PALO ALTO, Calif. – It’s not hard to miss Washington State’s best offensive lineman. At 6-foot-8, 354 pounds, Cody O’Connell stands out even in a crowd of the biggest football players on the team.
O’Connell has won the Bone Award given to the offensive linemen who earns the highest grade in each win this year, and likely could have won it in the two losses, too.
It is no surprise that O’Connell makes for a tough roadblock for opposing pass rushers. He certainly has the size for it, and deceptive athleticism as well.
But where O’Connell has impressed the coaches the most is his ability to get downfield on run plays and short passes. The big left guard consistently gets to the second level, and played a key role in WSU setting rushing records under Mike Leach against Idaho and Oregon.
Olympic gold medalist, Western Conference All-Star and former WSU basketball player Klay Thompson was on hand in Palo Alto to watch the Cougars. Thompson has played in the last two NBA Finals with the Golden State Warriors, winning the championship in 2015.
Most recently, Thompson won an Olympic Gold Medal with Team USA in Rio de Janeiro this summer.
Thompson ranks first at WSU in 3-pointers made (242) and attempted (620). He was a defensive whiz for the Cougars, too, ranking No. 14 in steals average (1.33 per game) and total blocked shots (74).
Cougars break out Liquid Steel
The Cougars had so much success wearing new helmets against Oregon last week that they decided to do it again for Saturday’s game against Stanford. WSU wore white decals on its gray helmets, and added a white facemask, too. The Cougars call the look “Liquid Steel,” a play on Nike’s “liquid metal” paint finish.
The Cougars wore white jerseys and gray pants, the first time they have worn that combination this season.
The Cougars wore anthracite helmets for the first time during their Week 5 route of Oregon in Martin Stadium.
Stanford countered by wearing their all-black alternate jerseys for the first time this season. The Cardinal usually only wear those uniforms once per season, and were 7-0 in them entering Saturday’s game.
McBroom starts again
Defensive end Garrett McBroom started at defensive end for the second consecutive game. McBroom, a junior college transfer from Oklahoma, has provided a badly needed injection of production for the Cougars on the defensive line.
Shalom Luani started at the nickel position for the second consecutive game, with Robert Taylor again starting at his old free safety position. On offense, Gerard Wicks got the first snap at running back although the Cougars, as always, substituted liberally at the position.
Stanford depleted by injuries
It was a banged-up Stanford squad that faced WSU. In addition to starting quarterback Queton Meeks and Elijah Holder, the Cardinal were without starting wide receiver Francis Owusu, fullback Daniel Marx and starting tackle Casey Tucker.
Offensive lineman Brandon Fanaika, a key reserve, was playing with an injury.
NFL scouts attend
Close to a dozen NFL scouts attended the game. Stanford games often attract a lot of scouts because the Cardinal usually have some NFL prospects, and it’s an easy trip for representatives of the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders.
The scouts were said to be particularly interested in WSU’s Gabe Marks, Shalom Luani and Luke Falk. While Luani and Marks are seniors, Falk will have to decide after the season whether he wants to play professionally or return to college for another season.
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