Cougars look to avoid second loss of season

WSU football focuses on improving mindset after its first defeat of the regular season last week


JORDAN MAXWELL | Daily Evergreen file

The Cougs enter Martin Stadium before facing off against then No. 5 University of Southern California on Sept. 29 in front of a sold out crowd. WSU won 30 to 27.

DYLAN GREENE, Evergreen reporter

WSU football (6-1, 3-1) will look to bounce back from its first loss of the season when they step on the field against University of Colorado, Boulder (4-3, 1-3) on Saturday.

University of California, Berkeley (4-3, 1-3) beat the Cougars 37-3 last Friday night. WSU sophomore rush linebacker Derek Moore said the team overlooked the Golden Bears.

“I just feel like we got too big-headed,” Moore said. “We just walked into the game thinking less of Cal and we shouldn’t have done that.”

The Cougar offense struggled, coughing up ball seven times. Redshirt senior quarterback Luke Falk accounted for six of the turnovers, throwing five interceptions and fumbling the ball once.

Head Coach Mike Leach said his team lost focus last week and payed attention to the outside noise.

“I thought our mentality was soft, and we got to play better,” Leach said. “We got to go out there and worry about ourselves … not listen to all that garbage in the media.”

WSU redshirt freshmen wide receiver Renard Bell said the team’s performance and effort Friday was disappointing.

“I’ve never gotten beaten that bad in my life,” Bell said. “I think mid third quarter we kind of just stopped playing. We were just trying to get over with the game and get on the plane back to Pullman, we should never play like that.”

In the second game of the season, the Cougars faced adversity similar to the Cal game and responded. The team trailed Boise State 31-10 with less than 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. WSU stormed back to tie the game and ended up winning in triple overtime.

Against Cal, the Cougs trailed 17-3 at halftime and were unable to mount a comeback, failing to put any points up on the board in the second half. Bell said the team’s attitude on the sideline was more upbeat against Boise State which allowed them to complete the comeback.

“Against Boise State everybody was positive, everybody had that mindset that we’re coming back,” Bell said. “This game … a lot of us were negative about it, and it was a total different atmosphere on the sideline.”

Bell said the team has put that loss behind them and is focused on their next opponent.

“I feel pretty good about how we’re heading into this week,” Bell said. “We’re all moving on from it, but we’re not forgetting the feeling of it.”

WSU’s opponent this Saturday notched its first conference win of the season with a 36-33 victory over Oregon State University last week.

Colorado relies heavily on senior tailback Phillip Lindsay in the ground game on offense. He has 995 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the season.

WSU redshirt freshmen linebacker Justus Rogers said the defense needs to put themselves in the right spots to stop the fast, shifty back.

“[Lindsay is] a real good running back, we just got to make sure we prepare to put ourselves in the right positions defensively and make sure we really do get him to the ground,” Rogers said.

Rogers made his first career start at linebacker for WSU against Cal. Redshirt senior linebackers Isaac Dotson and Nate DeRider failed to make the trip to Berkeley with unspecified injuries. Rogers had nine total tackles.

The Bellevue, Washington, native will need to be ready to start for the second straight week with Dotson and DeRider’s status for Saturday’s game up in the air.

Another player the Cougars defense will need to pay attention to is Colorado sophomore quarterback Steven Montez. He has passed for 1,691 yards, 12 touchdowns and rushed for 221 yards.

Moore said the defense has faced several different types of quarterbacks this season and is prepared for Montez’s dual threat ability.

“We’ve played a lot of shifty quarterbacks, it’s nothing new,” Moore said.

WSU will also be without junior wide receiver Tavares Martin Jr. on Saturday. The wide receiver was suspended for the Colorado game for violation of team rules, according to Associate Director of Athletics Bill Stevens.

Martin leads all Cougar receivers with 502 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Redshirt senior wide receiver C.J. Dimry and freshman Davontavean Martin will likely see increased playing time with Martin out.

Despite all the injuries and off the field distractions, Bell said he expects the team to get back on track with a victory over Colorado.

“The way we’re practicing right now, we should pull out the W,” Bell said. “We just got to play our game. If we play our game, we can beat anybody.”

Kickoff is set for 7:45 p.m. Saturday at Martin Stadium. The game will also be broadcasted live on ESPN.