WSU vs. OREGON STATE

WSU vs. OREGON STATE

The Daily Evergreen

Madison takes football seriously

JACOB MOORE | Evergreen sports editor

Luke Hollister | The Daily Evergreen

At six feet five inches and 314 pounds, redshirt senior offensive lineman Cole Madison has the potential to be intimidating to more than just his opponents. However, the easy-going, conversational student-athlete is anything but frightening.

Taking life seriously — but not too seriously — helps the Burien native stay facetious.

“Oh, not only do I like the man bun,” Madison said while grabbing his dark-blonde, curly hair, “I started the man bun.”

As a straight-shooter, Madison was comfortable talking about some of his favorite hobbies. The photogenic lineman kicked his legs up on a desk, leaned back in a chair and made himself at home in the Cougar Football Complex.

Teammates of Madison, like redshirt senior quarterback Luke Falk, have told stories of the lineman’s obsession with movies.

“[Madison] likes films that were made in Japan that nobody’s ever heard of,” Falk said. “He’s a nut. I sat through a thirty-minute movie with him and I’m like ‘I’m outta here, this sucks.’ ”

The film-loving criminal justice major did not dispute this. He acknowledged his respect for a “well-done” movie hidden in the depths of the film industry.

Madison enjoys a good burger occasionally, too. If money wasn’t an issue, Madison said, he would eat out at Fatburger. You’d have to drive about an hour-and-a-half from Pullman to find the nearest one.

Most of all, football is far more important to the decorated player than man buns and burgers. It was his father who got him involved in the sport, Madison said.

Mark Madison played basketball at Central Washington University just as his son played basketball at Kennedy High School, where he received a letter all four years.

Cole’s athleticism was not limited to one sport. Before joining the Cougars, Madison was also a four-year letter winner with his high school football team. Joining WSU allowed Madison to focus on football, and he has embraced his position on the offensive line.

Since redshirting his freshman year, Madison has won the “Bone Award” multiple times, meaning he came away as the lineman of the week against various Pac-12 teams, like Arizona, UCLA and California.

Ryan Pugh | Daily Evergreen file

Although it’s nice to be decorated and recognized for his individual efforts on the field, Madison said, receiving his awards were “more of a team thing.”

He may joke about bringing the man bun into style, and he certainly enjoys discussing hobbies and interests. But when it comes to football, his team and teammates are most important.

For example, former Cougar offensive lineman Riley Sorenson played alongside Madison. After Sorenson’s first bout of testicular cancer brought fear into everyone’s lives, Madison and others felt relieved to hear his cancer would not require chemotherapy, according to The Spokesman-Review.

“I found out, I think two days before camp,” Madison told The Spokesman-Revision. “Me and River [Cracraft] were at dinner with Nick Begg, and River texted Riley and Riley said, ‘The Wizard’s back. No chemo!’ … We were all damn near in tears.”

Cougar teammates are a huge part of Madison’s life, as he often hangs out with defensive athletes like redshirt senior linebacker Peyton Pelluer, recent Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week.

As he prepares for the third game of his final Cougar season, Madison looks forward to fighting for his team, his teammates and his passion.

“Oh, we’re gonna go,” Madison said of his goal for WSU football this year, “and we’re gonna keep going.”

Oregon State stands in the way of WSU

SAM HEIKELL | Evergreen reporter

After WSU’s (2-0) triple overtime comeback win last week, they will look to get their third straight win of the season against Oregon State (1-2) this Saturday.

The Beavers have struggled early, coming off a 48-14 defeat at home against Minnesota and lost to Colorado State in their season opener. In between those games, they were barely able to squeak by Portland State 35-32 for their only win so far this season.

Led by Head Coach Gary Andersen, the Beavers will be without their two starting cornerbacks, sophomore Xavier Crawford and junior Dwayne Williams. Crawford injured his shoulder last week against Minnesota, while Williams tore his ACL, which will keep him out for the remainder of the season.

The Cougars got their second win of the season against Boise State last Saturday, with a final score of 47-44 in triple overtime. WSU fell behind 21 points in the fourth quarter, but battled back to send the game into overtime.

