No. 24 WSU opens up 2017 season against Montana State - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

No. 24 WSU opens up 2017 season against Montana State

Courtesy: WSU Athletics Courtesy: WSU Athletics
By WSU Athletics
MONTANA STATE (0-0, 0-0 Big Sky) at No. 24 WASHINGTON STATE (0-0, 0-0 Pac-12)
7:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 2  •  FOX SPORTS 1
Martin Stadium (32,952)  •  Pullman, Wash.


No. 24 COUGARS OPEN 2017 HOSTING MONTANA STATE
No. 24 Washington State opens the 2017 season hosting Montana State University Saturday at Martin Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on FOX Sports 1.

SERIES HISTORY
Washington State leads the all-time series with Montana State 8-0, six of those wins coming in Pullman including the last meeting, 23-22 in 2010. Montana State went 4-7 last season including a 2-6 mark in Big Sky Conference play under second-year head coach Jeff Choate. Choate served as the Cougars linebackers coach in 2012, WSU head coach Mike Leach's first season in Pullman.

COLLEGE GAMEDAY RECORD
Dating back to the beginning of the 2004 season, ESPN's College GameDay has had the WSU flag appear throughout the show. The streak is now at 191 after the appearance at Ohio State the final weekend of the regular season. Two flags – Ol' Crimson and Gray – have been flown in the background of the GameDay set by dozens of friends and alumni. The Gray flag was added in 2014 after Whitey was retired in honor of Steve Gleason's "No White Flags." WSU recognized the GameDay flag wavers in a pregame ceremony prior to the Montana State game in 2010. In addition to the flags that fly, there is a traveling flag signed by the holders after each episode. The traveling flag is retired after each season, the first of which is hanging in WSU's Alumni Center.

COUGARS LOOKING FOR MORE IN 2017
Last season, Washington State went 8-5 overall including a 7-2 mark in Pac-12 Conference play to post its second-straight eight-win season en route to a trip to the Holiday Bowl, its third bowl game in four seasons. The Cougars rattled off eight-straight wins, seven coming during Pac-12 Conference play. Head coach Mike Leach enters his sixth season at WSU, owning a 113-71 mark in his 15-year coaching career including a 29-34 mark with the Cougars and is the first coach in school history to lead WSU to three bowl games in his first five seasons.  

COUGAR QUICK HITS
TEAM
•  WSU's 23 rushing touchdowns in 2016 were the most since the 1997 team rushed for 27 TD
•  WSU running backs lead all Pac-12 backs with 31 total touchdowns and are third with 2,591 total yards
•  WSU RBs were the first group of RBs with 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in a season under a Mike Leach coached team
•  WSU produced a school-record four 50-point games in 2016
•  WSU owns an 13-3 record when forcing multiple turnovers under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch
•  In Pac-12 play last season, WSU ranked first in the league in punt return (18.8) and second in kick return (23.0)

INDIVIDUAL
•  Head Coach Mike Leach was a George Munger Coach of the Year Semifinalist for the second straight season
•  Leach is the first Cougar head to coach to reach three bowl games in his first five seasons
•  LG Cody O'Connell was WSU's second unanimous All-American, Outland Trophy finalist
•  QB Luke Falk is the NCAA's active leader in career passing yards (10,893), touchdowns (89), yards/g (351.4)
•  DL Hercules Mata'afa was fifth in the Pac-12 with 13.5 tackles-for-loss

COUGARS IN THE TOP-25
Washington State appeared in the national rankings four times last season, reaching as high as No. 20 following the win over California. The Cougars open the 2017 season ranked No. 24 in the Associated Press Preseason Top-25, the first time appearing in a preseason poll since 2002 (No. 11).

YOUNG COUGS TAKE THE FIELD
Washington State saw 18 players make their debuts in 2016 with 14 players recording their first career start including 10 on defense. Six true freshmen played for the Cougars last season and are expected to have bigger roles in 2017; Isaiah Johnson-Mack (WR), Frederick Mauigoa (OL), Derek Moore (DE), Dezmon Patmon (WR), Marcus Strong (CB) and Jalen Thompson (S). Thompson started all 13 games at strong safety and was named a True Freshmen All-American by ESPN.com.

AIR RAID NUMBERS ADD UP
The Washington State Air Raid offense returns seven starters after putting up big numbers once again in 2016, finishing third in the country in passing offense (362.5), seventh in first downs (26.2/g), No. 15 in third down conversions (47.1), No. 18 in scoring (38.2) and total offense (482.5). WSU set a couple program single-season records for the most touchdowns scored (67) and points (496) and the third-most total yards (6,273).

FALK NAMED MAXWELL, DAVEY O'BRIEN, JOHNNY UNITAS, WALTER CAMP WATCH LISTS
Redshirt-senior Luke Falk enters the 2017 season named to the preseason watch lists for the Maxwell Award (Player of the Year), Davey O'Brien (Top Quarterback), Johnny Unitas Golden Arm (Top QB - senior or 4th year junior) and Walter Camp Player of the Year. Last season, the All-Pac-12 second-team selection was a finalist for the Manning Award, Johnny Unitas, Burlsworth (top walk-on) and was a semifinalist for the Maxwell, Davie O'Brien and Walter Camp Player of the year.

FALK RACKS UP THE NUMBERS (PageS 17-18)
Quarterback Luke Falk finished the 2016 season fourth in the country in passing yards-per-game (343.7) and passing yards (4,468), seventh with 38 passing touchdowns and with a Pac-12-best 342.2 yards-per-game in conference play. Falk also tied his own WSU single-season record with  38 touchdown passes and sits second in WSU career history with 89. He also finished second behind Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield for the nation's highest completion percentage (.700). Falk owns as school-record 23 career 300-yard games, is third in career passing yards (10,893) and owns the second-most wins by a QB in school history with 18, trailing Jason Gesser's school-best 24. The Logan, Utah native enters 2017 as the nation's active leader in passing yards (10,893) and passing touchdowns (89) while his 351.4 passing yards per game average is currently fourth-best in NCAA FBS history.

FALK BY THE NUMBERS
2,708 - Needs 2,708 passing yards to break Sean Mannion's (OSU) Pac-12 passing record (13,600)
1,047 - Career completions, are second-most in Pac-12 history, trailing OSU's Sean Mannion (1,187)
412 - Needs 412 passing yards to break Halliday's  WSU record for career passing yards (11,304)
89 - Career touchdown passes rank second in WSU history, tied for sixth in Pac-12 history
28 - In 28 career starts, Falk owns 18 wins, 2nd-most by a Cougar QB in school history (Gesser - 24)
28 - Needs 28 TD passes to break Matt Barkley's (USC) Pac-12 record of 116
23 - Career 300-yard games, most in WSU history including ten 400-yard efforts
6 - Career fourth-quarter comeback wins including one in 2016 at Oregon State
2 -  Needs two TD passes to break Connor Halliday's WSU record for career TD passes (90)

FALK's FOURTH-QUARTER COMEBACKS
Luke Falk is no stranger to leading fourth-quarter comebacks, recording the sixth of his career in the win at Oregon State last season. The first came in 2014 at Oregon State, WSU trailed early in the fourth and Falk led a pair of scoring drives for a 39-32 victory. In 2015, trailing by four with 1:31 remaining at Rutgers, Falk led WSU on a 10-play, 90-yard drive capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds remaining. In the win at Oregon, Falk led a pair of scoring drives late in the fourth quarter that erased a 10-point deficit and sent the game into overtime after an eight-yard touchdown pass with one second remaining. In overtime, Falk rushed for a touchdown and then threw for another before the Cougar defense picked off a pass in the second overtime to clinch the win. Against Arizona State, trailing 24-17 to start the fourth quarter, Falk led the Cougars on three touchdown drives (73, 99 and 75 yards) in the quarter, capping each one with touchdown throws to post a 38-24 victory. His last one in 2015 came at No. 18 UCLA, trailing by three with 1:09 remaining, Falk led the Cougars on a seven-play 75-yard drive, capped by a 21-yard touchdown pass with three seconds remaining. In the win at Oregon State in 2016, WSU trailed by three early in the fourth quarter before Falk led WSU on an 80-yard scoring drive midway through the quarter. Falk capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown pass that proved to be the game-winner.

