GAME: Idaho (0-3, independent) at Washington State (2-1 overall, 1-0 Pac-12). WHEN: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Martin Stadium. MEETING: 91st (WSU leads 70-17-3). COACHES: Paul Petrino, Idaho; Mike Leach, Washington State; RANKINGS: Neither ranked. LINE: WSU by 30½. TV: Pac-12 Network. RADIO: KTTH 770 AM.
If one is able to steer past the absurdity of paying a college football team $550,000 to drive eight miles west along Highway 270 for a beating, then Saturday night’s Homecoming Game between Washington State and the University of Idaho should be especially enjoyable for those with ties to the region.
The Cougars (2-1) and Vandals are renewing the “Battle of the Palouse” for the first time since 2007, and while it is a geographic rivalry, the outcomes have been decidedly one-sided. The Cougars lead the series 70-17-3.
The $550,000 paycheck for playing at Martin Stadium is likely the lone highlight for Idaho, which is going in the opposite direction from WSU in the rebuilding process. The Vandals need the coin this season because they are a football independent that will rejoin the Sun Belt Conference in 2014. The Cougars need a home win against a patsy so they can inch closer to the six-win mark that would make them eligible for a low-level bowl game. WSU hasn’t been 3-1 since the 2006 team that finished 6-6.
Playing Idaho almost guarantees they’ll hit the halfway total, though the Vandals’ 45-35 loss last week to Northern Illinois, a team that beat Big 10 Conference member Iowa, provides hope that they could make the game competitive. The fact that they’ve let opponents gain more than 500 yards in three consecutive losses lends evidence to the contrary.
Idaho’s “road” game is significant because it will be among the last times fans can see in-person first-year coach Paul Petrino’s team away from the Kibbie Dome. The other members of their future home, the Sun Belt Conference, include Arkansas-Little Rock, Arkansas State, Georgia State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas State and other southern schools, few of whom have ever heard the term “Inland Empire,” let alone made a trip to the Palouse.
It also presents a chance for former Coeur D’Alene High School quarterback Chad Chalich to face WSU quarterback Connor Halliday, who set passing records at Ferris High School (Spokane). Chalich is a redshirt freshman but in three collegiate starts has completed 56 of 85 passes (65.9 percent) for 652 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. But the Cougars’ D is allowing an FBS-best 99.7 yards per game through the air, is 11th in the nation in yards allowed and 23rd in points against.
Halliday looked every bit the player ready to thrive in WSU coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense last week in a 48-10 rout against Southern Utah. He shook off an ugly first-half interception in which his wide receiver ran the wrong route to finish 32 of 41 for 383 yards and five passing scores. That brought his season percentage to 64.6 and evened his touchdown-interception rate at six.
SERIES: Dates to Nov. 14, 1894, when WSU recorded a 10-0 victory. The Cougars’ 70-17-3 advantage includes victories in the last seven contests. The Cougars scored 25 or more points in each of the last eight. WSU won 23 of the last 25 and holds a 38-8-3 advantage in Pullman, including a 45-28 victory in 2007, the last meeting between the teams. The Vandals’ last win came in 2000, 38-34 in Pullman.
WSU HEAD COACH: Mike Leach (89-53 overall, 5-10 WSU): Hired Nov. 30, 2011 to replace Paul Wulff, who went 9-40 in four seasons, Leach’s 2012 Cougars led the Pac-12 in passing at 330.4 yards per game and finished the season by beating Washington in the Apple Cup. In 10 seasons at Texas Tech (2000-09), Leach 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: 2-1. Home: 1-0. Road: 1-1. Neutral: 0-0. Vs. Pac-12: 1-0. Vs. Pac-12 North: 0-0. Vs. Pac-12 South: 1-0. Vs. Non-Conference: 1-1.
- Points For: 82 (27.3). Rushing Yards Per Game: 60.3. Passing Yards Per Game: 323.0. Total Offense Per Game: 383.0.
- Points Against: 48 (16.0). Opp. Rushing Yards Per Game: 169.7. Opp. Passing Yards Per Game: 99.7. Total Defense Per Game: 269.3.
- Quarterback Connor Halliday threw for 383 yards and five touchdowns against Southern Utah, giving him seven career 300-yard performances, second-most in school history. The record is 12, trailing the school record of 12 shared by Alex Brink and Ryan Leaf.
