With its its first bowl game since 2003, Washington State made substantial gains during the 2013 season.
The quest to continue that momentum begins Thursday in a stadium formerly known as Qwest. Washington State opens its season with its annual Seattle game against Rutgers.
It will be the first time the teams have met, as well as the first game for the New Jersey school since it joined the Big Ten.
On paper, the matchup favors Washington State. Last season, Rutgers allowed 312.0 pass yards per game en route to a 6-7 record. That was worse than all but one other FBS team (Troy).
All Washington State does is pass. The Cougars had the fewest rushing attempts in the nation by a wide margin last year.
Senior quarterback Connor Halliday leads the nation’s fourth-best passing offense (368.0 yards per game last year). WSU coach Mike Leach is a huge fan, saying he’d rather have Halliday in his Air Raid offense than any of the Pac-12′s highly regarded quarterbacks.
“You might be rooting for your guy, and I don’t care what you think,” Leach said at Pac-12 Media Days. “He’s better than your guy is.”
Washington State also returns its top eight pass catchers, led by Gabe Marks (74 catches, 807 yards, 7 TDs), Marcus Mason (52 catches, 390 yards, 2 TDs) and Dom Williams (40 catches, 647 yds, 7 TDs).
The questions for Washington State revolve around a young offensive line, where three underclassmen are expected to start, and a defensive backfield that lost three key players in All-American Deone Bucannon, Nolan Washington, who made 31 career starts and Damante Horton, who returned three interceptions for touchdowns.
Rutgers is led by senior quarterback Gary Nova, who finished last season ranked fifth in school history in career completions (502) and yards (6,407) and third with 51 touchdown passes. But he had only three 300-yard passing games last year for an offense that was mediocre at best.
Former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen was brought in to juice up that unit as new offensive coordinator. He’ll have last year’s leading rusher (Paul James) and pass catcher (Tyler Kroft) to work with.
Here’s a link to a more thorough look at Rutgers’ offense.
When: 7:05 p.m. Thursday at CenturyLink Field, Seattle.
TV, radio: Fox Sports 1, KKPZ AM-1330
Key to game: Washington State has plenty of offensive firepower to test an unproven Rutgers defense. The danger for the Cougs is whether their defense can prevent Rutgers from turning the game into an anything-goes shootout. For that, WSU will rely on its veteran linebackers led by Justin Sagote, Darryl Monroe, Cyrus Coen and Tana Pritchard. That group comprises four of WSU’s five leading tacklers last season.
Quotable: They’ve been working on something in camp, so they’’ll do something unusual, I’m sure.” Mike Leach, on what he expects to see from Rutgers.
Prediction: Washington State 42-24]]>
After setting a school record for passing yards last season, Grayson was named to the watch list for the Davey O’Brien Award, given each season to the nation’s top collegiate quarterback.
Colorado State opens its season Aug. 29 against Colorado in Denver. The game kicks off at 6:05 p.m. Pacific on Fox Sports 1.
Bobcat Nation recently profiled Montana State’s defensive line. It made several mentions of Odin Coe, a junior from Camas.
A starting defensive end, Coe missed much of spring ball after ankle surgery. After missing the entire 2012 season with a shoulder injury, he started 11 of 12 games last year, registered 44 tackles, including 7.5 for a loss and two sacks.
The article is fairly blunt in its message. For Montana State to reach its goals on defense, Coe needs to have a big year.
From the article:
Once upon a time, Coe was the prestigious recruit with the impressive highlight tape. Injuries cost him his first two seasons in Bozeman. …
During fall camp, Coe showed a newfound sense of aggression and a confidence that bordered on unflappable. His motor has reached a whole new level and his desire to be great can be seen as he competes.
“We need him to be assignment-sound and if he’s assignment-sound, he’ll make plays,” defensive coordinator Jamie Marshall said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Click here to read the whole piece.]]>
The college football season begins Saturday in Cheney, not just for Eastern Washington but the entire nation.
ESPN will showcase Eastern’s game vs. Sam Houston State in the inaugural FCS Showcase at 12:35 p.m. It’s the only college game nationwide this weekend.