FALK SET NCAA FBS RECORD FOR COMPLETION PERCENTAGE
In the win over Arizona last season, Luke Falk completed 32-of-35 passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns. His 91.4 completion percentage was a WSU record and a Pac-12 record for 30+ completions, breaking Dick Norman's (Stanford, 1959) previous record of 87.1. Falk completed 21 consecutive passes at one point, one away from Aaron Rodgers' (Cal) record of 22. The Cougars combined for a 90.3 completion percentage to set an NCAA FBS record for 30+ completions after going 47-of-52.

ALL-PURPOSE BACKS
The Cougar running backs elevated their games in 2016 leading to a more balanced Air Raid. WSU rushed for 100 yards seven times including three 200-yard efforts in wins over Idaho, Oregon and California. They added 101 yards (2 TDs) in the win at No. 15 Stanford, three rushing touchdowns in the win over UCLA, 137 rushing yards at Oregon State and 140 more with three touchdowns against Arizona. WSU rushed for 23 touchdowns in 2016, the most since the 1997 team ran for 27 scores. The trio of redshirt-juniors Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks, and redshirt-freshman James Williams headlined the Cougar backs who led the Pac-12 running back groups with 31 total touchdowns and 1,034 receiving yards and were third with 2,695 total yards. The backs combined for 128 receptions and averaged 217.6 all-purpose yards-per-game. Williams and Morrow led all Pac-12 running backs with 48 receptions a piece in 2016.

COUGAR RUSHING ATTACK BREAKS OUT
The Cougar running game reached new heights in 2016 as Jamal Morrow, Gerard Wicks and James Williams led a running back group that led the Pac-12 in total touchdowns (31), receiving yards (1,034) and was one of just four schools to have their backs post 1,000-1,000 seasons. All three backs recorded a 100-yard game in 2016 while the team rushed for 100+ yards seven times in 2016 after reaching that mark five times in 2015 and just four times in the previous three seasons combined. WSU averaged 120 rushing yards per game in 2016 after posting 80.1 rushing yards per game in 2015 and 39.1 in 2014. Wicks owns 18 career rushing touchdowns, tied for eighth-most in WSU history with Benard Jackson (1970-71).

MORROW NAMED TO DOAK WALKER AWARD, HORNUNG AWARD WATCH LIST
Running back Jamal Morrow was named to the 2017 watch lists for the Doak Walker Award and Paul Hornung Award. The Doak Walker is given to the nation's best running back while the Hornung Award is given to the most versatile player in major college football. Morrow is the first Cougar to be named to the Paul Hornung Watch List since the award was created in 2010 and the first named to the Doak Walker since Jerome Harrison was a finalist in 2005. A native of Menifee, Calif., Morrow earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention last season after leading the Cougars with 1,217 all-purpose yards, No. 21 in WSU single-season history. The redshirt-senior rushed for 575 yards and five touchdowns, tied for fourth on the team with 48 receptions for 488 yards and five touchdowns and also averaged 43.7 yards on three punt returns. Morrow served as the team captain all 13 games and finished second on the team with nine plays of 20+ yards.

MORROW SETS WSU RECORD FOR RECEPTIONS BY RUNNING BACKS
Running back Jamal Morrow does a little of everything for the Cougar offense, rushing, receiving, blocking and owns the school record for receptions by a running back. The redshirt-senior owns 142 career catches, passing Steve Broussard's previous top WSU mark of 120. Morrow also sits six receptions away from moving into the WSU Top-10 for receptions. He tallied a team-high 1,217 all-purpose yards, averaging 93.6 all-purpose yards-per-game, was second on the team with 575 rushing yards, third with 10 total touchdowns and tied for fourth with 48 catches. Morrow has had two seasons of 1,200-plus all-purpose yards and with more season with similar numbers, would put him in the top-3 in school history for all-purpose yards, trailing only former All-Americans Steve Broussard and Rueben Mayes.

