WSU invades Tempe with nothing to lose

Washington State senior quarterback Jeff Tuel warms up before the Cougars’ game against Oregon State on Oct. 22. (Photo courtesy of John Lok/ MCT Campus)

ASU and Washington State were looking for new before the start of their respective seasons.

In their search, both universities hired two new coaches. ASU brought in Todd Graham to establish discipline into their program. Washington State brought in Mike Leach with the hope of a successful high scoring team.

It is safe to say both teams have hit a wall. ASU welcomes the Cougars with a little bit more built up in their program playing for a bowl bid. Washington State is still working on the foundation seeking their first conference win.

Both teams are riding considerable losing streaks. Leach knows ASU will present a challenge this week if the Cougars want to get back to winning.

“Of course (on offense), they have explosive players,” Leach said. “On their defense it’s the same thing — explosive players.”

Despite their recent stumbles, the Cougars do have some confidence coming into their game against ASU.

Last weekend, Washington State took on No. 17 UCLA. After some special teams errors, they were down 23 points at the end of the first half. Starting quarterback senior Jeff Tuel also had to leave the game early because of an injury.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Connor Halliday threw five touchdown passes and the Cougars scored 29 points in the second half to make the contest close. UCLA ultimately ended up winning the game 44-36.

Tuel talked about the confidence the game gives the team moving forward.

“We’re playing to win, guys are buying in and they’re doing that,” Tuel said. “We’re going to grind, we’re going to fight and we’re going to scrap. That’s the reputation that we want. We want to bring it all four quarters and be just hard-playing nasty dudes that are never going to give up.”

Tuel said he did not know who was going to be starting for the Cougars against ASU between him or Halliday. He did say he felt fine and could play Saturday.

The story of course, surrounding the WSU program this week has been the allegations that former junior receiver Marquess Wilson has made against Leach’s program.

Tuel said that the scandal hasn’t affected his mindset coming into the game.

“Marquess is one of my good friends, and I got the guys back and I’ll wish him the best, Tuel said. “That has nothing to do with how I am going to prepare for the upcoming weeks of football.”

Washington State is the obvious underdog in their game against ASU. The Cougars were in a similar situation not too long ago.

Last year the Cougars welcomed the Sun Devils to Pullman and upset them at home. Senior linebacker Travis Long said that last year’s win over ASU should carry momentum into this week’s matchup.

“Obviously, a win is always helpful, especially with us,” Long said. “It will be a little added confidence for the team but we still need to prepare like we did last week.”

With only two games left and only two wins on their record, the Cougars have entered a point where they have nothing to lose.

“That’s my mentality,” Long said. “I’m just going to go out there and compete. I just want to try and encourage my teammates to do the same. I feel like we did that last week and we’re going to try and continue to do the same.”

 

Reach the reporter at ehubbard@asu.edu