The Collegian got in touch with Daily Evergreen football reporter Robin Dich in Pullman, Wash. to get his take on the matchup between Washington State (6-6) and Colorado State (7-6) in the 2013 Gildan New Mexico Bowl, second-year coaches Jim McElwain and Mike Leach and the WSU offensive attack.
1. Both Colorado State and Washington State are operating under second-year head coaches. In your opinion, how has the program been coming along since Mike Leach took over at the position? How would you compare his impact to what Jim McElwain has done for CSU?
Robin Dich: Since Leach has taken over as head coach, the program has responded very well. When Leach was first introduced to WSU, he was entering a program that had a losing record since the 2007 season. We’ve had a season with just one win and multiple with only two or three wins. With Leach, the biggest difference he has made is the change of culture. The biggest challenge was changing the culture of a losing program to a winning mindset. With the history of losing, there was not one player on that team that has ever experienced a bowl eligible team. Now after only two years, Leach has been able to continue his impressive track record of bowl games.
I would compare what Leach has done to what Jim McElwain has done for CSU as very similar. Both these teams needed one year to get use to their coach’s system and atmosphere. Once they were able to do that, they could focus on winning, which those two are very familiar with.
2. Defensively, the Colorado State secondary has shown some weakness at times throughout the regular season to strong passing teams. Who should the Rams look out for from the Cougars’ receiving corps?
RD: That is a tough question to ask because WSU has one of the deepest wide receiving corps in the Pac-12. In ten games this season, quarterback Connor Halliday has been able to hit ten or more different receivers. Sticking with the number ten, there have been ten wide receivers with 25 or more receptions this year. In an air raid offense, wide outs have different roles to play to fully execute the system. However, if I were to choose a couple of players they would be Vince Mayle and Dominique Williams. Both these players complement each other. Mayle is a WR stuck in a TE’s body at 6’4”, 240 lb. He is a physical, athletic WR, who is a huge target in the red zone. With Dominique Williams, he is about 6’3”, but he is more of a deep threat and really comes on strong at the end of the year.
3. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that Washington State faces playing in a bigger-name conference like the Pac-12 as opposed to the Mountain West?
RD: The advantages are basic. Our conference has more resources and allows the teams to have better facilities, recruiting plan and so on so forth. The Pac 12 has such an underrated level of competition, nine teams finished bowl eligible this year. On any given Saturday, any Pac 12 team could beat the other. Just look at Utah over Stanford and Arizona over Oregon. However it can also be a disadvantage. Being in the Pac 12 means you have to face Oregon and Stanford every year and a team plays nine conference games and they beat each other up. There is no time to really breathe in the Pac 12.
4.The Rams are the only team in the country with a 3,000 yard passer and 1,500 yard rusher. How well will the Cougars be able to defend the dual threat? Who will need to contribute for WSU to do so?
RD: Our defense has been very inconsistent this year, we started off the year as one of the best pass defenses in the nation, but have slowly come back down to earth. We have had trouble with dual threat offenses throughout the year. One that haunts us is Arizona State. They were so balanced that the Cougars were caught off guard on almost every play, but we have also played well against teams with a similar balance. USC, Arizona and Utah were some teams we were able to contain. Of course we do not plan on stopping Kapri Bibbs and Garrett Grayson, but we’ve been a defense that bends, but does not break. It will be about containment for both the air and ground game. One player who has been named to the first and second All-American team, depending on where you look is Safety, Deone Bucannon. He leads the Pac-12 in tackles with 109, has 4 interceptions, and 3 forced fumbles. The other player will be DT Xavier Cooper; he is leading the team with 13 TFL and 4.5 sacks. If we’re able to put pressure in the pocket it will make a huge difference for a team that has 15 interceptions this year.
5. What’s your final score prediction for the 2013 Gildan New Mexico Bowl and why?
RD: My final score is going to be WSU wins, 49-39. I believe the Cougars will be able to make a couple of stops on defense, at least more than CSU will. We’ve faced the likes of Ka’Deem Carey, Bishop Sankey, Nick Marshall and Marcus Mariota. There won’t be any surprises talent wise that the Cougars have yet to see. Although I highly respect what the Ram’s offense has been doing, Connor Halliday and company have torched secondaries this year that are subpar. He’s been playing his best stretch of football the past month and a half. It’ll be an exciting game due to both the offenses, but I think with the playmakers on WSU’s defense, the Cougars will step up a little more on defense than CSU.
Daily Evergreen Sports Reporter Robin Dich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.