Down by the Bay: WSU football travels to Cal to take on the Bears


Cougar football players exit the tunnel to Martin Stadium during their game against Wyoming, Sept. 19, 2015.

Despite the air raid offenses featured by both Washington State and No. 24 California, expecting to see 119 points again when the two teams meet Saturday in Berkeley might be a bit of a stretch.

The Cougars (2-1, 0-0 Pac-12) are on the road for their first Pac-12 game of the season, looking for their first three-game winning streak in two years. They are also hoping to knock off a ranked opponent for the first time in two years when they take on the Golden Bears (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) at 1 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks.

Head Coach Mike Leach thinks his team is prepared for the road environment, and that it might be a good thing the Cougars are opening Pac-12 play away from home.

“We seem to be a more focused team,” Leach said in a press conference. “Whether it’s the isolation or whatever, we focus on ourselves in a better fashion, and that’s the most important thing because that’s all you can control. If you want to improve the team or improve yourself, focus on your job, and I think we’ve done a good job of that on the road.”

In their last trip to Berkeley, the Cougars won 44-22 in 2013 after Connor Halliday threw for 521 yards and three touchdowns. When these two teams played last year in Pullman, a mistake-prone defense and special teams gaffes resulted in a wild 60-59 loss for WSU.

Redshirt junior linebacker Parker Henry said the defense is hoping for a different result against California this time around.

“I’m a defensive guy, so I hope that we can tame it down a little bit,” Henry said. “The biggest thing is you have to take every snap and every possession seriously. Same with special teams: it’s one play, but you can’t just take it for granted because, like we saw in the Rutgers game, it can drastically affect the outcome of a game.”

WSU brings its conference-leading passing offense (362.7 yard per gme) into this game, which ranks ninth in the FBS. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Luke Falk leads the Pac-12 with 356.7 yards per game and in total offense at 361.7 yards per game, and he is intent on carrying over what the team has done during its bye week onto the field on Saturday.

“I think it’ll be a good environment,” Falk said. “They’re on a roll so it’ll be a fun place to play. We’ve just got to go out there and have a good mindset and just play like we play in practice.”

Third downs have been a problem area for the offense through three games, as the Cougars are just 14 of 43 on the crucial down. Redshirt junior wide receiver Gabe Marks will be one of the weapons Falk will look to, as he leads the Pac-12 in catches per game with 8.3, and is second in total catches with 25.

Redshirt senior wide out Dom Williams is currently tied with Jason Hill for the most multiple-touchdown games in school history with seven; two more touchdowns on Saturday would help him surpass Marquess Wilson for second on the all-time career touchdown receptions list. Right now he has 22.

Leach enters this game with a 98-69 career record, knocking on the door of the 100 career-wins milestone. With a win at either California or Oregon next week, Leach could clinch his 100th career win when the Cougars play Oregon State on homecoming weekend on Oct.r 17.