PULLMAN – The 52-24 loss to Oregon State on Saturday illustrated that the rebuilding process is far from over for the Washington State football team.
The Cougars won’t have time to commiserate. Next up is No. 2 Oregon.
Entering the fourth quarter the Cougars were tied with the Beavers before giving up 28 straight points. Center Elliott Bosch said the team has already put the meltdown behind it.
“Yeah, definitely,” Bosch said. “I think everyone believes in what we’re doing, has bought in and believes in ourselves as a team. Yeah, we made some mistakes and we don’t like the outcome but we know we have to put it behind us and we have a big game this week to look forward to.”
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That improvement has already manifested itself this season. Last year the Cougars lost three in a row after a 51-26 loss to Oregon in Seattle. This year, after getting blasted, 55-17, against Stanford, WSU came back to beat California 44-22.
Now the challenge will be to replicate that resilience against an undefeated Oregon team.
“We just have to keep playing, it’s as simple as that,” coach Mike Leach said. “There’s no magic formula.”
Still, whether the Cougars improve will rests largely on the shoulders of inconsistent quarterback Connor Halliday. After a virtuoso performance against California with 521 passing yards, Halliday threw three fourth-quarter interceptions on Saturday.
That inconsistency has haunted the career of a quarterback who is third in the country in passing yards, but leads the nation in interceptions.
“It’s apparent that he can play better and I thought he played really well for three quarters,” Leach said.
While the team as a whole took a step back against the Beavers, WSU’s wide receivers continued to show improvement.
Vince Mayle, in particular, is turning into a reliable target for Halliday.
“I think Vince, the last couple games, has emerged as a really explosive player and I think he continues to get better,” Leach said. “And he’s got a physical quality to what he does.”
Entering the Cal game, Mayle had two touchdowns. He matched that total against the Golden Bears, and tacked on another against Oregon State on Saturday. One of his touchdowns against Cal was a 71-yard sprint to the end zone. Against the Beavers, Mayle used his 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame to fight for a jump ball.
At the H-receiver position, Rickey Galvin is making a statement. Leach said that the game against Cal was the best he has seen this year from Galvin, who entered the program as a running back. He followed that up with four receptions for 39 yards against the Beavers.
“I thought Rickey played pretty good last week,” Leach said. “I think we’ve got to improve, no question. We’ve got to get better there.”
• Cougars senior safety Deone Bucannon was named the CBSSports.com Midseason All-America second team. Bucannon enters the week leading the Pac-12 in tackles with 64 and tied for second with a team-high four interceptions.