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Late night WSU musings

COUGARS

FROM PULLMAN — Something about driving 4 1/2 hours is good for the brain (my back, however, is a different story). Anyway, the trip home this afternoon gave us plenty of time to think, and with Washington State cancelling its scheduled 8 p.m. practice, we figured it'd be a good time to pass along some notes and thoughts from yesterday's game. Read on.


— Let's take a look at where WSU stands in the national stats rankings, something I try to tweet each Sunday but don't usually put on the blog. Anyway, the Cougars are now 104th in total defense (472.2 yards per game) and 84th in total offense (378.6), about where they were last week. For those interested in the passing numbers, WSU is 12th in passing offense at 333 yards per game, but just 83rd in passing efficiency. And while rushing yardage isn't a major concern, the Cougars really haven't been able to move the ball at all on the ground, ranking 119th out of 120 teams in rushing offense — and, more importantly, 118th in yards per carry with just 2.07. Mike Leach has said he's not as concerned with his team's total rushing yardage as he is with its yards per carry. And 2.07 isn't enough.

— Speaking of rushing yards, Saturday's game was the second time this season the Cougars have posted a negative total in that category (the first was against BYU). Oregon's seven sacks had a lot to do with it.

— Mike Leach said he didn't think his team was complacent in the second half, which had to please him at least a little bit. Still, Connor Halliday and Marquess Wilson each said afterward that they thought players were too happy at halftime, as if they were satisfied with trailing by only four points in a game that many expected to be a laugher. That mindset seemed to seep over into the second half, as Oregon launched an 18-play scoring drive to kind of take the air out of the stadium. Leach was far more complimentary of his team's performance this week than he was against Colorado, but the fact that players said their mindset was affected by the scoreboard indicates there's still work to do in that regard.

— Halliday went on a bit of an aside in defense of Marquess Wilson on Saturday night, saying he doesn't understand why Wilson hasn't been given more credit by the media and has been criticized more than other receivers for dropping passes. If you look at the numbers, Wilson is, somewhat quietly, putting together a more-than-decent season. His 12-catch, 182-yard performance on Saturday upped his season totals to 30 catches for 499 yards. Through give games, he's on pace for 72 catches and 1,198 yards, and is now obviously WSU's all-time leader in career receiving yards. He also moved into fourth place in career receptions, passing Jared Karstetter after his 29th career game.

— Oregon State opened as an 11.5-point favorite on Sunday, and that line has since moved to -14.5. WSU is 1-3 against the spread this season (its first cover was on Saturday, though depending which line is used for the UNLV game, WSU might also be credited with a push and have a record of 1-2-1), with no line posted for the Eastern Washington game.

— The Internet at the stadium was on the fritz and tweeting was difficult at times, so I don't think I noted during the game that Kristoff Williams saw his first action of the season at receiver (I believe it was after Isiah Myers was shaken up, though Myers did return later). Williams was buried on the depth chart after missing a big chunk of time due to an undisclosed injury, but he's been working his way back slowly. He had a pretty good showing during Thursday Night Football two weeks ago, so maybe he's closer to earning some snaps.

— Walk-on defensive back Joe Njoku traveled and saw his first action of the season on special teams.

— WSU appears to have found a home-run threat at kick returner in Teondray Caldwell, as he broke a 92-yard return that set up an easy touchdown. He also had a 56-yard return against Colorado last week.

— The Cougars' third-down defense didn't improve any, as they allowed Oregon to convert 50 percent of its tries (7 of 14). WSU allows a 49.4 percent conversion rate.

All for now.

Christian Caple can be reached at christianc@spokesman.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple


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