- Halliday’s five TDs moved him past Mark Rypien into eighth place on the list of career TD throws. Halliday has 30, Rypien had 28. Jeff Tuel is ahead of Halliday with 33.
- WSU held Southern Utah to 219 yards passing yards Saturday, marking the first time the Cougars have held two straight opponents under 225 yards in total offense since 1994.
- With eight tackles against Southern Utah, Deone Bucannon ranks fifth on the WSU list with 300. Lee Blakeney holds the record at 524. Bucannon is also fifth on the list of solo tackles.
COUGARS OFFENSIVE LEADERS
COUGARS DEFENSIVE LEADERS
|Tackles||Bucannon 30, Coen 22, Sagote 20|
|Sacks||Monroe 1.0, Coen 1.0, Monroe 1.0|
|Interceptions||Horton 3, Coen 1, Monroe 1|
|Passes Defensed||Brown, Byers 2|
|Forced Fumbles||Bucannon, Taliulu, both 1|
|Fumbles Recovered||Bucannon 1|
Pac-12 Standings / North
|Oregon St.||2-1||1-0||Sat, at San Diego St.|
|Wash. State||2-1||1-0||Sat, vs. Idaho|
|Oregon||3-0||0-0||Sept. 28 vs. Cal|
|Washington||2-0||0-0||Sat, vs. Idaho State|
|Stanford||2-0||0-0||Sat, vs. Arizona St.|
|Cal||1-2||0-0||Sept. 28 at Oregon|
Pac-12 Standings / South
|Arizona||3-0||0-0||Sept. 28 at Washington|
|UCLA||2-0||0-0||Sat, vs. New Mexico St.|
|ASU||2-0||0-0||Sat, at Stanford|
|Colorado||2-0||0-0||Sept. 28 at Oregon St.|
|Utah||2-1||0-1||Sat, at Brigham Young|
|USC||2-1||0-1||Sat, vs. Utah State|
IDAHO NOTES: The Vandals lost to North Texas (40-6), Wyoming (42-10) and Northern Illinois (54-35) . . . The Idaho roster includes 20 players with connections to the state of Washington, including PK Ryan Bordner (Bellevue), DL Zach Cable (Renton), S D’Mario Carter (Seattle), WR Trent Cowan (Camas), OL Jesse Davis (Asotin), TE Taylor Elmo (Yakima), DE Maxx Forde (Woodinville), TE Clayton Homme (Kennewick), CB Jayshawn Jordan (Seattle), TE Jared Klingenberg (Carnation), TE Eric Lemke (Issaquah), OL Mike Marboe (Wenatchee), WR Rueben Mwehla (Bellevue), PK Austin Rehkow (Veradale), CB Bennett Rodseth (Auburn), DL Will Schmidt (Seattle), FB Kevin Shelton (Auburn), LB Brandon Wells (Puyallup), OL Ben Westrum (Tumwater) and OL Calvin White (Marysville) . . . Paul Petrino, whose prolific offenses consistently are among the nation’s best, was introduced Dec. 3 as Idaho’s 33rd head football coach. Petrino began his coaching career as an assistant at Carroll College and has since worked at Idaho, Utah State, Louisville, Southern Mississippi, Arkansas and Illinois. He also coached receivers for the Atlanta Falcons in 2007.
Washington State 2013 Schedule/Results
|Date||Opponent||WSU Rnk||Opp Rnk||W/L||Score||Rec.|
|9/14/13||vs. So. Utah||—||—||W||48-10||2-1|
Guarantee games like this are the mother’s milk of mediocrity for the programs who receive the money and rarely more than a stats-padder for the programs cutting the check. Last night was no exception, although I wasn’t down with Leach leaving his starters in all the way to the end of a game against a clearly overmatched team. What was proven?
Idaho has no business playing at this level and should return to the Big Sky but as long as they can bag enough games where they’ll get their asses kicked and collect a six-figure check, I guess that’s what they’ll do. I feel pretty certain they won’t be getting $550K to travel to road games in the Sun Belt Conference next year, in which their membership is a mark of a program desperate to be in the FBS at any cost.
My guess is that Montana, a Big Sky school that’s been VERY successful at the FCS level over the years, has paid close attention to what’s happened to the Vandals and wants no part of trading away their own pride for a paycheck. Why screw up something that’s been working for you?