Redshirt senior running back Jamal Morrow finished the game after carrying a 22-yard pass into a corner of the end zone.

“I think we finished the game and found a way to win, which I don’t think hardly any other teams in the country would have done,” Leach said. “But I don’t think we played well on offense and I think we’ve got to play better.”

Despite the win, Leach was not pleased with his offense for the better half of the game, as they didn’t score an offensive touchdown until the fourth quarter.

Leach felt his receivers, offensive line and running backs bared the brunt of the trouble.

In the third quarter, Leach took his redshirt senior quarterback, Luke Falk out of the game and put in redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyler Hilinski for one drive. Hilinski completed his first four passes before taking a 20-yard sack and then throwing an interception on the ensuing play.

“I just wanted Luke to see how easy it was out there,” Leach said. “And it was — until Tyler tried to do too much and threw an interception.”

Later in the fourth quarter, Falk went down and hit his head hard on the turf. He was out for the rest of the game for precautionary reasons. However, he will be ready to go Saturday against Oregon State.

“Luke is an elite quarterback,” Andersen said, “and he’s proven that for a long time.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Martin Stadium.

Culture, toughness on the line for WSU

BRADEN JOHNSON | Evergreen columnist

Mike Leach may have a future as an odds maker handicapping fights as soon as he calls it quits as a football coach.

His public lambasting of WSU’s offensive line on Monday indicated he’s brutally honest and able to let go of personal biases when setting the odds.

“Pick out whoever happens to be your favorite of our offensive lineman, whoever you think is the toughest,” Leach said, hypothesizing a “fight to the death” in the Cougars’ team room. “And now, whoever is the softest on that Boise State [defensive line], you bring him in here.

“All that’s going to be left of our offensive lineman is a grease spot in the end. Okay? That Boise State D-lineman will smoke our offensive lineman so bad. If you don’t believe me, just turn on that game the other night and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.”

I guess now might be a good time for the Cougars’ offense, which took 53 minutes to register its first offensive touchdown in last week’s triple overtime win over Boise State, to take on an Oregon State team ranked 115th out of 129 teams in total defense, according to FBS Football Stats. In three games played, the Beavers’ defense (1-2) surrendered 1,451 total yards of offense and is allowing 6.31 yards per play.

Don’t tell that to Leach, though. Despite Oregon State allowing 253 rushing yards in a 48-14 loss to Minnesota last week, the sixth-year head coach wasn’t ready to commit to a run-first approach on Saturday.

“I mean, we’re going to try and run it some,” he said. “If our offensive linemen get pounded again, we’ll probably run it a whole lot less. So we’ll see if they’re as tough as the Oregon State D-line.”

Tuck away any ideas of WSU having a quarterback controversy. As loose as redshirt sophomore Tyler Hilinski played in relief of third-year starter Luke Falk, it is not the most relevant issue surrounding Cougar football in week three — especially since Falk, who Leach said is starting Saturday, has torched the Beavers for 1,293 yards and 16 touchdowns in three starts.

Let’s focus more on where the culture and toughness of this program is at. As porous as OSU has looked on defense through three games, it’s going to come up Saturday. Leach sure did not seem to think it’s where it needs to be, and sensed similar themes at this time last year after the Cougars’ 0-2 start, in his comparison of the team’s atmosphere to that of a “junior college softball game.”

Coming off an improbable win, the Cougars are favored by three touchdowns over the Beavers. Many pundits have the Cougars pegged to win by a larger margin. But remember how WSU, riding a five-game winning streak entering last season’s matchup in Corvallis, was beaten to a pulp on the ground by OSU junior running back Ryan Nall en route to a 24-6 halftime deficit?

Not saying it’s going to happen again, considering Nall was held to 31 yards on the ground last week as teams have forced OSU’s first-year starting quarterback Jake Luton to beat them through the air. Still, last year’s game dramatizes WSU’s struggles in consistently playing as a tough-minded team.

“To get punked by that team and to play like that, that’s not how we wanted to finish that game,” WSU junior receiver Kyle Sweet said of last year’s contest. “So we just made a decision as a team to step up and do our jobs.”

