Washington State is coming off a loss against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent, which Boise State knows makes the Cougars even more dangerous entering Saturday’s home opener at Albertsons Stadium.
The Cougars lost their season opener to the Big Sky’s Eastern Washington, a year after losing their first game of the year to Portland State, also from the Big Sky.
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“Oh yeah, it’s a Pac-12 opponent, they lost to Portland State last year and ended up having one of the better seasons they’ve had under coach (Mike) Leach,” senior linebacker Tanner Vallejo said. “Eastern’s a great team too. They could probably play at this level and compete every week. We’re not taking that game lightly or this team lightly at all.”
Last season, Washington State won nine of its last 12 games after that loss to an FCS school.
“We’re not letting one game define us,” linebacker Isaac Dotson said Monday.
It’s a familiar situation, and the Cougars said they aren’t thinking much about the similarities to 2015, though they picked up their first win after the Portland State loss on the road, at Rutgers.
“We have been (through it) before, but it’s a new year, it’s a new team, everything last year doesn’t count now, so we have to grind and win some football games,” quarterback Luke Falk said.
Washington State’s players stressed they’re focusing on Boise State, but it isn’t necessarily easy to move past a disappointing start to the season. The Cougars have dropped five straight season openers. Running back Jamal Morrow said “you spend almost three-quarters of the year training for the first game of the season, and to come out and take a (loss) like that is kind of disappointing.”
But there is still a comfort for the Cougars in knowing it’s just one game, and there are plenty ahead.
“Teams improve the most the first three games ... they might have a great result, but there’s no one in the country that plays a great first game,” Washington State coach Mike Leach said.
Even for Boise State, which opened with a 45-10 win at Louisiana, there were things to fix. Defensive end Sam McCaskill said there were some missed assignments on defense, coach Bryan Harsin said some special teams aspects could be shored up, while the offense had some, too. Sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien fumbled when he was sacked in the second quarter, but offensive tackle Archie Lewis recovered. Receiver Cedrick Wilson lost the handle on the ball at the goal line on a 42-yard touchdown, though it was ruled it happened after scoring, he still had to dive on it to recover.
“There were definitely some good learning moments in that game,” Rypien said. “Me fumbling ... that could come back and bite us in a closer game.”
Leach said Monday he expects safety Shalom Luani to play Saturday against the Broncos. Luani was arrested Aug. 24 and charged with felony assault after allegedly broke a student’s nose in a fight at a Domino’s Pizza. He did not play against Eastern Washington.
“... the facts that I know, it’s not near what’s been publicized, and I’m very disappointed that the court of public opinion has been tainted and contaminated the fashion it has,” Leach said.
Luani, a senior safety, had 90 tackles and a team-high four interceptions last season. He played soccer on American Samoa’s national team, scoring two goals in the team’s first-ever FIFA-sanctioned win in 2011.
A few highlights from Saturday’s win at Louisiana, courtesy Boise State: