PULLMAN, Wash. - Unbeaten Washington State has one more tune-up before opening Pac-12 Conference play at defending champion USC. But the Cougars and head coach Mike Leach knows they can't get caught looking ahead when they host FCS-power Eastern Washington on Saturday night.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network. LINE: None
The Eagles of the Big Sky Conference, ranked fifth in this week's FCS coaches poll after a 31-26 victory at No. 20 Northern Arizona, upset the Cougars 45-42 in their last trip to Martin Stadium in 2016. Quarterback Gabe Gubrud, an FCS All-American who accounted for 551 total yards and six touchdowns in that one in his first start at EWU, is back, although prized receiver Cooper Kupp, who caught 12 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns in the upset, has moved on to the NFL's Los Angeles Rams. Still, Eastern Washington leads the FCS in offensive yards per game (623.5) and yards per play (9.3) and figures to provide quite a challenge against a Washington State defense that ranks second in the FBS in yards allowed per game (157) and hasn't allowed a point in more than five quarters. "They're a confident team," Leach told the Spokane Spokesman-Review. "They've had success for a long time. They have some talented players. They've always had talented players. ... Eastern is a good team we have a lot of respect for, but we can only control ourselves."
ABOUT EASTERN WASHINGTON (2-0)
Gubrud, now a senior, finished 34-of-40 passing for 474 yards and five touchdowns and an interception in the 2016 upset of the Cougars and had 402 yards of total offense (322 passing and 80 rushing) in the win at Northern Arizona en route to Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week honors. He has 13 games with at least 400 yards of total offense and 18 games with at least 300 yards passing. Running back Sam McPherson has rushed for 346 yards and a touchdown so far while Nsimba Webster is Gubrud's top target with 17 catches for 388 yards and four TDs.
ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE (2-0)
Gardner Minshaw, a grad transfer from East Carolina, leads the Pac-12 with 733 passing yards and has thrown six scoring passes in two games since taking over for four-year starter Luke Falk, who set Pac-12 marks in passing yards, total offense, passing TDs, completions, attempts and total plays. But it's been the Cougars' defense, nicknamed the Cougar SpeedD, that has opened eyes in the first two games, holding San Jose State to only 109 yards in last week's 31-0 victory while tallying five sacks and eight tackles for loss. Sophomore free safety Skyler Thomas leads the team with 18 tackles while linebacker Dominick Silvels has two sacks and three tackles for loss.
1. Washington State held San Jose State to just nine net yards rushing on 23 attempts.
2. The Cougars rank second nationally in yards allowed per game (165.0) and third in yards per play (3.00).
3. Washington State junior James Williams, who led all FBS running backs with 71 receptions in 2017, is third in the Pac-12 in receptions (14).
PREDICTION: Washington State 34, Eastern Washington 20
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