The entirety of the WSU football team needs to have that mentality, and for more than just two quarters of play. Leach was complimentary of OSU and third-year head coach Gary Andersen, saying that the Beavers “are an emerging team and are lucky to have [Anderson],” but this is probably the most winnable Pac-12 game on the Cougars’ schedule.

One of Leach’s favorite slogans, “Respect everyone, fear no one,” is displayed all throughout the Cougar Football Complex. From the weight room to the locker room, it largely defines the identity the coaching staff desires this program to adopt. In the 2017 season, that starts with a complete performance against a Beavers’ team it matches up with better in all three phases.

“Oregon State is a little easier on the eyes in terms of shifts and motions and all that,” said redshirt senior linebacker Peyton Pelluer. “That’s going to be a little relieving, but they’ve got big backs and they’re a Pac-12 team. So we’ve got to treat the game as such.”

For the Cougars, Saturday’s game is about reaffirming its standing toward the top of the Pac-12 and meeting the expectations they have set for themselves as conference play begins. Specifically, that starts with “tackling low,” as Pelluer said, and leaving no doubt on the scoreboard for 60 minutes of play.

Could WSU get away with another performance like it had for the first three-and-a-half quarters of play against Boise State and still come out on top against OSU? Probably.

But that’s not the measuring stick being used in this game. Leach steadily acknowledged throughout practice that the play of his offensive line improved, as did the collective performance of other position groups.

We’ll see if this improvement correlates with toughness on Saturday, and if Leach and the odds makers are indeed correct in their assessments.

Experienced chef completely focused on WSU athletes

DYLAN GREENE | Evergreen reporter

Fuel. Train. Dominate. A three-word mantra that overlooks WSU athletes as they are served food inside the Gray W Legends Lounge.

Raul Vera, senior executive chef of WSU Athletics, runs the kitchen inside the lounge. He and his staff provide the student-athletes with the fuel they need to compete.

“We just want to make sure they are fueled and ready to dominate,” Vera said.

Vera and his staff serve lunch and dinner to the athletes Monday through Thursday each week. The rest of his time is spent either preparing pregame meals for the athletes or hosting and serving food to WSU alumni and donors on Cougar football gamedays.

Despite the time commitment, Vera, 57, said he enjoys interacting with the players every day.

“This is what fuels my fire, you know the young people,” Vera said. “They are very appreciative, and it’s good to see what our next generation is going to be like.”

Vera first started cooking when he was nine years old. His mother taught him how to cook, and Vera credits her for the cooking style he uses now.

At that young age, he told his mother that someday, he would own a restaurant. Sure enough in 1990, Vera and his wife opened a Mexican restaurant in La Grande, Oregon.

Senior Executive Chef Raul Vera preparing a tray of salmon for Thursday’s lunch in the Gary W. Legends Lounge.
KEISHA BROKAW | The Daily Evergreen

The restaurant served healthy, authentic Mexican food with fresh ingredients from farms in the area, he said.

“We were the first ones to come out with a healthy concept,” he said.

After eight years, the chef and his wife moved the restaurant to Bellingham. They then decided to sell the business so they could spend more time with their three boys.

In Bellingham, Vera got hired as a lead dinner cook at Western Washington University. Within a year, he worked his way up to Executive Chef.

Oregon State University noticed and hired Vera as their own Executive Chef in 2005. He was eventually promoted to Culinary Director of the Athletic Program at OSU.

Vera worked in the Beavers’ program for 10 years before his contract ended. He essentially became a free agent in the Pac-12 market.

Not wanting to leave what he was doing, Vera accepted a job at WSU to continue working with student-athletes. He had job offers from other universities, but Pullman was at the top of his list.

“It wasn’t in desperation I came here, it wasn’t a second choice, this was my first choice,” he said. “I had other opportunities that I could have taken, but this is where God brought me.”

Now, Vera serves the athletes at WSU, making sure they are properly fueled for gameday.

A pregame meal for the athletes usually consists of prime rib, shrimp, lasagna, chicken breast, mashed potatoes, vegetables and dinner rolls, Vera said.

