By Jacob Thorpe The Spokesman-Review
PULLMAN — The 52-24 loss to Oregon State on Saturday illustrated that the rebuilding process is far from over for the Washington State football team.
The Cougars won’t have time to commiserate. Next up is No. 2 Oregon.
Entering the fourth quarter the Cougars were tied with the Beavers before giving up 28 straight points. Center Elliott Bosch says the team has already put the meltdown behind it.
“Yeah, definitely,” Bosch said. “I think everyone believes in what we’re doing, has bought in and believes in ourselves as a team. Yeah we made some mistakes and we don’t like the outcome but we know we have to put it behind us and we have a big game this week to look forward to.”
That improvement has already manifested itself this season. Last year the Cougars lost three straight after a 51-26 loss to Oregon in Seattle. This year, after getting blasted, 55-17, against Stanford, WSU came back to beat the Golden Bears 44-22.
Now the challenge will be to replicate that resilience against an undefeated Oregon team.
“We just have to keep playing, it’s as simple as that,” head coach Mike Leach said. “There’s no magic formula.”
Still, whether or not the Cougars improve will rest largely on the shoulders of inconsistent quarterback Connor Halliday. After a virtuoso performance against Cal that saw the quarterback pile up 521-yards through the air, Halliday threw three fourth-quarter interceptions on Saturday.
That inconsistency has haunted the career of a quarterback who is third in the country is passing yards, but leads the nation in interceptions.
“It’s apparent that he can play better and I thought he played really well for three quarters,” said Leach.
While the team as a whole took a step back against the Beavers, WSU’s wide receivers continued to show improvement.
Vince Mayle, in particular, is turning into a reliable target for Halliday.
“I think Vince, the last couple games, has emerged as a really explosive player and I think he continues to get better,” Leach said. “And he’s got a physical quality to what he does.”
Entering the Cal game, Mayle had two touchdowns in his WSU career. He matched that total against the Golden Bears, and tacked on another against OSU on Saturday. One of his touchdowns against Cal was a 71-yard sprint to the end zone. Against the Beavers, Mayle used his 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame to fight for a jump ball.
At the H-receiver position, Rickey Galvin is making a statement. Leach said that the game against Cal was the best he’s seen this year from Galvin, who entered the program as a running back. He followed that up with four receptions for 39 yards against the Beavers.
“I thought Rickey played pretty good last week,” Leach said. “I think we’ve got to improve, no question. We’ve got to get better there.”