CORVALLIS, Ore. – Robert Barber did not travel with Washington State to Corvallis for Saturday night’s game against Oregon State, making it the first game the Cougars played without their starting nose tackle.
Many of the WSU players wrote Barber’s jersey number, 92, on their arms in red ink.
“Robert will forever be a member of this team,” Mike Leach said after the game. “Robert belongs with us.”
Barber was suspended for his role in a fight at an off-campus over the summer. The suspension will last until July, although the fifth-year senior has asked school president Kirk Schulz to review the case. The school has hired independent counsel to conduct a review of the student conduct processes by which Barber was expelled and subsequently suspended.
Without Barber in the lineup, backup Ngalu Tapa is WSU’s only true nose tackle on the roster. Defensive end Hercules Mata’afa and defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale each started at tackle positions on Saturday. Both players have experience inside and strength to hold up against interior offensive linemen.
Furthermore, true freshman Derek Moore made his first start at defensive end, and former weakside linebacker Frankie Luvu started at rush linebacker, where Dylan Hanser had previously started.
Salmonson starts but O’Connell travels
Cody O’Connell made the trip to Oregon State after exiting during the second quarter of last week’s game against Arizona State with an undisclosed injury. B.J. Salmonson started at left guard in O’Connell’s place, but the regular starter played in the second half.
O’Connell has been WSU’s best offensive lineman when he’s played. He won the team’s first three Bone Awards, given to the best offensive lineman after wins, and was named to the CBS Midseason All-America team.
Officials struggle early
Expectations are typically low for Pac-12 officiating crews given the weekly litany of errors made in what are admittedly difficult jobs. But Saturday night’s officials proved to be a special bunch early on.
Early in the first quarter two fouls were called on WSU in one play, until the official realized he meant to call both of them on the team in the darker jerseys. The officials made a similar mistake later in the quarter when an official signaled that a catch made by WSU receiver Gabe Marks was completed, only to overturn himself.
Leach agreed with the initial call, challenging the ruling on the field (the second one). However, video replay showed that while Marks did get a foot inbounds, he also bobbled the catch.
All the while, one of the end zone pylons that are used to determine whether or not a player has crossed the plane into the end zone and scored was about 15 feet out of place. Eventually, an OSU staffer on the sideline noticed the error and remedied it.
All Morrow does is win (the coin toss)
Running back Jamal Morrow is the all-time record holder at WSU for receptions by a running back, entering Saturday’s game with 126. He eclipsed former record-holder Steve Broussard (120) last week when he made eight catches against Arizona State.
While the Cougars are thankful for Morrow’s ability to make plays in the passing game, that is far from his most unique skill.
Morrow won the pregame coin toss, bringing his record to 13-4 when he is a captain, and 7-1 when he calls the toss as the visiting captain. The Cougars typically ask to receive, but deferred their last three games.
Leach explained earlier this year that he decided to have Morrow be the lone captain because of his distaste for committees and devoting too many people to a single project. Furthermore, he trusted Morrow’s luck because the running back had performed well on “The Price is Right” television show as a freshman.
When Morrow’s luck held, the Cougars coaches kept sending him out for the toss. Morrow’s first-ever loss as when calling the toss came earlier this year at Stanford.