Washington State needs to run the table in order to become bowl eligible. The Cougars play Utah in Eccles Stadium Saturday. / Wiki Commons
GAME: Washington State (2-6 overall, 0-5 Pac-12) at Utah (3-5 overall, 1-4 Pac-12) WHEN: Saturday, 12 p.m.. PT, Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City. MEETING: 12th (Utes lead 6-5). COACHES: Mike Leach, WSU; Kyle Whittingham, Utah. RANKINGS: Neither team ranked. LINE: Utah by 11 1/2. TV: Pac-12 Networks. RADIO: ESPN 710 and IMG College Sports Network.
At 2-6 with four games to play, Washington State needs to run the table in order to become bowl eligible. With contests remaining against Utah, UCLA, ASU and Washington, WSU's chances of of going bowling are exceedingly slim, but coach Mike Leach says he's satisfied with the progress the Cougars have made, especially after coming so close to knocking off nationally ranked Stanford last Saturday.
"I knew this was going to be challenging when I came here," Leach said. "I've never been through anything like this. I've never played this many freshmen before. But if we are improving, and I think we are, I'm pleased with it. We've gotten better as a team (as the season has progressed), but we've still got to get better.
"I thought we played our best game of the season last week (24-17 loss at Stanford). It was there for us to win and we should have won it. We played physical and hard with regard to all three sides of the ball. Our young guys kind of grew up in that game."
Utah, on the Cougars' docket Saturday in Salt Lake City, is just 3-5, but has a good home record at Eccles Stadium at 3-1, losing only to Southern California (38-28) in a game in which the Utes were within three points of the Trojans in the fourth quarter.
"Utah is very physical and defense-minded," said Leach. "They run the ball pretty well but are searching for identity a little at quarterback."
Utah has started three quarterbacks this season: junior Jordan Wynn in the first two games, senior Jon Hays in the next three and true freshman Travis Wilson in the last three. Wilson threw for 156 yards against Cal last week. He did not throw for a touchdown or an interception.
The Utes are also among the Pac-12's best at special teams play, evidenced by Reggie Dunn's two 100-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns in a surprisingly easy 49-27 victory over California last week.
Leach, who usually conceals the identity of his starting quarterback like a state secret, broke form this week and announced that senior Jeff Tuel will start against Utah. Tuel is coming off a school-record 43 completions in 60 attempts against the Cardinal.
"He's just a real solid, focused guy," said Leach. "There are a lot of guys around here who just want to punch the clock, but Jeff is not one of them."
In Utah, Tuel will face the No. 3-ranked defense in the Pac-12. The Utes allow 346.5 yards per game. Washington State ranks 10th in scoring offense, 20.6 points per game.
"We grew a lot last week," Tuel said. "We've just got to build on it."
SERIES: Dates to 1966, when the Utes pinned a 26-15 loss on Washington State. Utah leads all-time series 6-5 after posting a 30-27 overtime victory in Pullman last season. The Cougars captured a 38-21 victory in its last trip to Salt Lake City during the 2000 season. No team has won more than two in a row during the series. Prior to 2000, WSU's previous win came in the 1992 Copper Bowl, where the Cougars held off the Utes, 31-28.
WSU HEAD COACH: Mike Leach (87-47 overall, 2-6 WSU):Hired Nov. 30, 2011 to replace Paul Wulff, who went 9-40 in four seasons, Leach in 10 seasons at Texas Tech (2000-09) earned 10 bowl bids. The Susanville, CA., native, who was raised in Cody, WY., recorded a school-record 84 victories. Leach's offenses led the nation in passing six times and three times accumulated the most total yards. In 2009, the Red Raiders finished second in passing offense and fourth in total offense, both marks tops among BCS conference schools. Prior to Texas Tech, Leach spent one season as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma (1999). That year, the Sooners set six Big 12 and 17 school records.WSU STATS / NOTES
- SEASON SUMMARY: Record: 2-6. Home: 1-3. Road: 1-3. Neutral: 0-1. Vs. Pac-12: 0-5. Vs. Pac-12 North: 1-2. Vs. Pac-12 South: 0-1. Vs. Non-Conference: 2-1.
