Washington St.-Colorado St. Preview
When second-year Colorado State coach Jim McElwain got word his
team was heading to the New Mexico Bowl, he gathered them in an
auditorium to break the news. The ecstatic players broke out in
cheers and began high-fiving each other.
For Washington State, word spread about the Cougars’ bowl invite
on social media long before school officials could make a formal
announcement. Mike Leach, Washington State’s second-year coach,
said fans were just too excited and had been waiting a long time
for some good news.
The matchup between Colorado State (7-6) and Washington State
(6-6) in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday in Albuquerque will mark
the first meeting between the teams and comes as both are in the
midst of turning around their long-struggling programs. The Rams
haven’t been to a bowl game since 2008 and the Cougars haven’t seen
the postseason in a decade. The bowl matchup, both coaches said, is
a sign that things are changing.
”One of the accomplishments you want early is to get in a bowl
game and be part of that club,” McElwain told reporters at a news
conference in Albuquerque. ”There’s a certain aura that comes with
being a bowl team.”
McElwain, an offensive coordinator for Alabama during the
Crimson Tide’s BCS national championships in 2009 and 2011, said
the bowl appearance was an important stepping stone at rebuilding
the program because it will help with recruiting.
Leach said the Cougars are largely made up of freshmen and
sophomores, but his seniors have been through ”rough dry times”
and haven’t had the experience of being in a postseason game.
”They’ve never been in a bowl and (had) hoped they would,” Leach
said. ”Talking about it and actually doing it are two different
Colorado State features running back Kapri Bibbs, who leads the
nation with 28 rushing touchdowns and has run for 1,572 yards, and
quarterback Garrett Grayson, who ranks among the country’s top 20
in passing yards (3,327). The Rams are the only team in the nation
to boast a 3,000-yard passer and a 1,500-yard runner. In four games
this season, the Rams’ offense racked up 50 or more points – a
Meanwhile, the Cougars will have Leach’s signature spread
offense anchored by junior quarterback Connor Halliday. He ranks
fourth nationally in passing yards (4,187) and is tied for 13th
with 28 touchdown passes. That offense nearly upset Auburn in the
Cougars’ first game of the year in a heartbreaking 31-24 loss.
Auburn is playing in the BSC title game.
”We should have won that game,” Leach said.
Despite the 6-6 season, Leach said he was proud of the team,
especially after reaching a bowl game following a schedule that USA
Today called the toughest in the country. Four of Washington
State’s opponents appear in the top 16 of the latest BSC
Since this will be the first meeting between the two teams, both
coaches admit they know very little about each other except to
expect some high-powered offense. McElwain said his defense will
have to be prepared.
”I know they throw the heck out of it,” McElwain said. ”I
know (Leach) isn’t afraid to throw it and he’ll probably throw it
coming off the bus.”
Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at