The Washington State Cougars may not win many football games this season, but that doesn’t mean they can’t fill up the record books.
The Cougars are on pace to throw more passes and, quite possibly, run the ball less than any team in school history. They’re also threatening the passing yardage records set by Ryan Leaf’s Rose Bowl team in 1997.
WSU averages 50.5 pass attempts and 22.0 running plays per game. The latter number drops considerably when you eliminate 18 sacks, plus quarterback scrambles for positive or zero yardage.
Only two of the 120 teams in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision statistics – four provisional members are not included – have thrown more passes than WSU (251). Only two teams have fewer running plays (110).
That helps explain why the Cougars rank 12th with 333.0 passing yards per game and 119th in rushing at 45.6. WSU averages just 2.07 yards per run (118th).
Last Saturday, the Cougars passed 64 times (three shy of the school record) and ran 21 times – counting seven sacks – in a 51-26 loss to No. 2 Oregon.
Washington State coach Mike Leach loves to pass, of course. When Leach’s Texas Tech team set an FBS record with 6,179 passing yards in 2003, the Red Raiders averaged 60 passes and 23.7 runs each game.
“He throws it 70 times a game,” Oregon coach Chip Kelly said half-jokingly last week, “and the only reason he throws it 70 is they won’t let him throw it a hundred.”
Don’t look for the Cougars to alter their pass-happy ways Saturday at No. 14 Oregon State (3 p.m., Pac-12 Networks). The Beavers rank ninth in rushing defense at 83.0 and 113th in passing defense – one spot below WSU – at 312.3.
Both teams rank among the nation’s most penalized and give up 25.0 points per game. OSU has a big edge in yards allowed (395.3-472.2).
Oregon State’s Sean Mannion stands fourth in passing at 362.7. Washington State’s Connor Halliday would be fourth at 375.7 if the one quarter he played before starting the past three games was excluded.
Halliday “probably” will start at Oregon State, Leach said Monday. Asked if he plans to start Halliday indefinitely, regardless of the condition of former starter Jeff Tuel’s knee, Leach said, “I’m not sure. We’ll see.”
Tuel looked sharp when he replaced a limping Halliday late in the Oregon game. Halliday said Monday he has “a few bumps and bruises. I’m good.”
Washington State junior Marquess Wilson ranks in the top 11 in all six career receiving stats for active players compiled on the NCAA website.
Wilson’s 2,893 yards rank second to the 3,137 of Duke senior Conner Vernon. Wilson is tied for fourth with 23 touchdown catches.
“I love the guy like a brother,” Halliday said. “You can’t say a bad thing about the guy. He’s just a competitor.”
Oregon State is favored by 141/2 points. … CBSSports.com ranks WSU 108th. … The Cougars started three true freshmen (all on offense) and three redshirt freshmen (one on offense) against Oregon. Two defensive starters were first-year junior college transfers. … The Pac-12 announced Monday that WSU’s Oct. 13 home game with California will be televised at 7:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks. Ten thousand Leach bobbleheads will be given away. … WSU linebacker Travis Long slipped from a first-place tie to a third-place tie on the national sacks list with 61/2. … Halliday, who disapproves of WSU’s annual “home” game in Seattle, said the Oregon game in Seattle “was the greatest atmosphere I’ve played in.” … The Cougars did not practice Monday (as usual) or Sunday. “We do that some this time of year,” Leach said.
Cougars’ Opponent this week
OREGON STATE (3-0 OVERALL, 2-0 PAC-12)
3 p.m. Saturday, Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Ore.
TV: Pac-12 Network. Radio: 710-AM, 104.3-FM
Coach: Mike Riley (75-63, 12th year)
Last year: Finished 3-9 overall, 3-6 in Pac-12.
against the cougars: Washington State leads the series, 48-45-3. The Cougars have won two of the past three meetings in Corvallis, including a 31-14 upset in 2010, but the Beavers reaped revenge with a 44-21 victory last year in Seattle.
Washington Connections: The Beavers are loaded with Washington high school graduates, including star defensive end Scott Crichton, a sophomore from Foss. Twin brothers Anthony and Brian Watkins, who starred at Highline, are listed as second-team defensive backs. One of Riley’s first coaching jobs was as a graduate assistant at Spokane’s Whitworth College (now Whitworth University).
Did you know: WSU has lost 18 straight games to Top 25 teams since knocking off No. 16 Oregon in 2006.
Scouting report: Oregon State was picked to finish last (sixth) in the North Division, right behind Washington State, in the Pac-12’s preseason media poll. The Beavers have been one of the biggest surprises in college football thus far, climbing to No. 14 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll by opening the season with wins over three current or formerly ranked teams. Quarterback Sean Mannion, who tore apart WSU’s secondary last season, is playing better than ever. Crichton, dominant in that lopsided win, brings heat off the edge and has forced a whopping seven fumbles in 15 college games. Speedy wideouts Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks are deep threats who rank in the top six nationally in receiving yards per game.
Keith Kostol 1843.20
Trevor Romaine64 43
Sept. 8d. Wisconsin, 10-7Sept. 22d. UCLA, 27-20
Sept. 29d. Arizona, 38-35SaturdayWashington State
Oct. 13at Brigham YoungOct. 20Utah
Oct. 27at WashingtonNov. 3Arizona State
Nov. 10at StanfordNov. 17California
Nov. 24OregonDec. 1Nicholls StateHowie Stalwick, contributing writer