Wednesday, September 26, 2012

September 26, 2012

Coming into the 2012 season, there was renewed optimism in Pullman about the Cougar program and the direction it was headed. With former Oregon Athletic Director Bill Moos at the helm, the Cougars hired Mike Leach in hopes of bringing his Texas Tech "Air Raid" magic to the Palouse. The results, though, have not met the expectations of many Cougar fans early as Washington State has struggled to adopt Mike Leach's pass oriented spread offense. Last weekend, Washington State had a 31-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter with possession of the football inside the red zone, yet found a way to lose to Colorado. The 35-34 loss has emphasized just how difficult the transition of a new coach will be for the Cougars.

Oregon comes into the contest off of what is by far their best defensive effort of the season; an effort that ranks with some of the best defensive performances in school history. Oregon held an Arizona team averaging 596 yards per game and over 46 points per game to 332 yards en route to a 49-0 shutout of the Wildcats. The performance was enough to move the Ducks up to No. 2 in the rankings.


WSU: The projected starter is still a game time decision. The listed starter, when healthy, is Jeff Tuel (6-3, 221) a senior who has been injury prone for much of his career at Washington State. Tuel comes into the contest having appeared in two games this season and completing just over 70 percent of his passes going 50-71 for 400 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Tuel has been successful in the past and, when healthy is a good quarterback with the tools to be successful. Tuel is not a fleet footed quarterback having been sacked 5 times in his two appearances losing 42 yards on those sacks.

If Tuel is unable to play, the start will go to Connor Halliday (6-4, 189) a sophomore who had some late season success in 2011. Halliday played in four games for the Cougars last season completing 59 -103 for 960 yards and 9 touchdowns against just 4 interceptions. This season Halliday has appeared in all three games but is completing just 54.3 percent of his passes going 63-116 for 855 yards with 8 touchdowns, but he has thrown 5 interceptions in those three appearances. Halliday is also not very fleet having been sacked 6 times losing 46 yards early this season.

Oregon: Marcus Mariota earns his fifth start for the Ducks against the Cougars. After a brilliant opening game for the Ducks, Mariota was a little shaky against Fresno State. He has appeared to settle down some, though still prone to a turnover. For the season Mariota has completed 78 of 112 passes for 934 yards with 10 touchdowns and 2 interception. On the ground, Mariota has carried the ball 27 times for 125 yards on the ground.
Behind Mariota will be Bryan Bennett. Bennett has one start to his credit coming against Colorado last season. This year, mostly in mop up relief of Mariota, Bennett has completed 13 of 23 passes for 135 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Bennett is dangerous with his feet last year accumulating 200 yards rushing in his brief 6 appearances. Through three appearances this year, Bennett has 12 carries for 61 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns.



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