After finishing last season with a 3-9 record, nobody knows what to expect for this season when Washington State football kicks off with Portland State on Sept. 5. It's been over three years since Mike Leach was hired and his 12-25 record isn't impressive whatsoever, especially when you consider:
- 25 percent of his wins have come against FCS schools (Eastern Washington, Southern Utah, Portland State)
- Three of the nine wins against FBS schools have come at home (Washington in 2012, Idaho in 2013, Utah in 2013)
- 2-5 record against non-conference FBS schools (WINS:UNLV, Idaho. LOSSES:BYU, Auburn, Colorado State, Rutgers, Nevada)
But this is year four of the Mike Leach era. His facilities are barely a year of age and nearly all of his players are his recruits. Each year over half of all FBS schools receive a bowl bid, so how hard will it be for the Cougars to go 6-6 and be dubbed as mediocre? (Remember when it was just the Rose, Sugar, Orange, and Cotton Bowls?!)
The Pac-12's level of competition isn't getting any easier, and we've seen the Cougars (at times) play up to par with the very best of them, such as the crushing 38-31 loss to Oregon last September in Pullman.
For Washington State to surprise the rest of the Pac-12 and return to bowling in 2015, Mike Leach is going to need some of his players to step up and seize the moment. Here's who I think those could be:
Robert Lewis: WR
The redshirt sophomore receiver is slated to start at the "H" come September and he could cause some trouble for the opposition's defense. Standing 5'9, Lewis doesn't look intimidating until you remember the bone crushing block he delivered last season against Utah, giving Vince Mayle a free lane to the end zone. Might I mention that happened to be the game-winning score, as well. Stuff like that doesn't get seen in the box score, but Lewis did catch 41 balls last year for 370 yards and two touchdowns. Before signing his NLI with Washington State back in 2012, Lewis had offers from Ohio State, West Virginia, and a plethora of other football programs that put WSU to shame. He has the talent to be a "gamechanger" and hopefully that'll be the case this season.
Marcellus Pippins: CB
The secondary was easily the weakest part of the Cougars defense last year. It seemed like game after game, somebody was beating us through the air, whether that was Jared Goff or Cody Kessler. It's also obvious that the Cougar DBs are one of the youngest group on the team. And losing your best cornerback on the team in Daquawn Brown to a dismissal makes the situation even worse as we head into a new football year. That all being said, the Cougars have Marcellus Pippins, whom I believe will be sneaky good in 2015. I don't have much analysis to judge this prediction on (only a couple of spring scrimmages), but I think he'll be a big part of this WSU defensive turnaround these next couple years. If you remember watching the Apple Cup (I wish I didn't), Pippins seemed to be the only bright spot for Washington State. It was only his second game of the season, but he kept Husky receivers like Jaydon Mickens and DiAndre Campbell quiet, while having one pass deflected and four solo tackles. And in case you missed it, Nusser wrote a great article about Pippins performance during spring ball that you might want to read up on.
"Really? A kicker?" would be the response of someone who didn't catch a glimpse of WSU football last fall. Special teams was the epitome of the season, and my goodness, the kicking game was atrocious. After being blessed with Andrew Furney for four seasons, Washington State took a hard fall back to reality when they realized how inconsistent their placekickers were last season. With offers from San Jose State, Air Force, and Yale, Abramo decided to sign with the crimson and gray and has every opportunity to win the kicking job in the fall. Mike Leach has been extremely high on Abramo ever since he signed his NLI, and having a competent kicker again could be the difference between program changing wins and heartbreaking losses.
Those are the three players I believe will make a difference for the Cougars in 2015. What about you? Sound off in the comments below.
Cooper Elliott’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 11th inning scored Derek Chapman with the winning run as Washington State avoided the series sweep with a 3-2 victory over Stanford Sunday at Bailey-Brayton Field.
Freshman Alivia Brown of the Washington State women’s golf team concluded play at the 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championships, Sunday. Brown fired her best score of the championships with a third-round 76 (+4) at the Concession Golf Club.
The "Stories That Live Forever" series' 19th chapter is about Ford Fisher. Fisher's sacrifice occurred during the 19th century, during a war not represented on the WSU Veterans Memorial. He holds the distinction of being the first Washington State letterman and, most likely, the first Washington State student, to give his life for the United States in war.