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SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION – Washington State

… Previews for CU’s opponents will be posted each week leading up to the start of Fall Camp … Previous post: Oregon State

 

Game Ten – CU v. Washington State – Boulder, November 10th 

Last game between the two schools … October 21, 2017 No. 15 Washington State 28, Colorado 0 …

In terrible conditions (41 degrees, 22-32 mph winds at kickoff), No. 15 Washington State easily handled Colorado, 28-0. Cougar quarterback Luke Falk threw for 197 yards and three touchdowns – not great numbers, but more than enough to hold off the Buffs. Colorado used three quarterbacks on the night, but none were effective, as CU was shutout for the first time since 2012.

Phillip Lindsay became the first running back in Colorado history to rush for over 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons, with his 29 carries for 95 yards giving him 1,093 for the year. Lindsay, though, was the lone positive for the Buff offense, which was held to a season low 174 yards of total offense.

“That was the worst offensive performance we’ve had since I’ve been a coach here,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said. The Buffs had just 13 first downs on the night, and converted just one of 17 third down opportunities.

“Mainly they just whipped us,” MacIntyre said. “Washington State played great tonight.”

… The full game story, including the essay for the game, “Same song, different verse“, can be found here

 

2017 Washington State results – 9-4 (6-3 in Pac-12 play)

– Returning starters, Offense: 6 … Returning starters, Defense: 7

 

– 2017 Washington State National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 50th … 30.3 points per game  (Colorado scoring defense – 74th … 28.2 points per game)

— Rushing – 128th … 68.0 yards per game   (Colorado rushing defense – 108th … 208.0 yards per game)

— Passing – 2nd … 366.8 yards per game   (Colorado passing defense – 94th … 242.6 yards per game)

— Total – 33rd … 434.8 yards per game  (Colorado total defense – 109th … 450.6 yards per game)

– 2017 Washington State National Rankings (Defense)

— Scoring – 58th … 25.8 points per game  (Colorado scoring offense – 81st … 26.4 points per game)

— Rushing – 47th … 152.4 yards per game (Colorado rushing offense – 74th … 157.2 yards per game)

— Passing – 9th … 170.9 yards per game (Colorado passing offense – 39th … 260.4 yards per game)

— Total – 16th … 323.3 yards per game  (Colorado total offense – 48th … 417.6 yards per game)

 

Washington State storylines … 

Changes in the coaching staff ….

A year ago, Colorado fans were lamenting the loss of their defensive coordinator to a team which could offer a significant pay raise. The Buffs were 16th in total defense in 2016, prompting Oregon to hire away Jim Leavitt.

This spring, Washington State fans are lamenting the loss of their defensive coordinator to a team which could offer a significant pay raise. The Cougs were 16th in total defense in 2017, prompting Ohio State to hire away Alex Grinch.

Without Leavitt (and a number of star players from the 2016 team), Colorado dropped from 16th to 109th in total defense.

Without Grinch (and a number of star players from the 2017 team), Washington State will … ??.

We’ll see.

In addition to losing Grinch, four other coaches left Pullman for greener (and easier to get to) pastures. The loss of five assistants, plus the new NCAA allotted tenth assistant, meant Mike Leach had to hire six new assistants to his staff this off-season.

“It has been refreshing,” Leach said about the turnover in the coaches room. “Fresh energy is very healthy for us.”

Players make plays

At Washington State, it’s all about the quarterback.

For teams coached by Mike Leach, it’s all about the quarterback.

In 2018, for a change, there are no clear options for Mike Leach and the Cougars at quarterback.

The presumptive replacement to Luke Falk, sophomore Tyler Hilinski, tragically took his own life this past winter. Former junior college transfers Trey Tinsley and Anthony Gordon, both redshirt juniors, had the best of it during spring practices.

All eyes this summer, though, will turn to graduate transfer Gardner Minshew. The former East Carolina quarterback chose Washington State over Alabama after completing 57.2 percent of his attempts for 2,140 yards and 16 touchdowns with seven interceptions last season.

Running backs are never the featured stars for the Washington State offense, but the second-leading rusher from last season, James Williams (395 yards rushing; 482 yards receiving) returns. Buff fans will keep an eye on the progress of Max Borghi, an Arvada, Colorado (Pomona) product, who was an early enrollee. Borghi, who was courted by CU, may be a regular contributor by November.

It’s a testament to the Washington State offense that the top two wide receivers from 2017 are gone, yet players contributing 56% of the receptions from last year return. While contributors Renard Bell (40 catches, 538 yards) and Kyle Sweet (58 catches, 533 yards) are back, WSU coaches are high on junior college transfer Easop Winston, who caught 71 passes for City College of San Francisco last year.

The offensive line is a question mark, with three multi-year starters gone. The line is so thin that Washington State went through spring practices with only eight scholarship offensive linemen.

The defensive line, even with the departure of star Hercules Mata’afa, is in better shape than the offensive line. The most experienced defensive lineman on the roster is end Nnamdi Oguayo, who started six games last season and finished with 34 tackles, including seven for loss.

At linebacker, the Cougars are talented, but young. The Cougars get a boost with the return of Peyton Pelluer, who received a sixth year of eligibility after missing the final 10 games of last season with an injury. Pelluer is joined by a pair of returnees who had solid years as redshirt freshmen, but will need to continue to get better if Washington State is going to maintain its status in the upper half of the Pac-12 North.

The defensive backfield for the Cougars is perhaps the best unit on the team. With 35 starts, cornerback Darrien Molton is the most experienced player on the defense. He’ll be joined by fellow corner Marcus Strong, who started the final six games of the 2017 season, and by strong safety Jalen Thompson, who has 26 career starts and led the Cougars with 73 tackles a season ago.