For fans of the Football Championship Subdivision, this should be a doozy. Eastern enters the season ranked No. 1 nationally with one of the nation’s best quarterbacks in Vernon Adams Jr., a Walter Payton Award runner-up last year.
Adams is aided by sophomore Cooper Kupp, who set an FCS record last year with TD receptions in his first 14 games. He led the nation with 21 TD catches en route to winning the Jerry Rice Award as the best receiver in FCS. He caught 93 passes last season, averaging 18.2 yards per catch.
Sam Houston State is ranked No. 17, but has beaten Eastern each of the past two seasons. Last year, the Bearkats rushed for 450 yards in a 49-34 win. The previous year, Eastern lost to Sam Houston State in the FCS semifinals 45-42, despite trailing 35-0 at halftime.
The Bearkats have a first-year coach in K.C. Keeler and are trying to replace key playmakers. Sophomore Jared Johnson will try to fill the big shoes of Brian Bell, Sam Houston State’s all-time winningest quarterback. All-American running back Timothy Flanders has graduated, opening the door for senior Keyshawn Hill, who totaled 2,312 all-purpose yards over three years.
When: 12:35 p.m. Saturday at Roos Field, Cheney.
TV/radio: ESPN, ESPN3, No local radio but broadcast will stream at http://700espn.com
Key to game: Sam Houston State has typically run the ball very well, ranking No. 6 in FCS last season with 265.0 yards per game. The Bearkats must run the ball to neutralize Adams and Eastern’s potent offense, which had the nation’s fourth-best offense last season at 533.5 yards per game. That puts pressure on an Eastern defense led by linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, whose 361 career tackles ranks third in school history. Keep the ball in Adams’ hands and Eastern should be just fine.
Local angle: Redshirt freshman Roldan Alcobendas (Camas) will make his debut as Eastern’s placekicker. Fellow Camas grads Reilly Hennessey (QB) and Zach Eagle (WR), both true freshman, are on the roster. Union grad T.J. Boatright, a junior, is backup offensive tackle. Redshirt freshman William Lopez (Skyview) is also on Eastern’s roster as backup tight end.
Quotable: “Obviously there are nerves too, and if you have nerves that means you care. It’s exciting, and I’m always excited about these opportunities. Every team gets to this point in camp where you need to play somebody else.” EWU coach Beau Baldwin.
Prediction: Eastern Washington 45-24]]>
Let’s take a look at the region’s lone NCAA Division-II league, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
Five Clark County football players are with Central Washington and four are with Western Oregon in the GNAC, a seven-team league that stretches from California to Canada to South Dakota.
Azusa Pacific went 9-1 to win the conference last year. Central Washington and Western Oregon finished tied for second at 7-3.
They were followed by Dixie State (4-6), Simon Fraser (3-7) and Humboldt State (0-10).
Azusa Pacific is the coaches’ preseason favorite to win the league this year. Central Washington is ranked No. 2 and Western Oregon is No. 3, just one point behind Central.
The GNAC has undergone significant changes to its football schedule this year. A five-team league as recently as 2011, the GNAC added Azusa Pacific in 2012 and South Dakota School of Mines this season.
The conference’s previous 10-game double round-robin format has been replaced by a six-game conference schedule to go with three additional non-conference matchups between GNAC teams.
The Wildcats had the conference’s top defense last season, allowing a league-best 15.7 points and 298.0 yards per game.
Central must replace its top two tacklers (Stan Langlow and Ridge Nielson) and Austin Schnizler, who led the GNAC with 9.0 sacks.
But the Wildcats have one of the league’s best defensive backs in junior Isaiah Davis, who led the GNAC with six interceptions and was second-best with 14 passes broken up.
Prairie grad Jesse Zalk plays a key role in the Wildcats’ uptempo offense. The redshirt sophomore was seventh in the conference is receiving (47) and second in kick return yardage (31.0 yards per return).
An all-conference honoree, Zalk was also named to USA College Football’s preseason NCAA Division II All-America squad as a first-team return specialist and third-team wide receiver.
Other Clark County players on Central’s roster include Kevin Haynes (Battle Ground, So. LB), Kaben Humphrey-Butler (Union, So. WR), Gabe Rego (Union, So. LB), and Josh Stolz (Mountain View, So. OL).
