a senior he was also a GTE Academic All-District VIII First Team selection and received WSU’s Beulah M. Blankenship Outstanding Student-Athlete award and the Student-Athlete Advisory Board Outstanding Senior Award. Gleason went on to play in the NFL for seven seasons (2000-07), all with the New Orleans Saints. As a player he may be best remembered for blocking a punt that resulted in a touchdown in the Saints first game in New Orleans’ in nearly 21 months following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Gleason was diagnosed with ALS in 2011 and since that time he, along with his foundation, Team Gleason, has been a global leader in raising awareness of and improving the lives of those affected by the disease. Gleason will join the current 177 members of the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame.

WSU OPENS COUGAR FOOTBALL COMPLEX: Washington State opened its state-of-the-art Cougar Football Complex this summer. The 84,000-square football building will house the Cougar football program including a locker room, players lounge, team and position meeting rooms, coaches offices, training and equipment rooms, an 11,153-square foot football-only weight room, the Cougar Football Hall of Fame and Heritage Area and a gameday home for Gray W letterwinners.

COUGAR FOOTBALL FACILITIES GET NEW FIELDTURF: WSU installed new FieldTurf to Martin Stadium and the Rogers Practice Field this summer. The updated FieldTurf replaced the turf that had been utilized at Martin Stadium since 2006 and on the practice field since 2010. The company, FieldTurf, put down FieldTurf Revolution Fiber, the same surface used by the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink field, the New England Patriots, Ohio State and Notre Dame. The surfaces of both WSU facilities feature the iconic Cougar logo at midfield along with crimson end zones and will be completed in late July.

WHO’S GONE?: Last season, Washington State sent off a group of seniors that posted a 2012 Apple Cup victory and led the Cougars back to a bowl game in 2013, the first bowl appearance since 2003. Gone is first-team All-American safety Deone Bucannon (15 career INT) to the Arizona Cardinals, cornerbacks Damanté Horton (9 career INT) and Nolan Washington (31 starts) both graduated along with two-time All-Pac-12 center Elliott Bosch (25 starts), offensive lineman John Fulllington (43 starts) and kicker Andrew Furney (third-most FG in school history).

BUCANNON GONE TO THE NFL: Safety Deone Bucannon was selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft as the No. 27 overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals last spring. Bucannon was the first Cougar taken in the first round since cornerback Marcus Trufant was the No. 11 overall selection in the 2003 draft by the Seattle Seahawks. Bucannon was the first WSU defensive back drafted since safety Eric Frampton was taken in the fifth round by the Oakland Raiders in 2007 and is Washington State’s 13th overall first-round pick. Bucannon closed out his Cougar career with one of the best seasons in WSU history, being named a First-Team All-American by the Associated Press, a Jim Thorpe Award Semifinalist and an All-Pac-12 First Team selection. The Fairfield, Calif. native led the Pac-12 with 114 tackles and tied for the conference lead with six interceptions. Bucannon, a three-time all-conference pick, notched 100-tackle seasons as a junior and senior, also owned team-highs of three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He finished his career fourth in WSU history in career tackles (384), second in career solo tackles (268) and third in career interceptions with 15. He closed the season as the NCAA’s active career leader in solo tackles, tied for the lead in career interceptions and fifth in career total tackles. Bucannon also played on the kickoff and punt coverage teams last season and finished tied for second on the team with seven special teams tackles, five coming on kickoff.