Meanwhile, as the coaches sort out the police report and Cliff Harris’ future, the Ducks have a game to win to get to 7-1 and the crux of their season.
It’s a great test for the young secondary with the Washington State Cougars having the 10th-best passing attack in the NCAA, averaging 313 yards per game. Jeff Tuel’s doubtful with myriad injuries (leg and collarbone) so senior Marshall Lobbestael again takes over at quarterback. The Cougar offense hasn’t stalled under Lobbestael; he’s thrown for over 1700 yards, with 15 touchdown and just 5 interceptions, a very healthy ratio. He’s been sacked 14 times but stays cool in the pocket, completing 64% of his passes.
photo left: Troy Hill, Terrance Mitchell and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu will have a opportunity to grow up in a hurry facing Marquess Wilson and a capable Wazzu passing attack. (espnnorthwest.com photo)
The Cougs run I formation and a passing spread, getting the ball out quickly to three solid wide receivers including the dangerous Marquess Wilson, a 6-4, 183-lb. burner who amassed 1,006 receiving yards as a true freshman last season and is among the national leaders as a sophomore with 41 catches for 763 yards and six touchdowns. He’s joined outside by heady possession receiver Jeff Karstetter and 6-1, 187 Isiah Barton. Between them the three have 13 of WSU’s 19 touchdown catches, and they’ll further prepare John Neal’s Cliffless secondary for the big challenges that lay ahead, November games against Washington, Stanford, USC and Oregon State, all teams with formidable receivers and passing attacks.
Despite losing three in a row, including an embarrassing 44-21 pasting by Oregon State in Seattle last weekend, the Cougars are improved this season. Tailback Rickey Galvin has rushed for 356 yards and Duck-worthy 6.4-yard average. He popped a 48-yard touchdown run against UNLV earlier this year. Linebackers Alex Hoffman-Ellis and C.J. Mizell pace the defense with 93 total tackles between them.
For the Ducks, it’s another opportunity to play before an enthusiastic home crowd and tune up for a telling and critical November. They’ll have an opportunity to further the depth and development of their young roster. It’s still not known whether injured stars Darron Thomas and LaMichael James will play, nor clear how soon safety Eddie Pleasant and promising freshman tight end Colt Lyerla get back on the field. The Webfoots should be able to further refine their passing game against a Coug secondary that made Oregon State’s Sean Mannion the PAC-12 player of the week last Saturday by giving up 376 yards and four touchdowns.
Things weren’t always so miserable for the Cougars. A dozen years ago they were going to bowls and competing for Roses, a legendary voice gave them an occasional “Whoa Nellie!”: