WSU continues homestand against Nevada on Saturday - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

WSU continues homestand against Nevada on Saturday

WSU is 3-0 for the first time since 2005. Photo: Washington State Athletics WSU is 3-0 for the first time since 2005. Photo: Washington State Athletics

By Washington State Athletics

No. 18 Washington State (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) continues its season-opening five-game homestand hosting the University of Nevada (0-3, 0-0 Mountain West) Saturday at Martin Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network.

WSU will induct six individuals and a team into its Athletic Hall of Fame this weekend. The induction dinner will be Friday in Spokane and recognize the class at the halftime Saturday. The honorees will join the current 213 members of the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame. 2017 Class: Dominique Arnold, Track & Field; Sue Durrant, Coach (Women's Basketball, Volleyball); Mike Kinkade, Baseball; Marcia Miles, Basketball; Diana Pickler, Track & Field; Paul Sorensen, Football; 1968 Men's Track & Field Team.

Washington State leads the all-time series with Nevada 2-1 and will be hosting the Wolfpack in Pullman for the first time in series history. The Cougars claimed the first two meetings, 2002 in Seattle and 2005 in Reno before Nevada won the 2014 matchup 24-13 in Reno. In the 2014, Luke Falk made his collegiate debut, appearing for one play (a handoff) after Connor Halliday had to sit out one play after his helmet came off the previous play. Head coach Mike Leach is 1-1 against Nevada in his career, notching a 35-19 win in Reno back in 2008 with Texas Tech.

Washington State has a number of coaches and football staff members who worked at Nevada. Linebacker coach Ken Wilson (24 seasons - coach), running back coach Jim Mastro (11 seasons - coach), outside receivers coach Derek Sage (2 seasons - GA), head strength and conditioning coach Jason Loscalzo (2 seasons), head football athletic trainer Andy Mutnan (5 seasons) and assistant athletic trainer Spencer Hiett went to Nevada.

•  WSU is off to its first 3-0 start since 2005, last started 4-0 in 2001 (started 7-0, finished 10-2 and Sun Bowl win)
•  Under head coach Mike Leach, WSU has recorded 10 fourth-quarter comebacks in his 5+ seasons
•  WSU's shutout win over Montana State was the first shutout since 2013 (Idaho, 42-0)
•  WSU is one of three Pac-12 teams with two shutouts in the last five seasons (Stanford, Washington)
•  WSU owns 3 defensive touchdowns this season, tied for 2nd-most in FBS, most by WSU since 2013 (5)
•  WSU owns an 15-3 record when forcing multiple turnovers under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch
•  Head Coach Mike Leach owns 32 wins at WSU, fifth-most in program history (Jim Sutherland - 37, 1956-63)
•  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
•  QB Luke Falk is the NCAA's active career leader in passing yds (11,793), TD (98), yds/g (346.9), total off (11,521)
•  Falk was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the week after throwing 6 TD in win over OSU, 5th career award
•  DL Hercules Mata'afa owns 30 career TFL's, the most among all active Pac-12 players
•  Pelluer owns 24.5 career TFL's, fourth-most among all active Pac-12 players
•  RB James Williams is tied for third in the country with a Pac-12-best 27 receptions (13 vs. MSU, 10 vs. BSU)
•  K Erik Powell is fifth in WSU history with 35 career field goals, 3rd in FG percentage at 68.6

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 197 after the appearance in Louisville last weekend for Clemson - Louisville. 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.

Washington State opened 2017 with a 31-0 victory over Montana State, notching the first shutout since 2013, followed with a triple overtime win over Boise State before opening Pac-12 Conference play with a 52-23 win over Oregon State last week. 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. WSU rattled off eight-straight wins, seven coming during Pac-12 play. Head coach Mike Leach is his sixth season at WSU, owning a 116-71 mark in his 16-year coaching career including a 32-34 record with the Cougars and is the first coach in school history to lead WSU to three bowl games in his first five seasons.  

Washington State moved up three spots to No. 18 in the Associated Press Top-25 and the Coaches Poll, the highest WSU ranking since finishing the 2003 season No. 9. The Cougars opened 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). WSU appeared in the national rankings four times last season, reaching as high as No. 20 following the win over California.