CAPTAIN MORROW COME ON DOWN
Jamal Morrow has served as the WSU game captain for the past 22 games and coach Leach finally revealed why. In August of 2013, Morrow was a contestant on The Price is Right, reaching a showcase showdown and coach Leach thought he would be good at the coin toss. Morrow began the streak in WSU's double-overtime win at Oregon in 2015. The Cougars are 15-7 since, and Morrow is 8-2 in correctly calling the toss, WSU is 5-3 when he wins a coin toss and WSU has been on the winning end of the toss 17 times in those 22 games with Morrow at captain.

SPREADING THE BALL AROUND
Washington State continued to spread the ball each week. Last season, the Air Raid saw 10+ players catch a pass in 11 of the 13 games. Eleven players caught a pass in wins over Oregon, Stanford and Arizona State and 12 caught a pass in the win over California. In the win over Arizona, 14 players caught a pass, the most under Mike Leach at WSU. The Cougars were the only team in the country with five players owning 40+ catches. In 2015, Washington State was the only team in the country with 10 players who recorded 20+ receptions last season and was the only Power-5 Conference team with two players owning double-digit touchdown receptions.

FLORIDA WIDEOUTS SETTLE IN
Former high school teammates at William T. Dwyer High School in Belle Glade, Fla., junior Tavares Martin Jr. and sophomore Isaiah Johnson-Mack are set to be a big part of the Cougar offense in 2017. Martin Jr. broke out against Boise State with 12 catches for 158 yards including an acrobatic 50-yard tumbling touchdown. He made the most of his two catches at No. 15 Stanford, scoring touchdowns on both, caught a 9-yard touchdown just before halftime to give WSU a lead in the win at Arizona State, added six catches for 82 yards and a 33-yard touchdown at Oregon State and caught two more touchdowns against Arizona. Johnson-Mack also contributed in his first season, recording 35 receptions for 246 yards including a seven-catch game at Boise State and his first career touchdown in the win over Arizona.

MARTIN JR. NAMED TO BILETNIKOFF AWARD WATCH LIST
Tavares Martin Jr. was named to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List over the summer. Martin Jr. was one of 46 players, including five from the Pac-12 Conference, named to the award watch list given to the most outstanding receiver in college football. Last season, Gabe Marks was named to the watch list and was a semifinalist in 2015. Martin Jr., entering his junior season, finished last year with the sixth-most catches (64) in the Pac-12 Conference and seventh-most touchdowns (7) and eighth-most receiving yards (728). The Belle Glade, Fla. native averaged 11.4 yards per catch and had eight catches of 20+ yards.

OFFENSIVE LINE AMONG NATION'S BEST
According the website footballoutsiders.com, the 2016 Cougar offensive line was near the top of a couple categories. WSU led the country in "Stuff Rate" (12%) that is the percentage of carries by running backs that are stopped at or before the line of scrimmage. WSU was also fourth in the country in "Power Success Rate" (81.6%) that is the percentage of runs on 3rd or 4th down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown. The Cougars also ranked No. 15 in "Opportunity Rate" (43.7%) that is the percentage of carries (when 5 yards are available) that gain at least five yards, i.e. the percentage of carries in which the line does its job.

OFFENSIVE LINE BULKED UP
Not only have the Cougars produced big offensive numbers, finishing the last couple seasons among the nation's passing leaders, WSU has produced bigger offensive linemen. The size of the front five has gone up each season with the 2017 offensive line averaging 322.6 pounds after averaging the same number last season. In prior years WSU average 288.6 in 2012, 288.2 in 2013, 309.4 lbs in 2014 and nearly 310 lbs in 2015.

