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HCA: Previewing the Eastern Washington matchup from both sides

It’s the battle for Eastern Washington supremacy and, once again, the Cougs can’t afford to take the Eagles for granted.

NCAA Football: Eastern Washington at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Games against FCS opponents are supposed to be easy for power 5 teams.

But things haven’t exactly been smooth sailing for Mike Leach and the Cougars over the past couple of years. Back to back losses to FCS teams in 2015 and 2016 put an odd pall over two otherwise decent seasons.

In 2016, Eastern Washington was the team coming into Pullman to get the job done. And this Saturday, the Eagles make the trip south looking to pull off the upset once again.

But the 2018 Eagles are very different from the 2016 Eagles. Gone are Beau Baldwin (now the offensive coordinator at Cal) and Cooper Kupp (dominant receiver with the LA Rams). But there are still plenty of weapons remaining on an EWU team picked to win the Big Sky once again in 2018, including preseason FCS all-american Gage Gubrud at quarterback.

Both EWU and WSU have been known for their offense in recent memory, but the tides have turned for the Cougs. The defense has picked up some added focus after a pair of stellar performances to start the season. Washington State is riding a 5 quarter scoreless streak, and they haven’t allowed a touchdown in more than 95 minutes of game time.

At practice on Tuesday on the red turf in Cheney, the Eags took special notice of the new-look Tracy Claeys defense.

“They’ve made offensive lines miserable in their first two games,” said EWU head coach Aaron Best. “Those backers are a pretty special bunch. We obviously faced (Peyton) Pelluer in 2016 and he was a headache then. He’s just an older headache now.”

The Eagles will have some confidence coming into Pullman on a win streak against the Cougs, but Mike Leach doesn’t care too much about that 2016 battle.

“I don’t really think about it much because I’ve had a lot of ‘next games’ since,” said Leach in his weekly media briefing. “As a matter of fact, I don’t think about the San Jose State game last week. You’ve got to move forward if you’re going to be any good. If I thought about any past game, that’s all I would be doing.”

There are plenty of storylines heading into this Saturday. We’ll see if Washington State can avoid the upset at home this Saturday at 5 o’clock in Martin Stadium.


Tracy Claeys observing Washington State’s defense from the press box this season | The Spokesman-Review
Rather than watch games from the sideline, Tracy Claeys prefers to observe from the press box – and always has. His predecessor Alex Grinch, WSU’s defensive coordinator from 2015-17, spent one year coordinating from the booth before moving to the field early on in the 2016 season.

Video: Washington State coach Mike Leach post practice Sept. 11 - The Spokesman-Review - Sept. 11, 2018
Washington State coach Mike Leach discusses Eastern Washington and evaluates Tuesday's practice in Pullman.

Eastern Washington defensive tackle Dylan Ledbetter, son of a former Washington State linebacker, feels home at his natural position | The Spokesman-Review
Jay-Tee Tiuli is back in the middle and now Mark Ledbetter is at home: defensive tackle, the position he was recruited to play out of Seattle’s O’Dea High School.

Pac-12 power rankings: USC falls, Arizona State rises after second week of regular season | The Spokesman-Review
The weekly Pac-12 power rankings from Spokesman-Review Washington State beat writer Theo Lawson.

VIDEO: Wazzu Fan Streaked on Saturday and Got Destroyed by Security | 12up
​Fireball and football, that's what Pullman, Wash. does. Well, let's not forget about having fans streak during a shutout win over San Jose State either. Thus far this season, Mike Leach and his Washington State Cougars are a perfect 2-0 on the young campaign. For this fan, though, he's ​perhaps a bit more excited than "The Pirate" Leach would have hoped for.