Senior quarterback Ryan Bergman returns for the Wolves, which had the top passing offense in the GNAC last season. Bergman was a first-team all-conference QB with 27 touchdowns and more than 3,200 yards passing.
But the Wolves have a running game as well. Joe Harris had the eighth-most all-purpose yards in the GNAC last year (672 rushing, 243 receiving) and scored eight touchdowns.
The Wolves return eight starters to an offense that led the league with 30.4 points per game.
Western’s defense is led by senior Kraig Akins, who led all GNAC linemen with 70 tackles last season.
Among local players, senior running back Nathaniel Penaranda (Union) averaged 4.7 yards per carry before an injury ended his season five games in.
True freshmen E’Lon Mack (Heritage, Fr. WR) and Jason Vailea (Camas, Fr., DL) are also on the roster.
Here’s a transcript of UW coach Chris Petersen’s meeting with the media after practice today.
What did you learn from the scrimmage yesterday?
“The defense is a little ahead, maybe a lot ahead of the offense. Typical first scrimmage. I think that’s probably how it needs to be from a head-coach perspective, where you’re never good (enough). Whoever does well, you’re always worried about the other side of the ball. I think at this point if your offense is doing some really good things against your defense, it’s probably not good in the long run. Defense got about four turnovers, two of them went for scores, so they were flying around pretty good. Eventually, we got a few things going on offense, but we definitely got to sure up some details.”
How much of that is the uncertainty at quarterback?
“Some of that is the quarterback, yeah, no question about it. When our quarterbacks play good, usually the offense does at least OK, if he’s playing good. And you get the guys around him playing good, then you got something special.”
None of us can see that QB situation sorting itself out yet. Are you having the same struggle?
“That’s why they’re all getting reps. It’s going to be a work in progress. Eventually, when we get the first guy named for the first game, it doesn’t mean it’s done and over. Everybody’s going to keep competing. If certain guys make progress, they’re going to earn more reps and get the chance to play. That’s what we’re trying to do: create as many games situations as we can and see who can do what.”
What has Will Dissly done early to separate himself on that second-string D-line?
First of all, he’s real smart. He’s figured out what’s going on. I think when he kind of figures out the pace and tempo of the college game, and plays a little more physical, he’s going to do some really good things. He’s done a real nice job up to this point. For those new guys, I kind of marvel at those guys when they’re even in the mix this early. And Will — we have a handful of freshmen doing a really nice job. Those young DBs are competing their tails off and showing up, so that’s nice to see.”
Is the IQ thing what separates freshmen right away?
“Yeah, I think it’s the mental part of things for sure. One, figuring out the schemes we’re running. And, two, having the confidence to compete at this level. And those guys are showing that.”
Anyone else jump out at you on defense from the scrimmage?
“I thought Shaq did a good job. Tani (Tupou) was running around; he hit the quarterback and caused a fumble and Feeney scooped it up and went a long ways and scored with it. They were flying around pretty good. There was a lot of guys. I think the guys, again, the guys that might’ve jumped out to me the most is those young DBs, just because that’s such a hard position to do anything and I thought they battled and competed pretty well.”
Quarterbacks were live, then?
“They were live. They were live the whole scrimmage. We went about a hundred plays and they all showed up today, so that’s good.”
Any heart-stopping moments for you?
“No. Not really. Every play is a heart-stopping — I worry about all the guys as much as I do the quarterbacks. Those guys being live isn’t necessarily for the defense, it’s for themselves, to really try to figure some things out. And it showed up. And I wish we could make them live more, but I do think we have to be careful and smart. But I think they got some good work too being live.”
The university is producing a Web series called “The Pursuit.” It will release episodes periodically this fall.
Here’s a teaser video.]]>
With one of the most prolific offenses in college football, Southern Oregon is getting respect from NAIA coaches nationwide.
The Raiders are No. 22 in the preseason NAIA coaches poll released Monday.
A big reason for Southern Oregon’s high expectations is senior quarterback Austin Dodge, a Skyview High School graduate.
Last season, Dodge averaged 398.4 passing yards per game. This season, an offense that put up 590 yards per game has 10 of 11 starters back.
