CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Washington State Cougars have lost three consecutive games.
They are winless in Pacific-12 Conference play.
They have failed to score a touchdown in two of their six games.
At 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the Pac-12, the Cougars’ oft-stated goal of playing in a bowl game is in serious jeopardy. WSU must win four of its remaining six games to qualify for a bowl – five out of six to guarantee a bowl appearance. So do players still consider a bowl a realistic goal this season?
“Of course,” safety Deone Bucannon said after Saturday’s 19-6 loss at 14th-ranked Oregon State.
“I think it’s very realistic,” said quarterback Connor Halliday, who was quick to add, “We still have to put a full game together.”
On Saturday, WSU’s much-maligned defense delivered a strong performance, and the Cougars’ explosive passing offense was tamed for the most part by the unbeaten Beavers.
“I thought both defenses played real well,” WSU coach Mike Leach said. “I thought both defenses played physical.”
Leach added: “I thought Oregon State’s defense was more physical than our offense. We had too many guys getting slung around.
“Our effort was good. There were guys grinding.”
Leach played Connor Halliday and Jeff Tuel at quarterback for the second consecutive week, and he said he’s undecided whether Tuel will return to the starting role he handled the first two games before suffering a knee injury.
“We’re going to look at the film and talk about it ... we need to improve both of them,” Leach said.
Senior wide receiver Gino Simone, who had a career-long 49-yard reception against the Beavers, said he believes Halliday and Tuel will respond.
“We have the luxury of having two guys who can get the job done,” Simone said.
Leach yanked Halliday twice Saturday. Asked why he put Halliday back in the game to start the second half, Leach said, “I thought he’d settle down.
“He’s going to be a great player, but he wasn’t settled down in this game.”
Linebacker Justin Sagote, who made a season-high eight tackles, said the Cougars’ much-improved defensive effort was no fluke.
“We hit the film study a lot,” he said. “It helped us today.
“We knew the plays were coming. We were calling it out before it was even happening.”
Oregon State reserve Anthony Watkins, a senior safety out of Burien’s Highline High School, had a 39-yard return on his first interception since 2009. … The Cougars were 2-for-10 on third-down conversions. Oregon State’s defense ranks among the national leaders with a 20.4 percent success rate (39-for-49) on third down. … The Beavers have not given up a point in the first quarter this season. … WSU junior Andrew Furney’s two field goals gives him 26 for his career. That’s tied for eighth in school history.