Late on the night of Sept. 21, after most of the college football fans around the country had gone to bed, the 19th-ranked Washington State Cougars were well on their way to predictable drubbing of visiting UCLA, holding a 32-point lead midway through the third quarter.
What has happened since has been remarkably unpredictable, and its put the Cougars on the brink of an unraveling.
On Saturday, the Cougars (3-2, 0-2 Pac-12) visit No. 18 Arizona State (4-1, 1-1) looking to stop the bleeding.
UCLA outscored the Cougars 50-14 down the stretch on Sept. 21 to pull off a 67-63 stunning upset. A week later, Wazzu went to Utah and got pounded by the then-No. 19 Utes, 38-13.
The Cougars, who host Colorado on Oct. 19, spent last week’s bye trying to pick up the pieces to avoid its first three-game losing streak since 2014. Several players delivered messages to the team.
“In our meeting after the loss, some guys that don’t normally get up spoke what they felt to the team and I thought there was some pretty powerful speeches,” offensive lineman Josh Watson said this week in The Spokesman Review. “And overall, I feel like there’s a lot of leaders showing up. A lot of new leaders and faces we haven’t really seen.”
Wazzu is hoping a renewed focus and emerging leadership can carry them into Tempe, where they’ll face a confident Sun Devils team coming off a bye after a 24-17 win at then-No. 15 California.
“I think it’s really important and it’s got to be actions, too,” head coach Mike Leach said of the players’ meeting during the bye. “If it’s just a bunch of hollow words, then you’ve just got a bunch of phony guys up there running their mouth. So there’s got to be something behind it and we’ll see how it goes.”
The Cougars also made a staff change during the off week. Outscored 88-27 in their last 79 minutes of game action, the Cougars parted ways with defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys last week.
Slovis back for Trojans
This has been a tough season for Southern California quarterbacks, but the Trojans got some good news this week.
Head coach Clay Helton said on Tuesday that freshman Kedon Slovis, who suffered a concussion on Sept. 20 against Utah, has been cleared and will start when the Trojans (3-2, 2-1) visit No. 9 Notre Dame (4-1) on Saturday in their annual non-conference rivalry.
USC lost sophomore starter JT Daniels to a season-ending knee injury in the opener, a 31-23 win against Fresno State on Aug. 31.
Slovis started the next three games, including a loss at BYU, before being against the Utes. Junior Matt Fink started in the Trojans’ 28-14 loss at Washington on Sept. 29.
Slovis has completed 77.9 percent of his passes, for 732 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions.
Fresh off an impressive 48-31 win at UCLA last week, Oregon State will host No. 15 Utah on Saturday. The Beavers feature receiver Isaiah Hodgins, who is second in the country in catches (8.6) and receiving yards (126.4) per game. OSU quarterback Jake Luton and Utah’s Tyler Huntley are the only two primary starters in the conference without an interception. … South division-leading Arizona (4-1, 2-0) will go for its fifth straight win when Washington (4-2, 1-2) visits Tucson on Saturday night. … Arizona State kicker Brandon Ruiz is transferring. The Sun Devils’ kicker the previous two years, when he went a combined 37-for-49 on field goals, has not played this year because of injury. Sophomore Christian Zendejas has filled in, going 10-for-13 on field goals.