Dessert is also served during pregame meals, but Vera said this is the only time that the athletes get to enjoy a slice of red velvet cake or cheesecake.

“The rest of the time we try to not influence them with any kind of sugar in their bodies because it dehydrates them pretty quickly,” he said.

Special dietary meals, such as vegan and vegetarian options, for athletes are prepared, Vera said.

Vera makes sure each meal fits the diets of athletes and takes responsibility for knowing what they are looking for in the food they eat.

“I took to heart what they needed because it’s a lifestyle that they want to do — to eat that way,” he said.

Sometimes, Vera even works with the nutritionist and team strength coaches to prepare specific meals that can help an athlete lose, gain or maintain weight.

“We have to get them to their ‘playing’ weight — that’s where they excel at their best,” Vera said. “That’s going to protect them from injury. They are going to be able to get through the competition without getting tired, dehydrated or anything like that.”

Perusing this career path was based on Vera’s love for sports growing up. He and his wife have talked about opening another restaurant sometime in the future, but for now, Vera’s focus is on WSU athletes.

“I was born to do this,” he said. “This is something I would never give up. As long as I can keep doing it, this is what I want to do.”

Gleason receives Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus Award

JACOB MOORE | Evergreen sports editor 

Cougar alumnus and former American football player Steve Gleason was presented with the Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus Award last month.

Once Gleason was given the chance to speak, the crowd welcomed him with an extensive applause. He immediately had those in attendance laughing.

“I’ll have to admit, until just a few weeks ago, I thought regents was a cafeteria,” he said through his technology on Aug. 10.

Keeping his speech short, Gleason ended by thanking family and friends, like former Cougar football head coach Mike Price. He specifically remembered one thing, from when he played for Price, which sums up what he believes being a Cougar is all about.

“I’m interested in what you can do for other people that can’t do anything for you in return,” Gleason said.

Gleason was a four-year letter winner for the WSU baseball and football teams.

More famously, Gleason is known for his documented battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), informally known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He started the Team Gleason foundation with the help of his friends and family, which has benefited many by raising public awareness and money for treatments.

Students in WSU’s sport management program often create a fundraiser or silent auction in their event management class to generate funds for Team Gleason each year.

One speaker said that while most people dream about doing something, Gleason just does it. He reiterated the point that Gleason is a game-changer on and off the field.

Top-of-the-line technology has helped Gleason communicate his message that there will be, “no white flags.” In this, Gleason’s determination has been an inspiration to many.

Due to the viral Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014, Team Gleason raised nearly $1 million, according to its website. In over a year since the start of the challenge, Team Gleason donated over $1.8 million worth of technology and equipment. However, the foundation ultimately hopes a cure will be found.

The regents award one alumnus or alumna each year for distinguished work that touches the world. They must examine a lengthy list of candidates and make the tough decision of choosing one. Some past recipients include astronaut John Fabian and broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow.

By the end of the award ceremony, the entire crowd was standing and cheering the WSU fight song in honor of Gleason.

Defense leads volleyball to 8-1 start

JACKSON GARDNER | Evergreen Reporter

The WSU volleyball team’s form has aided their 8-1 record in nonconference play. This weekend, they look to keep it rolling at the Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Invitational in Springfield, Missouri.

It is no secret that September has treated the Cougars well so far. WSU swept all of their opponents this month, and now share a spot at the top of the Pac-12 standings.

Head Coach Jen Greeny and her coaching staff have developed their team into quite the defensive-savvy club. They lead the NCAA in blocks per set and have the lowest opponent hitting percentage in the Pac-12.

The play of redshirt sophomore middle blocker Jocelyn Urias has turned heads early in the season. She emerged as the Pac-12’s blocks-per-set leader with 1.77 — good for the third best average in the NCAA.

Even Urias is slightly surprised by her form so far this season. After spending last summer playing with the Mexican national team, she felt her fitness was not on par with her teammates’ physique.

“All of my teammates were working out really hard while I was just playing, and not working on my cardio,” Urias said. “I was not expecting to play this well. But hey, I’ll take it.”

