SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) Washington State is coming off a big upset victory at Oregon, but now faces the tricky task of playing at home against Oregon State on Saturday.
There has been no home-field advantage for the Cougars the past few years. They haven’t beaten a Pac-12 opponent in Martin Stadium since November 2013. They lost at home to FCS Portland State in this year’s season opener.
They are much more dangerous on the road, having already won at Rutgers and Oregon this year.
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”I don’t know what the situation is with us playing really, really well on the road, rather than at home,” wide receiver Gabe Marks said. ”But I’d like to change that because we do play at home sometimes.”
Washington State (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) is 2-1 on the road this season, with their lone loss coming by a touchdown at No. 23 California. Their lone home win was a struggle against hapless Wyoming.
Oregon State (2-3, 0-2) has its own woes, losing 44-7 at Arizona last weekend.
Washington State linebacker Peyton Pelluer noted the Cougars this season seem to be playing at the level of their opponent, which killed them in the loss to Portland State.
”We’ve got to go into each game focusing on us,” Pelluer said. ”We’ve got to play at our level.”
Washington State’s pass-happy Air Raid offense is pretty reliable. Quarterback Luke Falk had a huge game against Oregon, throwing for 505 yards and five touchdowns without an interception, and rushing for another score in overtime. He leads the league in passing at 396 yards per game.
The difference from last year’s 3-9 campaign appears to be better play by the defense. The Cougars are among the league leaders in sacks and tackles-for-loss.
Oregon State, under new coach Gary Andersen, is struggling as expected this season. They are led by freshman quarterback Seth Collins, who can run as well as throw. He averages 72 rushing yards per game to rank among the top 10 rushers in the Pac-12.
Andersen was coach at Utah State when Falk was growing up in Logan, and knew the future WSU quarterback well.
”He came over to our house a lot” to play with Andersen’s sons, Andersen said. ”I’m proud of that young man and what he’s done.”
But Andersen is focused on getting his team turned around from the beating they took at Arizona.
The Beavers need to execute better, especially on fundamentals, Andersen said.
”We’re not doing very many of them well right now,” he said.
A key is finding a consistent running attack behind Collins, he said.
”We want to be a spread offense that can run the ball effectively,” Andersen said.
The Beavers don’t figure to be overwhelmed by WSU’s pass attack. They have the Pac-12’s top-ranked pass defense, allowing an average of 177 yards a game.
Some things to watch in Saturday’s game:
DIRTY QB: WSU receiver Gabe Marks feels that too many quarterbacks are coddled and over-hyped as the best players on the field. But he doesn’t feel that way about Falk, who he said was physical and liked to ”get dirty.”
CENTURY MARK: WSU coach Mike Leach has a career record of 99-70 at Texas Tech and with the Cougars, and is seeking his 100th career win.
THE SERIES: This is the 100th game in the series, which Washington State leads 49-47-3. But the Cougars have lost three straight to the Beavers in Pullman and also lost to them during a 2011 ”home” game in Seattle.
CARDIAC COUGARS: Four of WSU’s five games have been decided by a touchdown or less, with two victories coming in the closing seconds.
HONORS: WSU’S Marks has been added to the 2015 Biletnikoff Award Watch List, which recognizes the outstanding receiver in college football. Marks joins teammate River Cracraft on the list. Meanwhile, quarterback Falk has been added to the Manning Award Watch List, given to the top quarterback in the country. Falk is one of five Pac-12 quarterbacks included on the list of 40 quarterbacks.