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Washington State’s first-quarter touchdown drought in Apple Cup has become a six-year struggle

Washington State Cougars running back Max Borghi (21) runs the ball against the Washington Huskies during the first half of a college football game on Friday, November 23, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – Washington State hasn’t exceeded 17 points in an Apple Cup since 2012, so the Cougars shouldn’t be too particular about when they score Friday afternoon at Husky Stadium.

Maybe it sounds bizarre for a team that leads the Pac-12 Conference in points per game at 41.5, and ranks fifth nationally in total offense at 533 yards per game, but scoring at all should be the top priority for Mike Leach, Anthony Gordon and the Cougars. Since beating the Huskies 31-28 in Leach’s first Apple Cup, WSU’s offense has stalled, then stalled again, averaging just 14.3 points over the last six meetings.

But it would signify major prorgess if WSU could get on the board early this Friday – and not only get on the board, but get on the board with seven points.

One of the most disturbing Apple Cup stats for WSU under Leach is the lack of offensive productivity in the first quarter. As in, the Cougars haven’t scored a touchdown in the first 15 minutes of an Apple Cup since 2012.

But they have been blanked in four separate first quarters and managed a single field goal in the other two. In the last six contests, the Huskies have outscored the Cougars in all four quarters and they’ve kept their rivals off the board in 13 of the 24 quarters played.

Still, the point differential in the second quarter (48-27), third quarter (50-22) and fourth quarter (60-34) still pale in comparision to UW’s overwhelming avantage in the first quarter.

Fifty-two points for the Huskies. Just six for the Cougars.

“Well, it’s important to score as many as you can as often as you can,” WSU coach Mike Leach said Monday when the first-quarter numbers. “All games are like that, certainly last game was.”

This season, the Cougars haven’t been significantly stronger in one quarter than the other three, but it’s often taken their offense awhile to get going. They’ve scored the fewest amount of points in the first quarter (101) and the most in the second (125), while the third quarter (113) and fourth quarter (118) have been about even.

But, it doesn’t need repeating. The Cougars will take yards, and points, whenever and wherever they can get them. Since Leach took over in Pullman in 2012, WSU’s high-volume passing offense has had varying degrees of success against every Pac-12 team its played. The Cougars have struggled against Cal lately, and Utah’s been a tougher foe of late, but they’ve also had strong offensive games against both.

Since 2012, WSU has averaged these point totals against Pac-12 foes outside of the Evergreen State: 46.8 vs. Arizona, 28 vs. Arizona State, 30.7 vs. Cal, 30.8 vs. Colorado, 36.8 vs. Oregon, 39.7 vs. Oregon State, 29.3 vs. Stanford, 39.2 vs. UCLA, 23.2 vs. USC and 26.6 vs. Utah.

Meanwhile, the Cougars have averaged a measley 16.7 ppg against UW.

They’d love to finally break out against the Huskies this Friday, but first things first.

Or rather, first quarter first.