COUGAR OFFENSIVE LINE "BONE" AWARDS  
Each week, Washington State coaches give out the "Bone Award" to the offensive lineman who performs the best during the previous game. Left guard Cody O'Connell claimed the first three  "Bone" awards after the wins over Idaho, Oregon and at Stanford, right tackle Cole Madison earned the award after beating UCLA, center Riley Sorenson claimed the award after the win at Arizona State and left tackle Andre Dillard earned his first career "Bone Award" honor after the win at Oregon State. Madison earned the award after the big win over Arizona and again after the win over California, his third of the season. The awards in 2016: Eastern Washington: None; at Boise State: None; Idaho: Cody O'Connell; Oregon: Cody O'Connell; at Stanford: Cody O'Connell; UCLA: Cole Madison; at Arizona State: Riley Sorenson; at Oregon State: Andre Dillard; Arizona: Cole Madison; California: Cole Madison; at Colorado: None; Washington: None; Minnesota: None

O'CONNELL NAMED UNANIMOUS ALL-AMERICAN
Last season, left guard Cody O'Connell joined kicker Jason Hanson (1989) as the only Cougar unanimous All-Americans in program history. The redshirt-senior from Wenatchee, Wash was named a First-Team All-American by The Walter Camp Football Foundation (the nation's oldest All-America Team), The Sporting News, The Associated Press, The Football Writers Association of America and the American Football Coaches Association. O'Connell was a finalist for The Outland Trophy, presented to the best interior lineman in college football on offense or defense since 1946, becoming the first Cougar Outland Trophy finalist since defensive lineman Rien Long won the award in 2002. O'Connell, nicknamed "The Continent" by coach Mike Leach, started 12 games at left guard and was ranked the nation's best guard in the country by Pro Football Focus in 2016. He enters 2017 named to the watch lists for the Maxwell Award and Outland Trophy.

DEFENSE CONTINUES TO MAKE STRIDES UNDER GRINCH
The Cougar defense will be looking to take another step in 2017 under third-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, twice named a Broyles Award Nominee (given to the nation's top assistant). WSU returns nine starters from last season's group that forced 23 turnovers and held opponents to 134.2 rushing yards per game, third-lowest in the Pac-12 Conference.

GET THE BALL BACK
Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has emphasized the need to force turnovers and get the ball back to the Air Raid offense. The Cougars did that in 2015, forcing 24 turnovers, fourth in the Pac-12 and three times as many as the 2014 total of eight. The trend continued in 2016 as WSU forced 23 turnovers highlighted by three interceptions at Boise State, a pair of fumble recoveries against Idaho, an interception, a fumble recovery and a safety in the win over Oregon and added three more turnovers in the win at Stanford. WSU forced four in the win over UCLA and added three more against Arizona (2 INT, fumble). WSU tallied 11 fumble recoveries and 12 interceptions. In two seasons under Grinch, the Cougars are 13-3 when forcing multiple turnovers in a game.

COUGAR DEFENSE DIALED IT UP IN 2016
The Washington State defense turned things up in Pac-12 play last season, forcing 16 turnovers in the nine games including four in the win over UCLA and three against Arizona. WSU finished the season tied for second in the Pac-12 and No. 28 in the country in turnover margin (+6), and third in the league in rushing defense (134.2). In the week three win over Idaho, WSU did not allow a touchdown in the 56-6 victory, surrendering just 257 yards of total offense. Against Oregon, the Cougars tallied eight tackles-for-loss before adding three sacks at No. 15 Stanford while holding the Cardinal to just 61 yards rushing including Christian McCaffrey to 35 yards. In the comeback in at Oregon State, the Cougars held OSU just 104 yards of total offense in the second half including 11 yards rushing. WSU held Arizona to just seven points and 286 yards of total offense and held California to its lowest point total of the season (21).

HERCULES NAMED TO BEDNARIK, NAGURSKI AWARD WATCH LIST
Defensive lineman Hercules Mata'afa was named to the Bednarik Award and Nagurski Award Watch List, both given to the country's top defensive player. Mata'afa was named to the preseason watch list last season and earned All-Pac-12 second team after finishing fifth in the league with 13.5 tackles including a team-high five sacks. The redshirt-junior enters the 2017 season with 24.5 career tackles-for-loss, second-most among active Pac-12 players.

