#78 Washington State Football 2015 Preview

Washington State Cougars

Overall Rank: #78
#11 Pac-12

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Following a bowl trip in 2013, the expectations were moving up for Washington State. However, they followed that up with a 3-9 record in 2014 with their only wins coming against Portland State, Utah and Oregon State. That leaves this year as a bit of a question mark for Coach Mike Leach and company. Even with a new quarterback, can this team look more like they did in 2013 than 2014?

2014 Record: 3-9, 2-7
2014 Bowl: None
Coach: Mike Leach (12-25 at Washington State, 96-68 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Leach
Defensive Coordinator: Alex Grinch

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jamal Morrow, RB, 351 yards
Passing: Luke Falk, QB, 1,859 yards
Receiving: River Cracraft, WR, 771 yards
Tackles: Jeremiah Allison, LB, 78
Sacks: Kache Palacio, LB, 6.5
Interceptions: Charleston White, CB, 1

Other Key Returnees: WR Dom Williams, RB Gerard Wicks, OL Joe Dahl, K Quintin Breshears, CB Darius Lemora, S Taylor Taliulu

Key Losses: WR Vince Mayle, WR Isiah Myers, P Jordan Dascalo, CB Daquawn Brown, LB Darryl Monroe, DT Xavier Cooper

Coach Leach knows how to run an explosive offense. Despite the win total, the Cougars ranked first in the nation in passing offense and seventh in total offense. Sophomore quarterback Luke Falk answered some of the questions under center after he took over for an injured Connor Halliday late last season. In six games, Falk threw for 1,859 yards and 13 touchdowns. More importantly, he proved to be accurate and poised under pressure. However, Falk will lose two of the most productive receivers in WSU history. Vince Mayle caught 106 passes for 1,483 yards and nine touchdowns, while Isiah Myers added 78 receptions for 972 yards and a dozen scores. But there is proven talent ready to be the top receivers in 2014. River Cracraft is the team’s top returning receiver after catching 66 passes for 771 yards and eight touchdowns. Big play receiver Dom Williams, who caught nine touchdown passes, is also back. But the best news at wide receiver may be the return of Gabe Marks. He missed all of the 2014 campaign and led the team in receptions and receiving yards back in 2013. With the return of all five starting offensive linemen and a couple quality running backs, do not be surprised if Washington State spends a little more time on the ground this year. Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks are both backs capable of exploiting the opposing defense when they drop back too far.

Allowing 38.6 points per game is not going to get you to a bowl and improvement on defense is what will make or break Washington State’s season…again. Coach Leach brought in Alex Grinch to take over as defensive coordinator and bring a fresh approach. The one spot WSU looked good on that side of the ball was against the run, but defensive tackle Xavier Cooper left early for the NFL, leaving a large hole right in the middle of the unit. The secondary has even bigger issues and it is possible that four underclassmen will start around strong safety Taylor Taliulu when WSU runs its 3-3-5 scheme. Linebackers Jeremiah Allison and Kache Palacio are a solid duo to build around though. Allison totaled 78 tackles last season and Palacio was the teams’ best pass rusher.

The Bottom Line:
The defensive problems are not just about giving up yards though. They ranked last in the FBS by forcing just eight turnovers. There is already enough pressure on the offense even without a porous number like that. The good news is that the schedule shakes up pretty nicely for the Cougars to at least match last year’s win total. They host Portland State, Wyoming, Oregon State and Colorado. Those are all extremely winnable games. Oregon State may be the toughest of the bunch and this team did beat Oregon State on the road last year with Falk under center.

Projected Bowl: None

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 39.8 (125th in nation, 12th in conference)
Passing Offense: 477.7 (1, 1)
Total Offense: 517.5 (7, 2)
Scoring Offense: 31.8 (45, 7)
Rushing Defense: 145.7 (40, 5)
Pass Defense: 296.6 (124, 11)
Total Defense: 442.3 (97, 9)
Scoring Defense: 38.6 (114, 10)
Turnover Margin: -1.42 (123, 12)
Sacks: 2.42 (42, 8)
Sacks Allowed: 3.00 (109, 9)


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