With a successful start to the 2017 season and a 2016 NCAA championship tournament appearance to their name, the Cougars have begun to make national noise.

WSU opened the season four spots out of the AVCA top-25 coaches’ poll and the program is still hovering around the same mark. In the Sept. 11 AVCA coaches poll, the Cougars tallied 25 votes, tying them with the University of Illinois at 29th overall.

The Wynn Invitational begins at 8:05 a.m. PST on Friday with the Cougs squaring up against Tennessee State University (4-6). Later in the day, the Cougars will take on the host team, Missouri State University (6-3), who will be the Cougars’ biggest competition, Greeny said.

Greeny, along with junior outside hitter McKenna Woodford and senior opposite Casey Schoenlein, will be reunited with their fellow collegiate U.S. national team selection Lily Johnson, MSU’s senior outside hitter.

All three played under Greeny for the Collegiate U.S. National Team Europe Tour last summer in Italy and Croatia.

WSU will wrap up the tournament at 9:30 a.m. PST on Saturday with a match against University of Tennessee, Chattanooga (7-4). All of the matches will be broadcasted locally on KQQQ-1150 AM radio. The radio broadcast will also be available on the WSU Athletics website.

Mata’afa: Short on words, bold on plays

JACOB MOORE | Evergreen sports editor

Let’s say the Cougs are having trouble. They lose one — maybe two games and the team atmosphere is poor, like it was at the start of last season. Redshirt junior defensive line Hercules Mata’afa isn’t the type of guy to offer an inspirational speech to boost team spirit.

For him, actions speak louder than words.

“I’m not very outspoken when it comes to all that,” Mata’afa said. “When I’m out on the field, I just like to play. So hopefully, my playing will get other people around me to play better.”

One of Mata’afa’s greatest memories happened in the second half of last year’s game against Oregon.

The play clock ticked down with over seven minutes left in the third quarter. Mata’afa fought his way through the offensive line, sacking then-quarterback Dakota Prukop. Cougar fans threw their hands up in glee as the referees did the same to symbolize a safety.

“When I got it, I heard everybody chanting my name, ‘Hercules,’ right after the play was made,” he said. “So, that was probably one of the biggest moments in my career.”

Mata’afa grew up with a lot of kids in the house. When you come from an athletic family with six siblings, it’s not uncommon to see a little roughhousing, he said. And when your first name is Hercules, it’s almost expected.

The self-described goofy and unfiltered athlete graduated from Lahainaluna High School in Lahaina, Hawaii, playing football, as he said, “the way it’s supposed to be played.”

Competing with a WSU jersey is no different for Mata’afa. His technique, his game-day preparations, his dreams — almost none of that has changed.

Before a game, the sociology major likes to sit alone and listen to reggae music. His pre-game playlist includes Bob Marley, J Boog and Fiji.

“I’m from the islands,” he said, “so that’s popular music back where I’m from.”

On his days off from football, the 6-foot-2-inch, 252-pound athlete spends his time simply relaxing.

“Sometimes, our body gets put to work so much,” Mata’afa said. “Getting that time off is just chill. You get to get your rest, let your body rest.”

Fans should not be surprised to see the athlete in the ice cream aisle at Walmart.

“I love that ice cream, man,” he said. “So yeah, a whole gallon. I usually go to Walmart, buy like three Ben and Jerry’s half-pints. Can’t beat that.”

As for his dreams, Mata’afa — like many football players — wants to compete in the NFL. He isn’t picky about which franchise, though. If he gets drafted, he’ll go wherever the opportunity opens up.

Coaching fits somewhere in that aspiration. Regardless of when, Mata’afa wants to eventually become a leader on the sideline like the leader he is on the scrimmage line.

“Then after that, I hope to give back to my community,” he said. “Probably coach back home and tell my story to the younger generation.”

Until then, the player is focusing on the now. The defensive line’s goal is simple — he wants to help WSU finish on top of all Pac-12 teams this season.

“We just need to take it one game at a time,” Mata’afa said. “I want that Pac-12 championship. So, we need to get a ring for that.”

