Cougs eye first 4-0 start since 2001 against Wolf Pack

DYLAN GREENE | Evergreen reporter

WSU football looks to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2001 when they take the field against University of Nevada on Saturday.

Coming off a 30-28 loss to Idaho State (2-1) last week, the Wolf Pack is still searching for its first victory of the season.

Freshman quarterback Kaymen Cureton will lead Nevada with hopes of an upset victory over the Cougars (3-0). Cureton made his first career start last week, completing 19 of 33 passes for 205 yards and three touchdowns.

First-year Nevada Head Coach Jay Norvell has implemented the same pass-heavy offense for which WSU is known. Despite running similar offenses, both head coaches agree their scoring game varies from one another.

“[WSU Head Coach Mike Leach] is gonna write 25 plays on a napkin and he’s gonna call them all up about four times,” Norvell said. “That’s the way he has always done it, but everybody has their own little twist.”

WSU has other connections to Nevada. Several members of the Cougar coaching staff spent time with the Wolf Pack during their careers, and former WSU walk-on wide receiver Kaleb Fossum comes to Pullman as a member of the Nevada football program.

Fossum transferred schools over the summer when the Wolf Pack offered him a scholarship. However, the junior is listed as questionable for this weekend’s game against his former team.

Robert Taylor, a senior defensive back, said he has stayed in touch with Fossum since he left the team and hopes the former WSU wideout will make it on the field Saturday.

“I reached out to him after I seen that he got a little nicked up, but other than that I’ve been talking to him,” Taylor said. “It’s great to see he is doing good, but on Saturday, I won’t know who he is until after the game.”
Leach admitted that the Cougs have many ties to their opponent this week.

“We’re pretty inbred with Nevada,” Leach said. “You can’t throw a dead cat without hitting someone from Nevada around here.”

WSU is coming off a 52-23 victory over Oregon State (1-3), in which the offense finally clicked. Redshirt senior quarterback Luke Falk threw for 396 yards and six touchdowns, placing him one behind Matt Leinart for the third-most career touchdown passes in Pac-12 history.

Despite his performance, Falk thinks his team’s offense can improve.

“I still don’t think we have reached our ceiling yet,” he said. “But it was good to put that many points up.”
Leach wasn’t overly impressed with the performance against the Beavers either. He said the team needs to play with more consistency.

“I think we’ve been pretty resilient, but we haven’t been as consistent as I would have liked,” Leach said. “We did some good things, but I think we’re still battling consistency on all three sides of the ball.”

Leach was pleased with the emergence of his outside receivers. Junior wide receiver Tavares Martin Jr. and sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Johnson-Mack combined for five touchdowns and 273 receiving yards.

“I figured it would happen eventually,” Leach said. “Now we’ve got to consistently keep it happening. I guess my thought is that it’s about time.”

Leach pointed to a chemistry that is still developing between the quarterback and receivers to explain the lack of passing production in the first few games.

“I think the quarterback unjustifiably didn’t throw it to them because he didn’t trust them,” Leach said. “It’s a lot like the field of dreams thing. If you build the field, they will come. I mean, if you throw the ball, they will probably catch it.”

When the Cougars take the field Saturday, they will be without redshirt senior linebacker Peyton Pelluer. He broke a bone in his foot during the Oregon State game and was in a walking boot at Tuesday’s practice. WSU will look to redshirt senior linebackers Nate DeRider and Isaac Dotson to help fill the void left by Pelluer.

Redshirt freshman linebackers Jahad Woods and Justus Rogers may also see increased playing time, inside linebacker’s coach Ken Wilson said. Either way the Cougars will have to move on without one of their defensive leaders.

Falk admitted the team struggled with getting off to a fast start in the first few games, but the team is focused on improving its offensive efficiency.

“We just gotta go out there and just start fast in terms of just putting the ball in play and doing what we are asked,” Falk said. “You know, if we can get in that rhythm in the second quarter, why can’t we get in that rhythm in the first quarter?”

Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday at Martin Stadium.