PELLUER NAMED TO WUERFFELL TROPHY WATCH LIST
Linebacker Peyton Pelluer was named to The Wuerffel Trophy Watch List. Pelluer was among the 109 players named to the watch list for The Wuerffel Trophy, known as "College Football's Premier Award for Community Service." Named after 1996 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel from the University of Florida, the Wuerffel Trophy is awarded to the FBS player that best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement. The Sammamish, Wash. native was an All-Pac-12 Conference honorable mention selection last season after finishing fourth in the conference with a team-best 93 tackles and third on the team with 7.5 tackles-for-loss. Pelluer, entering his redshirt-senior season, is a three-time Pac-12 All-Academic selection, twice named to the First Team, and has been involved with a number of community service projects through WSU Athletics.

LINEBACKERS LEAD THE WAY
The Cougar linebackers filled up the stat sheet the past two seasons led by two-time All-Pac-12 honorable mention MIKE Peyton Pelluer who finished fifth in the Pac-12 with 93 tackles including 7.5 for loss, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. The Sammamish, Wash. native recorded 10+ tackles three times and led the Cougars in tackles seven times. Pelluer has led the Cougars in tackles in each of the past two seasons, averaging 97 and with more similar season will be the first Cougar to break into the WSU Top-10 for career tackles since 2008. WIL linebacker Isaac Dotson finished the year fourth on the team with 64 stops including six for loss. Linebacker Frankie Luvu played both WIL and RUSH throughout 2016 and tallied 46 tackles including seven for loss.

DEFENSE CONTINUES TO PUT THE PRESSURE ON
All-Pac-12 second team defensive lineman Hercules Mata'afa finished 2016 fifth in the Pac-12 with 13.5 tackles-for-loss including a team-best five sacks and 47 tackles. RUSH Dylan Hanser tied for third in the Pac-12 with three forced fumbles and defensive end Nnamdi Oguayo recorded three sacks in the win over Arizona and added another in the Holiday Bowl.

SECONDARY RETURNS CORE
Gone is two-time All-Pac-12 defensive back Shalom Luani to the Oakland Raiders but the Cougar secondary is in good hands after going through a youth movement the past two seasons. Now a junior, Darrien Molton, was named the top freshman cornerback in the country by Pro Football Focus in 2015 and finished last season second on the team with 71 tackles and six pass breakups in 2016. Senior cornerback Marcellus Pippins made two interceptions and five pass breakups last year while junior college transfer safety Robert Taylor stepped in with Luani playing at Nickel, and recorded 61 tackles and recovered a team-best three fumbles in his junior season. True freshman Jalen Thompson enrolled early last season, took over at strong safety and recorded 51 tackles, made a team-best seven pass breakups and was named to the True Freshman All-America Team by ESPN.com.

SPECIAL TEAMS REACHES MILESTONES
The 2016 WSU special teams produced a pair of Pac-12 Special Teams Players of the Week awards and finished the year ninth-ranked punt return unit in the country (13.5 per return). At Arizona State, Robert Taylor returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, WSU's first since 2003, and against California, Kaleb Fossum returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown, WSU's first since 2005, both players earned Pac-12 weekly awards. It was the first time WSU had a kickoff and punt return for a touchdown in the same season since 1968 and the first time with two conference special teams player of the week awards in the same season since 2006. Kicker Erik Powell rebounded from a rough start to the season by making nine of his last 10 attempts and is tied for sixth in WSU history with 31 career makes. In Pac-12 play, the Cougars led the league in punt return average (18.8) and were second in kick return avg (23.0).

ERIK POWELL CLIMBING THE CHARTS
Redshirt-senior kicker Erik Powell rebounded from a tough start last season after missing his first five field goals, hitting nine of his last 10 attempts including both attempts in the Holiday Bowl. Powell tallied 90 points last season and has averaged nearly 100 points the last two seasons. He enters his final season in Pullman with 211 career points, fifth-most in WSU history. With one more 100-point season, the lefty will move into the top-3. He also owns the third-best field goal percentage (67.4) in school history.

COUGARS OPENED PAC-12 PLAY 7-0, RECORD EIGHT WINS FOR SECOND STRAIGHT YEAR
Last season, Washington State started conference play 7-0 for the first time in program history, recorded an eight-game winning streak for the first time since the 1930 and finished the regular season with eight wins for the straight season. The Cougars recorded wins over Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and Arizona State in the same season for the first time since 2006. WSU beat Oregon for the second straight season for the first time since 2002-03 and beat UCLA in two straight meetings for the first time since 2006-07. The win at Stanford snapped an eight-game skid to the Cardinal and was the first win in Palo Alto since 2006. The victory at Arizona State was the first win in Tempe since 2001.