Cougars eyeing first 2-0 start since 2011

SAM HEIKELL | Evergreen reporter

Coming off their first season-opening victory in nearly six years, WSU football looks to get another win, this time against Boise State on Saturday.

The Broncos prevailed in this matchup last season, inching by the Cougars 31-28. In a game where WSU battled to the end, Head Coach Mike Leach questioned the toughness of his team.

“I didn’t think we executed well [last year], I thought we were slow and I thought we were tentative,” Leach said. “But of course, none of that counts for this year so we’re going to worry about this one.”

The Cougars dominated Montana State 31-0, starting their five-game home stand the way they wanted to. Holding the Bobcats to only 143 yards from scrimmage, the defense earned their first shutout since 2013.

“I’m very proud of our defense that they had a shutout,” Leach said. “Shutouts are hard no matter who you play, when or where.”

YULING LIU | The Daily Evergreen
Redshirt sophomore running back James Williams tries to avoid being tackled by three Bobcat defenders. Williams gained 45 yards in the victory.

Along with the win came a milestone for redshirt senior quarterback Luke Falk, as he became WSU’s all-time passing touchdown leader with 92.

“I think [the record] is a cool team thing,” Falk said after the game, “because it’s a real team gig and I thought everyone tonight did a great job.”

Falk was on target Saturday, completing his first 20 passing attempts. He tallied 311 yards and three touchdowns on the night.

“I know that Luke has continued to progress,” Boise State Head Coach Bryan Harsin said. “That offense is potent and can move the ball down the field.”

In Boise State’s first game of the season, they beat Troy 24-13 in a game where their defense and special teams carried the load. In the first quarter, redshirt freshman quarterback Avery Williams returned an 81-yard punt return for his first touchdown in college football.

On the offensive side, the Broncos weren’t as sharp as they’d like to be. With a young offensive line and a two-quarterback combo, their offense struggled to move the ball at times.

“We have some inexperience on the O-line,” Harsin said. “We need to be faster and we need to be better. These guys need to take what they learned last game, and apply it to this game, [or else] it’ll be hard and we’ll get hit.”

Saturday’s game will be airing on ESPN, and, like Montana State last week, the Broncos are preparing for a packed house at Martin Stadium.

“We’re going to be in a stadium with a great crowd and there’s going to be an atmosphere that we’re going to have to deal with,” Harsin said. “We are going to go in and play a good football team.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Martin Stadium.

Rypien’s homecoming squarely on his shoulders

BRADEN JOHNSON | Evergreen columnist

One can argue that Boise State junior Brett Rypien is in an unenviable position for a quarterback entering Saturday’s matchup with WSU.

Making his return to Eastern Washington, Rypien, a native of Spokane and the nephew of former WSU and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Mark Rypien, is tasked with piecing together a Broncos’ offense that saw him sacked four times and struggled to put away Troy University on Saturday, scoring just 24 points in the win.

Oh, and there’s the fact that Rypien, a two-year starter, did not play in the fourth quarter of the game, as BSU head coach Bryan Harsin inserted senior transfer and read option threat Montell Cozart to “spark the offense.” Harsin said there is no quarterback controversy and Cozart was expected to play.

“In this game, it was the plan to play [Montell] all along,” he said. “Each week is different. Every single opponent is a little bit different.”

However, there’s a colloquial wisdom that if you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback. No matter how you spin it, that’s not good for Rypien’s psyche as he prepares to face an aggressive WSU front seven in a hostile environment that recorded three-and-a-half sacks against Montana State on Saturday.

“It depends what you’re trying to do,” WSU head coach Mike Leach said of playing two quarterbacks. “I probably wouldn’t. I always worry it makes the team disjointed.”

On the flipside, despite Harsin’s sentiment that there are areas Rypien needs to improve on as a quarterback, the Shadle Park High School graduate is still the biggest reason the Broncos, eight-and-a-half-point betting underdogs, can knock off the Cougars for the second time in as many years.

With a cannon for an arm, Rypien threw for 3,646 yards last season and can test a WSU secondary that saw just 12 pass attempts from Montana State quarterback Chris Murray on Saturday.

