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Close win probably not enough for Cougars

PULLMAN – It might have been easy to forget, considering the various frustrations that resulted from Washington State’s first three football games of the 2012 season.

But keep in mind that the Cougars did, in fact, win two of those games, and are in relatively prime position to win another this afternoon when they take the field against Colorado at 1 p.m. in Martin Stadium.

If WSU does what many believe it is supposed to – the Cougars are a 20-point favorite almost everywhere – it will replicate last season’s 3-1 start.

This one just might not feel quite as invigorating if it ends in the same fashion as WSU’s wins over Eastern Washington and UNLV the past two weeks.

“Like I say, we’re explosive,” coach Mike Leach said. “But we’re not consistent.”

That consistency is what the Cougars are chasing this week against winless Colorado, needing a complete, feel-good performance before venturing into the teeth of their Pac-12 schedule.

Against both EWU and UNLV, WSU had the ball in its opponent’s territory with a chance to take a three-score lead in the fourth quarter.

And both games ended with the opponent possessing the ball, trailing by only one score with a chance to pull even.

That never happened, of course, but despite winning each of those games, the Cougars lamented missing those opportunities to win comfortably.

“I just think we need to put a full game together,” sophomore quarterback Connor Halliday said. “Offensively and defensively, we need to put 60 minutes together. That’s tough for a young team to do and that’s something we’ve got to learn.”

Halliday is all but certain to start at quarterback again for the Cougars. He took the bulk of the snaps with the No. 1 offense during practice this week after throwing for 378 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions against UNLV.

Those numbers alone might have been enough to beat the Rebels by a wide margin if not for a few defensive gaffes. Or, more to the point, seven defensive gaffes.

“We walk away from each game and there will be like seven plays, and if you eliminate seven plays, you knock off half or two-thirds of their offense,” Leach said. “Which means that you’re doing pretty good other than seven plays. We have to have the ability to get those seven plays, and I think offensively there’s a certain amount of that too, but it’s more subtle.”

Defensive coordinator Mike Breske continues to tweak the starting lineup. He said Casey Locker will start at free safety alongside Deone Bucannon this week, and Justin Sagote has replaced Chester Su’a on the depth chart at weakside linebacker. The cornerbacks will continue to rotate.