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NCAAF Team Report - Washington State - INSIDE SLANT
Washington State's loss to Oregon last week was one to forget. But one that will be remembered for quite a while, due to a couple records the Cougars set and some comments made by a Duck's assistant coach afterward.
The final outcome was expected, as Oregon steamrolled its way to a 62-38 victory at Autzen Stadium. But in the process, WSU quarterback Connor Halliday set a Football Bowl Subdivision record by attempting 89 passes. He also set a Pac-12 record by completing 58 of those passes, and set a WSU record by throwing for 557 yards.
And afterward, Ducks defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti used his postgame press conference to rip Cougars coach Mike Leach for calling so many passes late in the game.
Aliotti told reporters he didn't think it was right for the Cougars to continue throwing the ball when the game had already been decided, and described Leach's play-calling as "low-class" before releasing an apology in a statement made through the university on Sunday.
Regardless of any of those fireworks, the Ducks won and the Cougars lost, and Washington State now gets this week off before preparing for the final third of its season.
They enter their bye week with a 4-4 record, and play each of their final four games against teams with better records. WSU hasn't qualified for a bowl game since 2003, and must win two more games -- at home against Arizona State, at Arizona, at home against Utah and at Washington -- to achieve that goal for the first time in 10 years.
The Cougars' bye week comes at a particularly good time for Halliday, who said after the loss to Oregon that his shoulder, ankle and hip are hurting. The Cougars planned to take Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week off practice before returning to work on Thursday, and Leach -- though he doesn't discuss injury information -- likely hopes the time off will help Halliday get healthy.
After the bye, they play a Thursday night game against Arizona State on Halloween, a highly-anticipated matchup at Martin Stadium that caused afternoon classes to be cancelled at WSU. The Sun Devils are 5-2 after smacking Washington 53-24 last week, and also have a bye this week in preparation for the Thursday game.
Washington State's defense will be tested once more after allowing 719 yards to the Ducks. ASU racked up 585 yards against Washington last week.
NCAAF Team Report - Washington State - NOTES, QUOTES
BYE WEEK MISSION: Washington State's bye week mission is the same as any other team in the country: get healthy, get fresh and get ready for the stretch run of its season. The Cougars are obviously trying to preserve their energy for their last four games, because they're taking three days off of practice.
--QB Connor Halliday continues to throw the ball more than anybody in the country. He heaved 89 passes against Oregon last week, completing 58 of those passes for a school-record 577 yards. He threw four touchdowns, but also threw four more interceptions -- he leads the nation in that category -- and one of those picks was returned for a touchdown, the kind of critical error the Cougars want to eliminate. And he's banged up and needs to get healthy during the bye week.
--LB Darryl Monroe is the heart and soul of the Cougars' linebacking corps, and must now try to get the defense to recover from the 383 yards rushing they allowed to Oregon last week.
--WR Gabe Marks caught 13 passes for 143 yards and a TD against Oregon, and continues to perform at a potential All-Pac-12 level. He now has 59 catches for 655 yards in eight games this season as a sophomore.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't criticize other teams or coaches. I focus on coaching my team." -- Mike Leach to The Seattle Times, in response to Nick Aliotti's remarks
NCAAF Team Report - Washington State - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Scouting the offense: It's hard to know what to make of Halliday's 58-for-89 performance against Oregon last week. On the one hand, it's a positive sign that Halliday threw four touchdown passes and got so many reps in. On the other hand, it's reasonable to think the Cougars might have been better off getting some work for backup QB Austin Apodaca, considering how beat-up Halliday has been this season. But Washington State ranks sixth nationally with an average of 373.1 passing yards per game. It has also attempted 470 passes, far more than any other team in the nation. This means the Cougars have hardly run the ball at all, and as such they rank last in the nation in rushing yards per game and rushing attempts.
Scouting the defense: WSU's defense hasn't looked anything recently like it did during its first four games, when the Cougars jumped to a 3-1 record behind a stout pass defense. But WSU has been gashed in its last four games for 560, 585, 598 and 719 yards by Stanford, California, Oregon State and Oregon, respectively.
Scouting the special teams: Rickey Galvin had a 35-yard kickoff return against Oregon, and Andrew Furney made his only field goal attempt, a 49-yarder. Mike Bowlin averaged 37.6 yards per punt on six attempts, but did have a long of 53. Bowlin's consistency has been in question all season, though it appears he remains the team's only option at punter.
--WR Kristoff Williams hasn't been practicing, according to reports, but his ailment/reason for absence is unknown.
--CB Alex Jackson, a redshirt freshman, was suspended from the team indefinitely by Leach last week, though the reasons are unknown.
--OL Jacob Seydel remains sidelined by a knee injury.