LAS VEGAS – Washington State was down an offensive lineman against UNLV here on Friday.
Dan Spitz, a redshirt senior who started the team’s first two games at right tackle and then at right guard, did not make the trip after not practicing throughout the week.
Offensive line coach Clay McGuire said on Wednesday that Spitz was tending to a “class issue,” and added he wasn’t sure if Spitz would accompany the team to Las Vegas.
Coach Mike Leach said after WSU’s 35-27 win that Spitz was tending to “personal issues,” and he expects him to return to practice next week.
“If they were personal problems, by definition they’re personal, which means that I’m specifically not going to share them with anybody other than those involved with it being personal,” Leach said. “Dan Spitz is doing just fine as far as you’re concerned and anything else beyond that is personal.”
In his place, the Cougars moved Jake Rodgers from left guard to right guard, moved John Fullington from left tackle to left guard, and started redshirt freshman Gunnar Eklund at left tackle.
It was Eklund’s first career start.
“My junior year in high school a kid went down and I started for him at left tackle,” Eklund said. “I played my ass off that game and had the best game of my career at that point. I just kind of put it the same as that. … If (the coaches) are going to have the confidence in me, then I think I should have the confidence in myself to be out there.”
Junior safety Deone Bucannon was selected as a team captain this week and helped lead the team during pregame stretches, but he was forced to watch the first half from the sidelines while serving a Pac-12-mandated suspension for an illegal hit against a defenseless receiver in last week’s win over Eastern Washington.
Freshman Taylor Taliulu, who started both of WSU’s first two games, didn’t start this one either. Instead, senior Tyree Toomer and junior Casey Locker started at the two safety spots. Locker had yet to play this season.
Scene of the kick
Sam Boyd Stadium is etched in WSU’s record books. The last time these teams played here, in 1991, Cougars kicker Jason Hanson set a school record by making a 62-yard field goal. WSU won the game 40-13 before an announced crowd of 20,628.
Junior kicker Andrew Furney placed his name just behind Hanson’s last week by making a 60-yard field goal against Eastern Washington, besting a pair of 58-yarders made by Hanson in 1989 and 1990.
A WSU spokesman said the school estimated that about 5,000 WSU fans were in attendance at Sam Boyd Stadium. A crimson tinge was noticeable among the scarlet-clad home crowd, with many WSU supporters seated in prime viewing territory between the 25-yard lines.