“We have the best quarterback in the nation with our most experienced offensive line ever, and a few four-year starters on defense,” Raiders coach Craig Howard said. “So we’re looking forward to seeing what it looks like and how hard they worked in the offseason when they put the pads on.”
Dodge already holds the NAIA record for most yards gained per game (431.3 in 2012).
Dodge is within striking distance of a few NAIA career records. With 11,654 career passing yards, he’s easily on pace to shatter the NAIA career passing record of 13,388 yards held by Cris Reisert of Ohio Dominican (2005-08).
Dodge’s 102 touchdowns are 18 shy of Reisert’s national record and his 875 completions are within striking distance of 1,149, another record held by Reisert.
Southern Oregon is among three Frontier Conference teams ranked in the Top 25. Defending league champ Carroll College (Montana) is No. 2 behind reigning national champion Grand View (Iowa). Rocky Mountain (Montana) is No. 9. Eastern Oregon finished just outside the top 25.
The Raiders began practice on Saturday with 125 players in camp. Their first game is Aug. 30 at Menlo. Their home season opens with an early-season showdown against Carroll on Sept. 6.]]>
The Oregon Ducks offense suffered a big blow last week when starting left tackle Tyler Johnstone re-tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Comcast Sports Northwest first reported the news Monday. The injury happened last week during a non-contact drill, when he felt a pop in the same knee. He had been cleared by team doctors to practice.
Johnstone will undergo surgery Friday and miss the entire season.
A redshirt junior, Johnstone first injured his knee in the Alamo Bowl win over Texas after starting 26 consecutive games. He has honorable-mention all-Pac-12.
“I’m feeling pretty grateful now for all of the amazing people I have in my life,” Johnstone posted on his Twitter account Thank you all, you know who you are.”
With all five starters set to return, Oregon’s offensive line was set to be a major strength this season. Last season, Oregon led the Pac-12 in rushing (273.5 ypg), total offense (565.0 ypg) and scoring (45.5 ppg) while ranking third in the fewest quarterback sacks allowed (1.38 avg.).
“It’s tough. Anytime you have injuries it is tough. We understand that Tyler is going to do his best to contribute anyway he can,” quarterback Marcus Mariota said. “He’s one of our spiritual leaders, he’s one of those guys who can really get guys going. He understand he can use his words to be powerful and mean a lot of things.
“It is unfortunate, we’re praying for him, but he’s going to work back to getting healthy and he’ll still make his contributions to the team.”
Andre Yruretagoyena is now expected to start at left tackle. The redshirt junior played in seven games last season in a backup role.
Portland State, which has three Clark County players on its roster, held its first scrimmage of the fall on Saturday.
Skyview grad Kieran McDonagh completed six of 11 passes for 54 yards. He led a 63-yard drive late in the 90-minute scrimmage, but the defense stopped the drive by stuffing a running play on four-and-one at the four-yard line.
A junior, McDonagh is vying with sophomore Paris Penn for the starting job. Penn had the scrimmage’s biggest play, a 77-yard TD run. He completed 7 of 12 passes for 33 yards on the day.
Vikings coach Nigel Burton praised the defense. That unit includes starting linebacker Brandon Brody-Heim, a Union High grad, and linebacker John Norcross, a redshirt freshman from Camas.
The defense made three stops in four “sudden change” first-and-goal situations from the 10-yard line. The defense also had four sacks.
“We saw playmakers on both sides of the ball and that is what you want,” Burton said.
Defense is a concern entering this season. While the Vikings had the Big Sky’s second best offense last season at 504.8 yards per game, they were 10th out of 14 teams on defense (437.5 yards per game). Saturday, the Vikings “D” allowed just two touchdowns.
Portland State is trying to replace running back DJ Adams, who was the conference’s second-leading rusher (138.6 ypg) last year as a senior.
Redshirt freshman tailback Steven Long has obviously made an impression with Burton, as the following quote shows.
“He is amazing how he can bounce out of tackles,” Burton said. “Trying to bring him down is like trying to catch a greased pig in the dark.”
Portland State opens its season Aug. 30 at Oregon State.
Click here to read more about the scrimmage.