Cougar football anxiously awaiting opener

WSU looks to end season-opening losing streak


Jessica Harja | Daily Evergreen File

The Cougars sprint out of the tunnel in a game vs. Eastern Washington last year. The program looks to reverse its opening day woes.

DYLAN GREENE, Evergreen reporter

It’s no secret that Cougar football struggles with the first game of the season. WSU is 0-5 in season-openers under Head Coach Mike Leach.

Cougar redshirt senior linebacker Peyton Pelluer addressed the recent opening game stumbles. The team has made adjustments to ensure they won’t stumble this time around, he said.

“We’re doing a lot of different things this year to be more prepared than we were previous years,” Pelluer said, “and the coaches, I think, are doing a great job instilling the right mentality and the right attitude toward this first game.”

WSU looks to end that losing streak tomorrow at Martin Stadium when they face Montana State, a member of the Big Sky Conference.

The team wants to get off to a fast start by beating the Bobcats week one, Pelluer said.

“This first game is for sure going to set the tone for the rest of the season,” he said, “so we’re treating it as such.”

The Cougs’ opponent Saturday will be looking to start the season on a high note as well. MSU finished last year with a 4-7 record and will lean on sophomore starting quarterback Chris Murray to potentially lead them to an upset of WSU.

Murray started the final five games for the Bobcats last season. He was named Big Sky Freshman of the Year and had the third most offensive yards by a freshman in MSU history.

WSU redshirt senior offensive lineman Cody O’Connell stressed the importance of having a sense of urgency and being ready for a Bobcats team that has nothing to lose.

“Whether this is Montana State or USC, we need to take it the same, we need to take it seriously,” O’Connell said. “[MSU] takes it as if it’s like their bowl game or championship and we need to do the exact same each game.”

O’Connell was named to the Associated Press preseason All-America first team Tuesday. Despite the honor, O’Connell said he is just focused on doing his job by helping the team win.

“I mean it’s preseason,” he said. “It will be nice after the season when I get the same stuff, but right now it doesn’t really matter.”

O’Connell is heading into his final season at WSU and he shared what he is looking forward to most this season.

“Honestly, just a chance to get out there and compete,” O’Connell said. “I can’t really describe the feeling of getting out there and playing in front of all those people and playing against top-tier competition. It’s a heck of a feeling and it doesn’t get much better.”

When the Cougars take the field Saturday, they will open the season ranked for the first time since 2002 when they won the Rose Bowl.

Senior quarterback Luke Falk and Leach downplayed the significance of the ranking.

“Everyone’s zero and zero right now,” Falk said. “I mean we got to go out there and earn people’s respect so those things are just for the fans. We got to go out there and prove it.”

Leach insists the team must filter out the preseason hype and chatter and worry about their own jobs.

“The biggest thing is we got to spend more time worrying about ourselves,” Leach said, “because we don’t control any of that stuff.”

Senior cornerback Marcellus Pippins said he didn’t even know WSU was ranked No. 24 in the preseason AP poll.

Pippins, one of 21 seniors on the team, said the Cougs are looking to take the next step this season.

“Our expectations this season is to make it higher than we did last season,” Pippins said. “Which is make it to the Pac-12 Championship and have a chance to play in the Rose Bowl and make it to the playoff.”

Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Martin Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1.