November 13, 1997 in City

You Won’t Want To Miss This One

By The Spokesman-Review
 

FROM OPINION PAGE B8 (Friday, November 14, 1997): Correction Thursday’s editorial incorrectly listed the first name of Ryan Leaf, quarterback for the Washington State University football team.

The Washington State University football team has given us several thrills since Coach Mike Price came to Pullman. But rarely have those exciting moments come as often as they have this year - and rarer still in November.

By this point in the season, Cougar fans usually are hoping their team can win enough games to qualify for a lesser bowl game. Or they’re already looking ahead to the basketball season.

This year’s team is different. It could be the one that all future Cougar football teams are measured against. It already has qualified for a bowl game with its 8-1 start. Now, Cougar fans will be disappointed if their team for the ages isn’t playing in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.

All that stands between WSU and roses are Stanford University, which visits Pullman Saturday, the annual Apple Cup war against the University of Washington in Seattle and a little outside luck. But first things first. The Cougs must beat Stanford to continue to dream. And Coach Price has asked for a full house.

He and his team deserve one.

Incredibly, despite its highest national ranking since 1958 (No. 10), WSU hasn’t sold out Martin Stadium this year. It came close to a sellout in a televised game against the University of Arizona. But, as the Cougar defense stiffened in overtime to secure a win, television cameras revealed embarrassingly empty end zone stands. Still, the large crowd disrupted the Arizona quarterback’s signal calling in the fourth quarter.

The true fans will be in Pullman on Saturday. But there also are reasons for fair-weather fans to see this one:

Junior quarterback Brian Leaf, a candidate for the Heisman Trophy, may turn professional next year. So, the chances are good that he will be playing in his last home game. In the Cougars’ 77-7 victory over Southwestern Louisiana Saturday, Leaf passed Jack Thompson to become the all-time WSU leader in touchdown passes thrown with 54.

The Cougars (8-1 overall and 5-1 in the Pacific-10 Conference) need to defeat Stanford (4-5, 2-4) to remain a legitimate Rose Bowl contender.

This may be the last chance in awhile to see Cougar football at its best. Graduation and the possible loss of Leaf will leave the 1998 Cougars hard-pressed to win half of their games.

When the season started, most forecasters predicted Washington State would finish seventh in the PAC-10. Of course, that was before WSU shocked the conference with rare victories over UCLA and the University of Southern California. The Cougars added three other conference wins since then and now are poised to complete a Cinderella season.

If WSU pulls it off, you’ll wish you had seen them.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board


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