Oct 5, 2013; Berkeley, CA, USA; Washington State Cougars nose tackle Ioane Gaula (95) sacks California Golden Bears quarterback Jared Goff (16) at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
It’s another Crimson Friday for Cougar Nation. Folks are expressing Cougar Pride around the world by donning their school colors of crimson and gray in anticipation of another Washington State (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) football game Saturday evening.
Should you ask Coach Mike Leach about the significance of beating Oregon State (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) at home in front of a sell out crowd packing Martin Stadium on Dad’s Weekend, his response would go something like this.
“It’s the most important game we’ll play this week.”
Let me expand on a number of areas pointing toward the importance of the only game WSU will play this week.
In terms of offense, junior quarterback Connor Halliday clearly is becoming comfortable and effective running the Air Raid offense of Coach Leach. OSU has struggled defending the passing attack of lessor opponents than the WSU offensive machine. Tweaking the offensive line last week proved to keep Halliday upright better than any game since Leach arrived in Pullman. Continuing the trend of scoring at the end of a drive established in Berkeley and the Cougs will prevail.
Getting another week better at putting points on the scoreboard is an important indicator of program progress.
Defense has been the unit making it possible for Washington State to win 4-games at the midway point of the 2013 schedule. Last week the ‘D’ gave up massive amounts of yardage to the Cal Bear Raid offense. But they also found ways to deny and frustrate their opponent. Giving up nearly 600-yards of total offense means little if there aren’t points commensurate with the ease of moving the ball up and down the field. That’s the definition of the “bend don’t break” philosophy. And there’s nothing philosophical about outscoring your opponent on the road by 22-points. Simply put, that’s playing ball.
Improvement by the Cougar secondary will certainly be a measurement of whether or not the WSU defense is a week better. Based on outstanding play again this season and the leadership of senior safety Deone Bucannon, better overall coverage is inevitable.
For Washington State to become eligible for a bowl game invitation, they must secure a total of six wins. Doing the math, they need two more between now and the end of November. Oregon State represents a good opportunity to put another game in the win column.
Five wins moves WSU to the precipice of post season play.
Saving the best for last, this game is important for the future of Cougar football in terms of building the program.
There will be a number of highly touted high school prospects on campus this weekend. They will be treated to campus tours, facility tours, meeting potential teammates and spending time with the coaching staff.
Oh. There’s one more thing.
Recruits will experience the flavor of Pac-12 football at its best inside Martin Stadium packed to the rafters with enthusiastic fans and pageantry unmatched in the Conference of Champions.
The guys hosted on an official visit to Pullman have been invited by Coach Leach and his staff because they have an athletic skill set projected to be successful FBS players at WSU. There’s more to these young men than the game of football. Leach looks for student-athletes dedicated to excelling on the field and in the classroom. Along with those two attributes, the WSU staff wants to add young men to the football roster who are strong character people.
From the perspective of a recruit, winning the only game WSU will play this week is just a part of what they will be looking at. They will be trying to determine where to attend college, a place to gain knowledge and experiences destined to serve them well for a lifetime.
Plenty to consider awaiting a 7:30pm kickoff Saturday night.