WSU looking to build on 37-34 win over Rutgers as it prepares to host Wyoming

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PULLMAN — With a gutty final drive to beat Rutgers by a score of 37-34 on Saturday, Washington State showed it could push back and avoid a debilitating malaise from a bad loss.

The team’s slogan, to look only at the game ahead, paid off and the Cougars appeared to be a completely different team than the one that lost to Portland State the week before.

With a good performance following a bad, the chart showing WSU’s season has a steep upward slope. It could still plunge, however, and though each game may be a discrete event, the Cougars must build upon each contest, even if they don’t acknowledge them once they’re over.

SATURDAY

Wyoming @ Washington State, 5:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks

“They are all must-win games,” coach Mike Leach said. “This was a must-win game. Last week was a must-win game. We won this one, so we just try to win one game a week.”

WSU beat a team on its own turf Saturday. Now the Cougars get a second chance to bully an athletically inferior team in their house.

Wyoming (0-2) comes to Pullman licking its wounds after a surprising season-opening loss to North Dakota and a 48-29 beatdown last week by Eastern Michigan. In the second game, the Cowboys were without their top two quarterbacks and finished with just 32 yards passing.

When Wyoming hired Craig Bohl before last season, it was considered a good hire by a program that could be a power in the Mountain West.

Bohl’s program has yet to show it’s on a path to recapture the success he had at FCS North Dakota State, where he won three consecutive national championships before departing for Laramie.

Wyoming is 4-10 under Bohl, and while the Cowboys do recruit some talented players — three total selected in the past two NFL drafts — they are unlikely to match up with WSU.

The WSU team that just beat Rutgers on the road should have no problem beating the Cowboys and improving to 2-1, a respectable nonconference record considering the slate. The team that lost at home to Portland State? Well, they would struggle in this one.

Wide receiver Gabe Marks has been arguably the team’s most consistent playmaker through two games, and certainly its most energetic player. He’s the last player on the team you worry about coming out flat in this game, or any game.

After the win at Rutgers, Marks said, “This is the team that I know we can be. I’m really proud of all the guys and how we fought through adversity.”

It was the team the Cougars can be, but is it the team they will be? This week’s game against Wyoming will speak volumes.