In Part 1 of the preview, we discussed the struggles that Washington St. is having offensively, which is somewhat surprising given that they were fairly dynamic last season, return a lot of their talent, and are coached by Mike Leach. If you haven't already heard, he knows a thing or two about offense.
Washington St. has been playing a bit of musical chairs at the quarterback position this season. Jeff Tuel (6'3 215 lbs Sr.) was the expected starter, but after an early season injury, Connor Halliday (6'4 189 lbs So.) stepped in and played well enough to earn more playing time. Both Tuel and Halliday have played in 7 games this season; Tuel missed two games to injury, while Halliday DNP'd two games. The stats are fairly similar. Tuel has thrown for 1543 yards to Halliday's 1375, and has 8 touchdowns to Halliday's 9. However, Tuel has completed 63.9% of his passes to Halliday's 52.6%, and has only thrown 5 interceptions to Halliday's 11. That said, Halliday was very good when Tuel was out and hasn't been as sharp in relief duty.
It did appear as though Tuel took the job for good following the Stanford game in which Tuel completed over 70% of his passes for 403 yards, but Halliday did come in for relief last week against Utah. At this point, Tuel is expected to start, but it's anyone's guess as to what Leach will do once the game begins.
Washington St. simply does not run the ball well or often, and have only 262 team rushing yards at this point in the season. Of course, the rushing statistics are not as bad as they first sound. WSU has given up 40 sacks this season, which accounts for -201 yards of the rushing total given the fact that sack yardage count against rushing statistics in the NCAA. A revised total of 463 yards wouldn't strike fear into any team, but at least we couldn't say that 7 teams average more rushing yards per game than WSU has had all season.
Prior to the season, WSU moved last year's leading rusher, Rickey Galvin (5'8 172 lbs. Jr.) to receiver, and promoted Carl Winston (5'8 200 lbs. Sr.) to the starting spot. On the season, Winston has 57 attempts for 194 yards and 2 touchdowns. Winston ran for 442 yards and 4 touchdowns last year. He's not a burner, but he's a powerful, shifty back that can move chains.
Teondray Caldwell (5'8 189 lbs. So.) was WSU's leading rusher prior to going down with injury. Caldwell has not played the last 2 games due to a head injury, and it's unclear at this point whether or not he will be back this week. If he does play, he will be WSU's most explosive back. On the season, Caldwell has 40 carries for 187 yards.
If Caldwell does not play, Marcus Mason (5'9 190 lbs. So.) will be the primary backup. He has only 6 carries for 6 yards on the season. Last season, he had 19 carries for 153 yards.
Washington St. suspended Marquess Wilson after he walked out of practice earlier this week. WSU will surely miss his 52 receptions for 813 yards and 5 touchdowns this week, but it is a clear message from Coach Leach moving forward. Dominique Williams (6'2 187 lbs. Fr.) will fill in for Wilson, but he will be hard pressed to matched Wilson's ability. Williams does have big play potential, however. On the season, Williams has 16 catches for 243 yards and 1 touchdown.
Behind Wilson, WSU has a pretty deep group of receivers. The most explosive of the bunch is slot receiver Gabe Marks (6'0 167 lbs. Fr.), who has 38 receptions for 477 yards and 4 touchdowns. Rickey Galvin was slated to start at the other slot position, but he suffered an arm injury early in the season and Isiah Myers (6'0 176 lbs. So.) will start. Myers has 36 catches for 360 yards and 4 touchdowns this season. Finally, Brett Bartolone (5'10 179 lbs. Fr.) will start at the other outside receiver position. He has 42 catches for 330 yards and 3 touchdowns this season.
Behind them, Bobby Ratliff (6'2 194 lbs. So.), Gino Simone (6'0 184 lbs. Sr.), and Kristoff Williams (6'2 206 lbs. So.) will all play. Ratliff has 16 catches for 191 yards this season, Simone has 17 catches for 199 yards, and Williams has 12 catches for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Washington St. starts two seniors, two juniors, a sophomore on the offensive line that has given up 40 sacks and 64 tackles for loss this season. The team is last in the nation with an average of 1.46 ypc on the ground, and is tied with Colorado for the most sacks given up this season. It's safe to say that the offensive line has been a problem.
The starters on the line are LT John Fullington (6'5 298 lbs Jr.), who played OG last season, RT Wade Jacobsen (6'6 306 lbs Sr.), who provides experience on the outside after starting at RT last year, LG Jake Rodgers (6'6 295 lbs So.), RG Dan Spitz (6'7 300 lbs Sr.), and Elliott Bosch (6'4 260 lbs. Jr.).
That concludes Part I of the Washington St. Cougar preview. Fire away with any additional comments, and be sure to check back in for Part II of Washington St. preview where we will take a closer look at the Cougar defense and special teams.