MIKE LEACH NAMED GEORGE MUNGER COACH OF THE YEAR NOMINEE
Last season, Cougar head coach Mike Leach was named a George Munger Coach of the Year Nominee for the second straight season. Leach led WSU its second straight eight win season and is the first coach in program history to make three bowl games in his first five seasons.

SHALOM LUANI DRAFTED BY RAIDERS
Defensive back Shalom Luani was selected in the seventh round as the No. 221 overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. Luani was the first Cougar defensive player drafted since defensive lineman Xavier Cooper was taken in the third round of the 2015 draft by the Cleveland Browns. Luani is the first Cougar defensive back drafted since Deone Bucannon was taken as the No. 27 overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2014. Luani is the first Cougar drafted by the Raiders since safety Eric Frampton was selected in the fifth round of the 2007 draft.

TEN COUGARS EARN ALL-PAC-12 ACCOLADES, LUANI, MARKS NAMED TO FIRST TEAM
Ten players earned All-Pac-12 Conference honors including first-team selections by defensive back Shalom Luani and wideout Gabe Marks. Quarterback Luke Falk and defensive lineman Hercules Mata'afa each garnered spots on the second team and six players received honorable mention, wide receiver River Cracraft, offensive lineman Cole Madison, running back Jamal Morrow, offensive lineman Cody O'Connell, linebacker Peyton Pelluer and offensive lineman Riley Sorenson. Luani earned his second all-conference honor after receiving honorable mention last season and is the Cougars first All-Pac-12 First-Team defensive back since Deone Bucannon in 2013. Marks was selected to the first team for the second straight year, becoming the first Cougar to do so since offensive lineman Derrick Roche in 2001-02. Falk earns his second straight All-Pac-12 accolade after being selected to the first team last season. Mata'afa earns his second straight all-conference honor after receiving honorable mention last season. Cracraft capped his Cougar career with his second all-conference accolade after also receiving honorable mention as freshman. Madison earned honorable mention for the second straight season while O'Connell and Sorenson each earn their first career all-conference honor. Morrow earns his first career all-conference accolade and is the first Cougar running back to earn All-Pac-12 honors since 2009, Dwight Tardy. Pelluer earns honorable mention for the second straight season after finishing the regular season fifth in the Pac-12 with 89 tackles including 7.5 for loss, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. The Sammamish, Wash. native recorded 10+ tackles three times and led the Cougars in tackles the final three games.

FIVE COUGARS EARN PAC-12 ALL-ACADEMIC HONORS
Five student-athletes received Pac-12 Conference All-Academic honors. Redshirt-junior linebacker Peyton Pelluer led the way earning a spot on the second team while redshirt-freshman linebacker Tristan Brock, redshirt-junior linebacker Isaac Dotson, redshirt-junior quarterback Luke Falk and redshirt-senior right guard Eduardo Middleton each received honorable mention. Pelluer earns his third straight all-academic honor after earning first team honors as a freshmen and second team honors along with CoSIDA All-District VIII first team last year. The Sammamish, Wash. native owns a 3.43 cumulative grade-point-average while majoring in history. He is just the tenth Cougar in program history to be a three-time an all-academic selection. Brock earns his first career all-academic honor after producing a 3.0 grade-point-average and has yet to declare a major. The Mount Vernon, Wash. native appeared in all 13 games, playing special teams on the kickoff team and punt return unit. Dotson earns his second all-academic honor after receiving honorable mention last season. The Bellevue, Wash. native owns a 3.10 grade-point-average while majoring in marketing. Falk also earns his second all-academic honor after receiving honorable mention last season. The Logan, Utah native owns a 3.24 GPA while majoring in social sciences. Middleton earns his first career all-academic honor after producing a 3.01 GPA while majoring in social sciences.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
Four Cougars share a unique bond with their dads and/or grandpa, each have worn the crimson a gray. Redshirt-junior left tackle Andre Dillard's dad, Mitch was an offensive lineman and tight end for the Cougars in the late 1980's; redshirt-senior linebacker Isaac Dotson's dad, Michael was an All-American wrestler for WSU from 1983-86; redshirt-senior linebacker Peyton Pelluer's dad, Scott also played linebacker for the Cougs, matching Peyton's No. 47 from 1977-80; Peyton's grandpa, Arnie played end for WSU in the mid 1950's and his great grandpa, Carl Gustafson, played flanker in the 1920's; and freshman quarterback John Bledsoe's dad, Drew Bledsoe played at WSU from 1990-92, was the No. 1 overall pick by the New England Patriots in the 1993 NFL Draft and played 14 seasons.