In the Broncos’ 31-28 win over WSU last season, Rypien threw for 299 yards and connected with then-senior wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck for a 47-yard touchdown pass over the top of the Cougars’ defensive backs in the third quarter to put the Broncos up 24-7 and essentially seal the win.

Regardless of week-one issues with a young offensive line and the fact that Sperbeck and former running back Jeremy McNichols, who gashed the Cougars’ front seven for 126 yards and two scores last year, have since departed for the NFL, Rypien has been in this environment before. Also, with the way WSU bottled up Murray, a similar read option quarterback to Cozart, Boise State’s best chance to score is via the air.

After the loss last season, Leach went on record in criticizing the overall toughness of his program. WSU committed 10 penalties in the game and showed marginal improvement from its week-one loss to Eastern Washington.

Building off last week’s win over Montana State starts with pressuring Rypien in a similar fashion as the front seven did with Murray.

It’s certainly a unique opportunity for Rypien — a chance to reestablish himself as the face of Boise State football, settle whatever quarterback conundrum there may be and spring an upset in front of his uncle, whom Leach “hopes will be wearing crimson.” With that, though, comes perhaps Rypien’s greatest test as a signal caller and leader.

Harsin said he has not yet talked to Rypien about the magnitude of playing in a homecoming game of sorts.

“We just finished our last game,” he said. “We’re correcting a lot of things from that one. There’s a personal side of it to it. The focus is how we get him better and how we’re doing. We had that conversation last year playing against Washington State. Brett’s mature, he’s played in this environment before, and I’m sure we’ll talk about it before the game.”

As Harsin alluded to, the Broncos have a host of issues offensively, ranging from youth and inexperience to molding a new cast of players together. Rypien is the figure who can bring the bunch together.

BSU faces a WSU team that saw redshirt senior quarterback Luke Falk rattling off a string of 20 consecutive completed passes in its win over the Bobcats, redshirt sophomore James Williams setting a program record for most single game receiving yards by a running back (138) and a defense that allowed just five completed passes. The tables have certainly turned from where they were a year ago for Boise State.

Yet, one thing remains constant – the rematch will be decided by quarterback play. The Air Raid thrives as Falk does, and with better protection from his offensive line, Rypien has the arm to stretch the WSU secondary deep.

There’s no doubt Rypien will hear it from the WSU faithful when Pullman Mayor and public address announcer Glenn Johnson announces his name. That comes with the territory of returning home alongside somewhat of a rival team.

WSU has all the intangibles in place to spoil Rypien’s homecoming. The nephew of a Cougar legend, however, is the one person who can make this game interesting and save it.

Soccer trending in right direction, prepares for CSUN

RYAN BLAKE | Evergreen reporter

 

WSU’s soccer team (3-1-1) continues their home field advantage Friday as they take on California State University, Northridge (2-0-4).

The Cougars won both of their games in the Cougar Classic last weekend, including a defense-filled 1-0 win over No. 14 Nebraska. The team has yet to allow a goal at home this season, outscoring their opponents 7-0. They’ve also gone undefeated in Pullman.

The Pac-12 named junior defender Maddy Haro the Defensive Player of the Week for her two assists and 180 minutes of shutout soccer during the Cougar Classic Tournament.

After beginning the year with just three goals in four games, WSU exploded for five against Georgia Southern on Sunday. WSU Head Coach Todd Shulenberger was not fazed by the scoring outburst.

“It’s not a position change, it’s not a formation change, it’s a product of us working, continuing to get better and things just starting to show,” Shulenberger said.

The Matadors are undefeated coming into Pullman, though they have only won two games. CSUN has tied twice as many games than they’ve won. Five of their last six games have gone into overtime, including a 1-1 tie in their season opener against No. 24 Long Beach State and a scoreless draw at No. 16 Colorado.

“This Northridge team is for real,” Shulenberger said. “They’re going to bring it, but I know we’ll be ready too, and we’re going to bring it.”

Northridge is the third straight team the Cougars will face at home. The game is scheduled to start 7 p.m. Friday at the Lower Soccer Field.