Down 31-10 to Boise State midway through the fourth quarter, Washington State rallied with 21 points in the final eight minutes to send the game into overtime. Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Tyler Hilinski got things going with a 17-yard touchdown strike to freshman Jamire Calvin to make it 31-17. Four plays later, Peyton Pelluer picked off an errant BSU pass and raced 39 yards for the score, cutting the deficit to 31-24. With under three minutes left in regulation, WSU was forced to punt but Erik Powell's punt landed on a Bronco blocker and redshirt-freshman Dillon Sherman jumped on the fumble. Three plays later, Hilinski found Morrow for a six-yard touchdown pass, evening the game at 31. In the third overtime, Hilinski again hit Morrow in the flat and Morrow scampered 22 yards before leaping over the left corner of the end zone for the game-winner. WSU matched the largest fourth-quarter comeback set back in 1984 after WSU trailed 42-21 to start the final period, scored 28 points behind a touchdown run from Mark Rypien, one from Rueben Mayes, a  53-yard scoring pass from Rypien to Mayes and finally a 22-yard touchdown run by Mayes to win 49-42 at Stanford. Last season, WSU trailed 21-0 at Oregon State before winning 35-31 in Corvallis.

Washington State has seen 20 players make their debuts in the first three weeks of the season. 14 freshmen have made their first career appearance including four true freshmen, Jamire Calvin (WR), George Hicks III (CB), Tay Martin (WR) and Zaire Webb (ST). Four players also recorded their first career starts, Renard Bell (H), Isaiah Johnson-Mack (Z), Fred Mauigoa (C) and Hunter Dale (Nickel), all starting the season-opener while Johnson-Mack, Mauigoa and Dale also started against Boise State. Last season, 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).

The Washington State Air Raid offense returned seven starters from a 2016 group that finished 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). The Cougar passing attack led the country in passing in 2015 (389.5) and 2014 (477.7), was fourth in 2013 (368.4) and eight in 2012 (330.4). WSU has led the Pac-12 in passing in all five seasons under head coach Mike Leach, except in 2013 (second behind Cal).

Redshirt-senior Luke Falk entered 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.

Quarterback Luke Falk opened his redshirt-senior season in a big way, completing his first 20 passes en route to a 33-for-39 night for 311 yards and three touchdowns. His second touchdown pass, a six-yard strike to Tavares Martin Jr. in the second quarter, was his 91st career touchdown pass, breaking Connor Halliday's WSU touchdown passing touchdown record. Against Boise State, Falk threw for 193 yards, passing Connor Halliday's WSU record for passing yards and Alex Brink's WSU record for total offense. Falk followed with a six-touchdown game in the win over Oregon State. He owns WSU records with 98 career passing touchdowns, 11,793 career passing yards, 11,521 yards of total offense, 25 career 300-yard games, 1,141 completions and 1,643 pass attempts. He enters the week with the second-most wins by a QB in school history with 20, trailing Jason Gesser's school-best 24. The Logan, Utah native is the nation's active leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns while his 346.9 passing yards per game average is currently fifth-best in NCAA FBS history.

11,793 - Owns WSU record for career passing yards, Connor Halliday - 11,304
11,521 - Owns WSU record for total offense, Alex Brink - 11,011
1,808 - Needs 1,808 passing yards to break Sean Mannion's (OSU) Pac-12 passing record (13,600)
1,141 - Career completions, are second-most in Pac-12 history, trailing OSU's Sean Mannion (1,187)
98 - Owns WSU record for touchdown passes, 4th-most in Pac-12 history
25 - Career 300-yard games, most in WSU history including ten 400-yard efforts
20 - In 31 career starts, Falk owns 20 wins, 2nd-most by a Cougar QB (Jason Gesser - 24)
19 - Needs 19 TD passes to break Matt Barkley's (USC) Pac-12 record of 116
6 - Career fourth-quarter comeback wins including one in 2016 at Oregon State

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.

Luke Falk was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week after going 37-for-49 for 396 yards and tying a school record with six touchdowns in the 52-23 win over Oregon State. It is the fifth career Pac-12 weekly accolade for Falk who has gone 4-0 in four career starts against the Beavers. The Logan, Utah native became the first Cougar quarterback to beat a team four times. Falk made his first career start at Oregon State in 2014 and threw for 471 yards and five touchdowns. He finished his career against OSU with 1,689 yards, 22 touchdowns and two interceptions while averaging 422.3 passing yards per game.

Last season, Luke Falk was fourth in the country in passing yards-per-game (343.7) and passing yards (4,468), seventh with 38 passing touchdowns and a Pac-12-best 342.2 yards-per-game in conference play. Falk tied his own WSU single-season record with  38 touchdown passes and finished second behind Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield for the nation's highest completion percentage (.700).

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. Falk opened 2017 completing his first 20 passes against Montana State.

Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Tyler Hilinski stepped in and came up big for the Cougars in the comeback win over Boise State. Hilinski relieved Luke Falk late in the third quarter and passed for 240 yards with three touchdowns, the last one coming as the game-winner in triple overtime. It was career-bests for Hilinski who played the final series against Montana State (7-9, 50 yds) but had only played extensively in the win over Arizona last season (15-17, 163 yds, 2 TD).

The Cougar running backs have settled into their all-purpose roles and took the Air Raid offense to new levels last season. The trend continued in a big way in the week one win over Montana State. Redshirt-sophomore James Williams erupted with 208 all-purpose yards and two scores in the win,  catching 13 passes for 163 yards and two scores, setting WSU single-game records for catches and receiving yards for a running back. Redshirt-senior Jamal Morrow added 116 all-purpose yards including 89 rushing yards and one touchdown. The backs combined for 354 all-purpose yards on 40 touches with three touchdowns, 157 rushing yards and 197 receiving yards. Against Boise State, Williams made a game-high 10 catches, Morrow caught two touchdowns including the game-winner in triple overtime and redshirt-senior Gerard Wicks rushed for at touchdown in the second overtime. Through three games, the backs have combined for two rushing touchdowns, four receiving touchdowns and 612 yards of total offense.

Last season, the trio of Jamal Morrow, Gerard Wicks and 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. WSU rushed for 100 yards seven times including three 200-yard efforts in wins over Idaho, Oregon and California. 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. The 23 touchdowns in 2016 were the most since the 1997 team ran for 27 scores. Wicks owns 19 career rushing touchdowns, tied for fifth-most in WSU history.

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.

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 151 career catches. Morrow made six catches against Boise State to move into 10th place in WSU history for career receptions and added two more in the win over Oregon State. Last season, the All-Pac-12 honorable mention pick 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. He opened 2017 with 116 all-purpose yards, rushing for 89 including a 29-yard touchdown against Montana and followed with two touchdown catches against Boise State, passing Jerome Harrison for seventh on the WSU Top-10 for career all-purpose yards and now owns 3,316.

Jamal Morrow has served as the WSU game captain for the past 25 games and coach Leach revealed why in 2016. 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 18-7 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 19 times in those 25 games with Morrow at captain.

Washington State has continued to spread the ball each week with 10 players catching a pass in all three games this season. 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.

Former high school teammates at William T. Dwyer High School in Belle Glade, Fla., junior Tavares Martin Jr. and sophomore Isaiah Johnson-Mack came into 2017 looking to play a bigger part of the offense and both broke out last week against Oregon State. Martin Jr. erupted with 10 receptions and career-highs of 194 yards and three touchdowns, the first three touchdown game since River Cracraft caught three scores against California last season. Martin Jr. now owns 12 career touchdown passes and is tied with Johnson-Mack for the 14th-most receptions in the country (22). Johnson-Mack nearly matched Martin Jr., catching a pair of touchdown passes while catching a career-high nine passes. A week prior, Johnson-Mack caught eight passes for a career-high 81 yards in the win over Boise State.

Former high school teammates at Cathedral High School in Los Angeles, redshirt-freshman wideout Renard Bell and true freshman Jamire Calvin each reached a milestone during the week two win over Boise State. Bell made seven catches for a team-high 107 yards for his first career 100-yard game while Calvin caught a 17-yard touchdown that started the fourth-quarter comeback.

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. He opened 2017 with a six-yard touchdown catch against Montana State.

According the website, the 2016 Cougar offensive line was near the top of a couple categories. The 2017 ratings won't come out until week seven. Last year,  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.

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.

Each week, Washington State coaches give out the "Bone Award" to the offensive lineman who performs the best during the previous game. In week one, right guard B.J. Salmonson earned his first career "Bone Award" following his play in the win over Montana State. In the triple overtime win against Boise State, right tackle Cole Madison earned his first "Bone Award" of the season. Following the win over Oregon State, Madison earned his second straight "Bone Award" and the sixth of his career. The awards in 2017:
Montana State: B.J. Salmonson; Boise State: Cole Madison; Oregon State: Cole Madison

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.

The Cougar defense opened 2017 in a big way under third-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who has twice been named a Broyles Award Nominee (given to the nation's top assistant) in each of the past two seasons. WSU shut out Montana State in the week one win, recording the first Cougar shutout since 2013, holding MSU to 143 yards of total offense, the fewest yards allowed since 2004 (125 vs. Colorado), and surrendering just 28 yards passing, the fewest since 1994 (18 at Oregon State). WSU forced four turnovers and scored two touchdowns in the comeback win over Boise State before adding two more takeaways and another fumble return of a touchdown in the week three win over Oregon State. The Cougars "Speed D" features nine returning starters from a 2016 group that forced 23 turnovers and held opponents to 134.2 rushing yards per game, third-lowest in the Pac-12 Conference.