- Points For: 165 (20.6). Rushing Yards Per Game: 33.5. Passing Yards Per Game: 332.1. Total Offense Per Game: 365.6.
- Points Against: 237 (29.6). Opp. Rushing Yards Per Game: 168.2. Opp. Passing Yards Per Game: 268.5. Total Defense Per Game: 436.8.
- PAC-12 Ranks: Scoring Offense -- T10 (20.6); Scoring Defense -- 10th (29.6); Total Offense -- 9th (365.6); Total Defense -- 10th (436.8); Rushing Offense -- 12th (33.5); Rushing Defense 9th (168.2); Pass Offense -- 2nd (332.1); Pass Defense -- 9th (268.5); Pass Efficiency -- 10th (119.4).
- Junior wide receiver Marquess Wilson enters the week as the Pac-12 Conference's active career leader in receiving yards with 3,134, No. 13 all-time in conference history and second among the country's active receivers. But he may start on the bench, as he did against Stanford, as a disciplinary move by Leach.
- The Washington State defense had two more sacks at Stanford to enter the week seventh in the Pac-12 Conference and tied for No. 25 in the country with 21. Following a year in which the Cougars recorded 17 all season. The Cougars have also racked up 59 tackles-for-loss, tied for second in the Pac-12 and tied for No. 15 nationally.
- Senior quarterback Jeff Tuel is seventh on WSU's career top-10 for completions (456) and passing yards (5,154). The Fresno native's two TD passes at Stanford pushed his career touchdown pass total to 32, also seventh-most in WSU history. Tuel completed a school-record 43 passes in 60 attempts at Stanford.
- Junior safety Deone Bucannon enters the game against Utah tied for second in the Pac-12 with four interceptions.
|Tackles||Bucannon 70, Monroe 54, Sagote 43, Long 43|
|Sacks||Long 7.5, Monroe 3.0, Mayes 2.5, Hoffart, 2.0|
|Interceptions||Bucannon 4, Coen 2, 3 tied with 1|
|Passes Defensed||Simmons 4, Coen 4, four with 3|
|Forced Fumbles||Monroe 2, six players with 1|
|Fumbles Recovered||Monroe, Locker 1|
|Oregon||8-0||5-0||Saturday at USC, 4 p.m., FOX|
|Oregon St.||6-1||4-1||Saturday vs. ASU, 7:30 p.m., ESPN|
|Stanford||6-2||4-1||Saturday at Colorado, 11 a.m., FX|
|Washington||4-4||2-3||Friday at Cal, 6 p.m., ESPN2|
|California||3-6||2-4||Friday vs. Wash., 6 p.m., ESPN2|
|WSU||2-6||0-5||Saturday at Utah, 12 p.m., Pac-12|
|USC||6-2||4-2||Saturday vs. Oregon, 4 p.m., FOX|
|UCLA||6-2||3-2||Saturday vs. Arizona, 7:30 p.m., Pac-12|
|ASU||5-3||3-2||Saturday at OSU, 7:30 p.m., ESPN|
|Arizona||5-3||2-3||Saturday at UCLA, 7:30 p.m., Pac-12|
|Utah||3-5||1-1||Saturday vs. WSU, 12 p.m., Pac-12|
|Colorado||1-7||1-4||Saturday vs. Stanford, 11 a.m., FX|
UTAH HEAD COACH: Kyle Whittingham, the 2008 National Coach of the Year, is in his eighth season. A graduate of Brigham Young University, Whittingham had three seasons (2008-10) with 10 or more wins and has coached the Utes in eight bowl games. He began coaching at Utah in 1994 (defensive line) and got his coaching start at BYU as a graduate assistant in 1985.
COMING UP: The Cougars return to Martin Stadium Nov. 10 to host UCLA. WSU's final two are at Arizona State (Nov. 17) and vs. Washington (Nov. 23).Washington State 2012 Schedule/Results
|Date||Opponent||WSU Rnk||Opp Rnk||W/L||Score||Rec.|
|9/8/12||vs. E. Wash||---||---||W||24-20||1-1|