POLYNESIAN PIPELINE
The Washington State roster has seen an influx in Polynesian players since Mike Leach and his coaching staff arrived in 2012. The 2017 roster has 11 players who are of Polynesian decent including four who list their hometown from American Samoa.

DENNIS ERICKSON NAMED TO State of WASHINGTON SPORTS HALL OF FAME
Former Washington State head coach Dennis Erickson is one of eight selected to the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame. Erickson will be recognized during the Cougars season-opener against Montana State. Known for his success throughout the country and in the northwest, Erickson tallied 229 career wins in college and the NFL, leading 12 teams to bowl games including a pair of national championships at the University of Miami. Erickson also coached the Seattle Seahawks for four seasons (1995-98) and two more with the San Francisco 49ers (2003-04). Erickson's head coaching career began with four seasons at Idaho and one at Wyoming before arriving at Washington State in 1987 where he led the Cougars to a 9-3 campaign in 1988, earned Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors and capped the season with an Aloha Bowl victory. Erickson went on to Miami where he coached the Hurricanes for six seasons, winning 63 games during that span including the 1989 and 1991 National Championships. Erickson, a native of Ferndale, Wash. and Montana State alum, later coached at Oregon State (1999-2002) where he led the Beavers to a Fiesta Bowl victory in 2000. He closed his head coaching career at Arizona State (2007-11), leading the Sun Devils to a 10-win 2007 season including a share of the Pac-10 Conference title. In his 23 seasons as a collegiate head coach, Erickson coached 10 Consensus All-Americans, was twice named the Sporting News National Coach of the Year (1992, 2000), earned the Big East Coach of the Year three times and was voted the Pac-10 Coach of the year three times.

STEVE GLEASON RECRUIT SUITE IN COUGAR FOOTBALL COMPLEX
WSU announced the naming of the Steve Gleason Recruit Suite, inside the Cougar Football Complex in 2016. Gleason, the Washington State Athletic Hall of Famer who played football and baseball in a Cougar uniform from 1995-99, was on hand as the room all future Cougar football players will walk through was named in his honor. The opportunity arrived courtesy of Cougar alumnus Glenn Osterhout's naming donation of $250,000. With his pledge, Osterhout, a 1983 graduate who is a certified financial planner in Bellevue, was presented the opportunity to name the recruiting room inside the Cougar Football Complex.

COUGAR FOOTBALL BROADCAST TEAM
Hall of fame announcer Bob Robertson is in his 51st season calling Cougar football games, and according to a nation-wide survey of sports information directors, is the longest tenured radio announcer in the country with the next closest being Bill Hillgrove who has announced 47 straight seasons at Pitt. Robertson began calling WSU games in 1964 and with the exception of a three-year period in 1969-71, has been calling Cougar games ever since. Robertson now hosts the Cougars pre, halftime and postgame shows, while also providing analysis during the games. Matt Chazanow is in his third season as the play-by-play voice for Cougar football, men's basketball and baseball broadcasts. Joining Chazanow and Robertson in the booth for his fourth season will be Cougar legend Jason Gesser who quarterbacked WSU to the 2001 Sun Bowl and 2003 Rose Bowl. Returning for her sixth season as the sideline reporter is Jessamyn McIntyre, an executive producer for 710 ESPN Seattle. 

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