SEATTLE – Playing in Seattle is nothing unusual for the Washington State Cougars.
Prior to Saturday night’s 44-21 loss to Oregon State, played at CenturyLink Field, the Cougars had played 11 home-away-from-home games on the West Side.
But since losing to 11th-ranked USC 23-14 in the Kingdome in 1976, Washington State hasn’t played a home conference game in Seattle.
When then-athletic director Jim Sterk moved the Nevada game to Seahawks Stadium in 2002 – the Cougars won 31-7 before 63,588 – it was understood WSU would play one of its nonconference games in Seattle.
And the Cougars did, for the next seven years. But when the contract expired after the 38-20 loss to Hawaii in 2009, it looked as if the run might end.
But new athletic director Bill Moos resurrected the game, although he had a different vision: a Pac-12 game with the Oregon schools, who have a short drive up Interstate 5 – well, in Oregon State’s case, short relative to WSU’s trip.
Moos and First and Goal, which runs CenturyLink, have a two-year agreement in place, meaning the Cougars will play each Oregon schools once. But Moos has made it clear he expects the games to continue.
WSU’s travel plans take some hits
The Cougars’ Seattle Week, of which the game is the centerpiece, is scheduled like a military invasion, but no one told the Washington State Department of Transportation.
The football team’s buses were delayed for more than an hour Friday afternoon in a Snoqulamie Pass traffic jam on Interstate 90. The delay threw off their schedule, though by hustling through the hotel check-in procedure and lunch, they were able to get to CenturyLink Field and do their quick walk-through.
Then Friday night the demolition of the Seattle Viaduct began, causing the closure of one of the oft-used north/south routes around CenturyLink.
Throughout the week pleas were made to Cougars fans to arrive early.
Cougars lead all-time series
There is only one team in the Pac-12 against which Washington State holds an all-time winning record.
That would be Oregon State, and Saturday’s outcome didn’t change that.
The Cougars came in with a 48-44-3 edge. However, in their last 10 meetings with the Beavers, OSU held a 6-4 edge despite last year’s 31-14 WSU victory.
Cougs land big recruit Johnson
While much of the Washington State athletic administration established a beachhead in Seattle, basketball coach Ken Bone stayed in Pullman and ran the Cougars through their preseason practices.
He took a crucial phone call Saturday morning.
On the other end was highly sought-after 6-foot-5 shooting guard Demarquise Johnson, known as Que around Phoenix, where he’s enrolled at Westwind Academy.
Royce Woolridge, who attended Sunnyslope High in Phoenix, is redshirting at Washington State this season after transferring from Kansas, where he played as a freshman.
Johnson, a four-star recruit according to Rivals.com and a three-star with Scout.com, is a prep school teammate of 6-10 forward Richard Peters, who committed to the Cougars earlier this month.
The two join Shadle Park 6-7 forward Brett Boese and 6-7 power forward Richard Longrus from Oakland, Calif., both of whom committed last week.
“It’s somewhere that I can play right away,” Johnson told the Seattle Times’ Percy Allen. “I can get recognized. And it’s a good fit for me.”
Johnson was recruited by Gonzaga, Washington and UNLV, among others.
As a junior last year, Johnson filled up the stat line, averaging 20.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
The first day high school seniors can sign letters of intent is Nov. 9.
Johnson let anyone who follows him on Twitter know his status when he tweeted three letters Saturday morning. They were “W-S-U.”