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, including 11 fumble recoveries and 12 interceptions. The WSU defense has started 2017 with seven takeaways in the first three games including four against Boise State, two that were returned for touchdowns. The Cougars added two more takeaways including a 40-yard fumble return for the Cougars third defense touchdown this season. Now in their third season under Grinch, the Cougars are 15-3 when forcing multiple turnovers in a game.

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).

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 opened 2017 with 2.5 tackles-for-loss including 1.5 sacks against Montana State and added three more TFL's in the win over Boise State. The Hawaii native enters the matchup against Nevada No. 14 in the country with a Pac-12-best 5.5 tackles-for-loss and as the Pac-12's active leader in career tackles-for-loss with 30.0 and second among active Pac-12 players with 14 career sacks.

Linebacker Peyton Pelluer was named the Pac-12 Conference Defensive Player of the Week after making a team-high 14 tackles and keyed a fourth-quarter comeback with his 36-yard interception return for a touchdown in the Cougars 47-44 triple overtime win over Boise State. Pelluer's touchdown cut the BSU lead to seven and WSU eventually tied it with 1:44 left in regulation before winning in triple overtime. It was the redshirt-senior's second career interception and his 14 stops were his eighth career double-digit tackle effort. Pelluer, a native of Sammamish, Wash., led a defense that forced four turnovers and scored two touchdowns (Robert Taylor 7-yard fumble return for TD) for the first time since 2013. Pelluer earned his first career player of the week honor and is the Cougars first defensive player of the week accolade since Shalom Luani earned the award in 2015 after his two-interception game against Oregon State.

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.

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 last season 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 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. Both Dotson and Pelluer produced big numbers in the week two win over Boise State as Pelluer made a team-high 14 tackles to go along with a game-changing 36-yard interception return for touchdown while Dotson made a career-high 10 stops. Dotson enters the week second on team with 22 stops while Pelluer is third with 21.

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. The Cougar defense opened 2017 with eight tackles-for-loss including three sacks, 1.5 from Mata'afa against Montana State. Against Boise State, Mata'afa tallied three TFL's, Oguayo added a sack and RUSH linebacker Frankie Luvu recorded 2.5 sacks, recovered a fumble and knocked BSU starter Brett Rypien out of the game with a sack. Luvu had entered the game with 1.5 career sacks. WSU added three more sacks last week to push the season total to 10 after making 19 last year.

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 Thompson opened 2017 with a team-high seven stops and his first career interception, added eight tackles against Boise State, made a team-best nine tackles against Oregon State and enters the week with a team-high 24 tackles.

Senior safety Rob Taylor has backed up his nickname "Run-it-back-Rob" with a couple touchdown returns for the Cougs. In his first season at WSU last year, the City College of San Francisco transfer earned Pac-12 Special Team Player of the Week after his 100-yard kickoff return in the win at Arizona State, WSU's first kickoff return for score since 2003. Taylor was at it again against Boise State, scooping up a fumble after a sack and scrambling seven yards for the Cougars first touchdown of the game.

Redshirt-senior kicker Erik Powell opened 2017 connecting from 40 yards in the win over Montana State and added two more against Boise State, connecting late in the first half from 20 yards out before coming through with a clutch 23-yarder in the second overtime. The Vancouver, Wash. native 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. With his makes last Saturday, Powell now owns 35 career field goals, passing Rian Lindell for the fifth-most makes in WSU history. Powell tallied 90 points last season and has averaged nearly 100 points the last two seasons. With one more 100-point season, the lefty will move into the top-3. Powell added tallied 10 points against Oregon State and now owns with 239 career points, fourth-most in WSU history. He also owns the third-best field goal percentage (68.6) in school history.

Each week, Cougar special teams coach Eric Mele selects a Special Forces Player of the Week who made the biggest impact. Following the week one win over Montana State, redshirt-freshman Dillon Sherman was impressive in his collegiate debut, appearing on three units, recording a tackle on kickoff and drawing a holding call. The week two winner was kicker Erik Powell who connected to clutch field goals, had a 54-yard punt, and two touchbacks on kickoffs. In last week's win over Oregon State, Gerard Wicks picked up the award after contributing on three units, recording two knockdowns on kick return and recovering a fumble on a botched snap on an OSU punt. The awards for 2017:
Montana State: Dillon Sherman; Boise State: Erik Powell; Oregon State: Gerard Wicks

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).

Washington State's season-opening five-game homestand is a first in program history. The only other time WSU opened the season with more than three-straight home games is 1907, when they opened with four.

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.

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.

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