 

Bottom Line … Since 2015, only USC and Stanford have compiled more Pac-12 wins than Washington State, and the Cougs have the same record in conference games as rival Washington, 19-8.

At the same time, Washington State hasn’t signed a class in the top half of the Pac-12 during Leach’s tenure. In fact, the last Cougars signing class to rank in the top half of the conference was in 2004.

Doing more with less … the Washington State way under Mike Leach.

New defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said Washington State’s success of late isn’t just important for the players, it also was a draw to Pullman for him because it wasn’t a rebuilding effort.

“All the places that we’ve been and with Coach (Jerry) Kill and taking over jobs, they’ve all been trying to rebuild them from the ground up,” new defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys told The Athletic. “So, I was excited to get the opportunity here where a lot of the ground-level work was laid. They’ve competed. They’ve won a lot of conference games the last three years. … That part of it was exciting to me.”

Washington State is replacing five coaches, and faces a future without all-time leading passer Luke Falk.

The 2018 season will be a test of whether the Cougars can maintain excellence, or will be returning to their historic roots of mediocrity.

 

How the Buffs fit into the Cougars’ 2018 schedule

If Washington State make a bowl game this year, it will mark the first four-season bowl streak in program history. If they post better than a .500 record for the fourth year in a row, it will be the first time that has happened in Pullman since the 1930’s.

Let those numbers sink in for a bit.

It’s true … Washington State hasn’t posted records of .500 or better in four consecutive seasons … since the Great Depression.

Mike Leach has done well in Pullman, and the world will already have a good feel for the 2018 Cougars by the time Washington State gets to Boulder in November.

Washington State opens with three winnable non-conference games: At Wyoming (without Josh Allen); San Jose State (2-11 in 2017) and Eastern Washington. The Pac-12 schedule opens with a road game reality check against USC, followed by a home game against Utah.

Before facing the Buffs, the Cougs alternate road and home conference games, taking on Oregon State and Stanford on the road, while facing Oregon and Cal at home.

The November 10th road tilt against the Buffs will be Washington State’s final road game of the year. The Cougars will then return home to face Arizona and rival Washington (which has won the Apple Cup five years in a row, by an average of 23.6 points per game) to close out the regular season.

As for Colorado, the “November to Remember” starts off with a Friday night road game against Arizona on November 2nd. That will give the Buffs an extra day to prepare for the home game against Washington State on November 10th.

If, by then, the Cougars are on their way to another 9-4 record, and the Buffs are again facing elimination from bowl eligibility, the CU/Washington State game could be a deciding factor in whether Mike MacIntyre is the CU head coach for the 2019 season.

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10 Replies to “Scouting the Opposition – Washington State”

  1. If the “D” doesn’t perform again this year and/or Buffs don’t get into a bowl, MM may get “kapooted” out the door… and, that would be a shame. Quality, nice guy but that doesn’t win games.

    If that happens, bring Leavitt back.

    Does MM get a “Get out of jail” card again Stuart ?

    Buffs gotta win !!!

  2. Stuart, I enjoy the banter between you and VK (fka NepaBuff), keep at it!

    3 Steps forward, one huge stepback:
    * uptick in recruiting (if you can’t recruit with these new facilities, you should get out of the business)
    * uptick in QB coach
    * uptick in OC’s
    * Troubling step back – DC’s defense in his first year was awful. Can’t blame it all on the attrition of talent to the NFL. We are stuck with this bend don’t break philosophy. It’s not going to work.

    Sixth year of the regime and we are favored to win 3 games. Geez.

  3. I second that Stuart. The effort has been there and the boys have largely stayed out of trouble. That’s something to be positive about. Shoulder to shoulder!

  4. n terrible conditions (41 degrees, 22-32 mph winds at kickoff), No. 15 Washington State easily handled Colorado, 28-0.

    Wow a weather excuse? Really.

    But alas the dynamic (always ready to repeat a failing play over and over and over)pissy lils LIndy offense is outta here. And maybe more importantly TunaMac is off his year long pouting escapade and blaming everyone but himself and back in focus. That would be nice.

    Getting rid of lindy was great. So lets back it up.

    Buffs

    Gonna be an interesting year

    1. How was describing the conditions as “terrible” an excuse? Just a statement of fact.
      Does the essay say it was terrible conditions for CU only? Nope.
      Did Mike MacIntyre use the weather conditions as an excuse? Nope.

      1. May have to go watch it again. You should too.

        Buffs

        “That was the worst offensive performance we’ve had since I’ve been a coach here,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said”

        Yup they didn’t look good. The weather or the coaching.

        I’m a sticking with the year long pout.

        Perhaps he is pass that.

        I hope so. So does his bank account

  5. Wasn’t Borghi a CU commit and then a de-commit?
    Lots of “considerations” as to why the decommit?

    I hope he does great but not against CU.

    Buffs.

    Note: A screwup somewhere

    1. Or ….
      Borghi changed his commitment a week after CU received two commitments from two other running backs, Jarek Broussard and Deion Smith.
      Perhaps it was a mutual parting of the ways. Perhaps CU got an upgrade in talent. Perhaps Borghi saw an opportunity to play earlier in his career at WSU (a team which finished 128th in rushing last season).
      Perhaps, you will someday find something positive to say about the CU program … nah.

      1. Funny how that works eh? Ya have a different perspective and of course you are negative about the Buffs. Lotta perhaps in there and a few left out.

        But I still like this recruiting class. Could be the best one yet.

        Go Buffs.

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