LOS ANGELES – Bring on Montana State.
Sept. 2 can’t come soon enough for Washington State linebacker Peyton Pelluer and the Cougar defense.
Burying the Bobcats would go a long way toward burying the past – namely opening day losses the last two years to FCS teams from Portland State and Eastern Washington.
The Washington State linebacker was fully prepped for that question during Thursday’s Pac-12 Media Days event, and the larger one: Why can’t the Cougars win on opening day under coach Mike Leach?
“It’s definitely a mental thing,” Pelluer said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve been through that.”
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Both times, the Cougars recovered and went on to bowl games.
“That’s a mental thing, too,” Pelluer said.
“Last year we were predominantly freshmen and sophomores, and I think we struggled as far as adjusting to being on the field for the first time in some cases,” said Leach, who’s 0-5 in openers since he arrived in Pullman in 2012.
“(We) go out there, first game, college football, first time. All of a sudden, eyes got wide and we tried to do too much,” Leach said.
That didn’t lessen the sting. Run into the ground by Portland State in 2015 and passed silly by Eastern Washington last year, Pelluer and the Cougars defense get another dose of the Big Sky Conference when Montana State comes to Pullman on Labor Day weekend.
That one will be special for Pelluer. Current MSU coach Jeff Choate was a linebackers coach at WSU in 2012, the year Pelluer committed to the Cougs out of Sammamish, Wash.
“I’ll be excited to see him,” Pelluer said.
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In the meantime, Pelluer is hoping that some introspection will go a long way.
“We can’t come out in week one and week two (WSU lost at Boise State last year to fall to 0-2) and try to figure it out later.”
“This year we’re going to figure it out in fall camp,” Pelluer said.
An improved front seven will help. According to Pelluer, defensive coordinator Alex Grinch “preaches that we can have the best run defense in the Pac-12.
Added Pelluer: “The amount of game-planning that comes from our coaches each week will put us in position to make plays.”
Hopefully by Sept 2.
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