September a vital month for Cougar football

WSU holds an advantage this month with five consecutive home games, one columnist argues


RYAN PUGH | Daily Evergreen File

WSU’s defense halts Boise State redshirt freshman kick returner Avery Williams on Saturday at Martin Stadium.

TYLER SHUEY, Evergreen columnist

With the Cougar football (2-0) season underway, fans are anxious to see how the No. 21 team in the nation fares for the rest of September.

It all started with a dominating victory against Montana State on Sept. 2. WSU’s defense shut out an opposing team for the first time since 2013. The offense added 31 points, 30 more than they needed in the blowout.

Boise State was a different story. The heart of the competition began in the fourth quarter. Up by three touchdowns, the Broncos looked as if they had the easy victory. That was until redshirt senior quarterback Luke Falk fell to injury.

Enter redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyler Hilinksi. The quick offense, defense and remaining fans helped force the Cougars into the game. By the end of regulation, both teams had 31 points next to their name.

A few field goals, a couple touchdowns and three overtimes later, WSU completed a miraculous comeback, winning 47-44.

While the offense played like they were “constipated,” as Head Coach Mike Leach described it, the team rallied to give the fans a treat late Saturday night.

Games one and two were huge, but there’s more football to be played. September is an important month for the Cougs if they wish to move up in the Associated Press’ top-25 poll.

The Cougs are used to starting their season at home, as they have the last two seasons against Big Sky opponents. Winning the home opener had been elusive for the team, losing to Portland State in 2015 and Eastern Washington in 2016. That much is known, but the Cougars persevered in 2017.

Multiple times before the first game, Leach indicated that preparation is the only thing he’s worried about.

That should not change.

All the preparation for the team this month will be done in Pullman, because the Cougars don’t play their first road game until Oct. 7 against Oregon. Preparing for the road is necessary.

Following the final September home game, the Cougs will only play two in Pullman for rest of the season. During the rest, they won’t have hometown fans on their side.

“We’re excited to have a bunch of games at home early to share with our fans,” Leach said before the Montana State game, “so we’re looking forward to that.”

Having five straight weekends of Cougar football is ideal for fans who cannot get enough of the sport, not to mention the timing of the home games.

It’s hard to predict Pullman’s climate, but it is likely that chilly temperatures won’t be much of an issue for September games.

In the grand scheme of things, the football team realizes the importance of getting off to a good start this year. The string of home games should rekindle some urgency to start strong, knowing most of the road games come later in the year at hostile Pac-12 venues.