Pac-12: Isiah Myers

Season wrap: Washington State

January, 15, 2014
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The Cougars reached a bowl game for the first time since 2003 despite the Pac-12 featuring more top-to-bottom depth than at any point in the past decade.

In coach Mike Leach's second season, WSU won as many conference games (four) as it did under his predecessor, Paul Wulff, in four seasons from 2008 to 2011.

That's what should be remembered, not the meltdown at the end of the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.

Moving forward, WSU has a lot to be excited about. All 10 players who had at least 25 catches this season will return next year. That's a lot of returning weapons for quarterback Connor Halliday in his senior season.

You can read our graded review of WSU here.

Offensive MVP: Halliday set the school single-season record passing record with 4,597 yards. He went to sleep three times as the Pac-12 single-season record holder, too, before Oregon State's Sean Mannion eclipsed his total in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl. Halliday's 34 touchdown passes tied Ryan Leaf for the single-season school record.

Defensive MVP: Safety Deone Bucannon led the Pac-12 with 109 tackles during the regular season and was the first WSU player since 2007 to receive first-team All-Pac-12 honors. The hard-hitting safety led WSU with five interceptions, a total that was tied for fourth-best in the conference.

Best moment: The game-winning touchdown pass from Halliday to Isiah Myers against Arizona. It would be easy to pick the victory at then-No. 25 USC, but that was early in the season and Halliday's pass to Myers delivered a victory in what basically amounted to a win-or-no-bowl situation. A week later, Arizona beat Oregon on the same field.

Worst moment: The final 2 minutes, 52 seconds of the New Mexico Bowl. The Cougars had a 45-30 lead before Colorado State scored 18 points in the game's final 172 seconds to pull off a remarkable comeback. For WSU, it will be remembered as a mind-boggling collapse made possible by a pair of fumbles and questionable clock management.

Player of the week: Pac-12

November, 18, 2013
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Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday didn’t have the best numbers this week. And he wasn’t mistake-free.

But he was clutch when it counted. With his performance in Washington State’s 24-17 road win over Arizona, the Cougars are on the verge of postseason play for the first time in more than a decade.

Halliday threw for 319 yards and two touchdowns with an interception in Washington State’s win in Tucson. With the score tied at 17-17 in the fourth quarter, he engineered a brilliant 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 25-yard touchdown to Isiah Myers. On that final drive, Halliday went 6-for-6, finding six different receivers for 74 yards and the score.

On the final touchdown, Halliday had to roll to his right before finding Myers at the 8-yard line. Some balance and a nifty spin from Myers took care of the remaining eight yards. Halliday completed 73.6 percent of his throws in an efficient 39 of 53 performance.

“It was a huge game by the offensive line,” Halliday said. “To be able to run the ball for more than 100 yards, and the sacks that we had were coverage sacks. They gave me all day to throw and it’s tough when Arizona is dropping eight, it’s going to take a little while for our guys to get open, so huge ups to the offensive line.”

Based on his line’s play, Halliday said the Cougars were confident their final drive would produce points.

“We got down the field on the last drive and missed the field goal but we moved the ball pretty well there and made big plays,” he said. “I had a feeling that we were going to be able to put something together, and the boys up front really helped out on that."

Washington State season preview

August, 6, 2013
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Today we begin rolling out our day-by-day snapshots of each Pac-12 team heading into the 2013 season. We start in reverse alphabetical order with the Washington State Cougars.

Washington State

Coach: Mike Leach (87-52, 3-9 at Washington State)

2012 record: 3-9 (1-8, Pac-12 North)

Key losses: DE Travis Long, WR Marquess Wilson, QB Jeff Tuel, RB Carl Winston

[+] EnlargeMike Leach
Jake Roth/US PresswireMike Leach is hoping to see more improvement in his second season at Washington State.
Key returnees: WR Gabe Marks, WR Brett Bartolone, QB Connor Halliday, S Deone Bucannon, DT Ioane Gauta.

Newcomer to watch: WR Vince Mayle (JC transfer, Sierra College) is a big, physical receiver at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds. Despite an already-deep receiving corps, Mayle's presence ups the competition in an offense that favors receivers.

Biggest games in 2013: Aug. 31 at Auburn: We'll see what kind of progress the team made in the offseason and who will be the quarterback -- at least for one week. Nov. 29 at Washington: Last year's Apple Cup, a thrilling come-from-behind win for the Cougars, re-ignited the rivalry after the Huskies had won three straight.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: The obvious question is who is going to be the quarterback -- Connor Halliday, Austin Apodaca or both? But it's the guys up front protecting the quarterback who are also cause for concern. Elliot Bosch is a steady anchor at center, and there is some depth across the line, if not uncertainty on who plays where. Last year the Cougars gave up more sacks per game than any team in the nation and were second to last nationally in interceptions thrown. A lot of that falls on the quarterbacks. But a lot also falls on the line. Improved line play should also boost the running game, which averaged just 29 yards per game (a bit misleading considering the total number of sacks allowed) and produced just six touchdowns on the ground.

Forecast: Expectations are a little more tempered heading into Year 2 of the Mike Leach era. This time last year, folks were talking postseason. And why not? Leach had never had a losing season as a head coach and had been to 10 straight bowl games. But it didn't work out that way, and people are starting to understand that it's going to take more than Leach being on the sidelines for this team to reach the postseason for the first time since 2003.

With that said, there is talent -- especially at wide receiver with Marks, Bartolone, Isiah Myers and a host of others. If the offensive line, coupled with more consistent quarterback play (presumably, for now, from Halliday), can reduce the sacks and buy more time, we could see the offense be even more explosive than last season when it averaged more than 330 yards per game in the air. The addition of former Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Yost to the coaching staff shouldn't go unrecognized, either.

While the defense yielded more than 33 points per game in 2012, the Cougars saw a major uptick in the pressure department in their first season running Mike Breske's 3-4 front. They jumped from 94th in sacks per game and 78th in tackles for a loss per game in 2011 to 11th and eighth, respectively, in 2012. They need to find a replacement for Long -- and it looks like Logan Mayes, once thought to be the "buck" linebacker in waiting, will focus his time specifically on defensive end. There is some experience in the secondary and Bucannon is a bona fide playmaker and one of the top safeties in a league heavy on safety talent.

It might take another season for the Cougars to really make a big push toward the postseason. But there should be significant signs of improvement as Leach's players come to understand what he demands of them and they continue to grow into the schemes. Last year 17 freshmen started regularly compared to just four seniors. That trial-by-fire experience should start to pay dividends.
Receiver is not as strong a position in the Pac-12 as it was last year, but it's still pretty darn good, with Belitnikof Award winner Marqise Lee back and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks being a potential All-American.

And if Arizona didn't lose Austin Hill to a knee injury this spring, three 1,000-yard receivers would be back.

So how do things stack up?

GREAT SHAPE

[+] EnlargeNelson Agholor
Jonathan Moore/Getty ImagesReceiver Nelson Agholor proved last season that he can be a deep threat for USC.
USC: Lee is the nation's best receiver. Sophomore Nelson Agholor averaged 17.9 yards per catch last year. Just like last year when Lee was paired with Robert Woods, this might become the best combo in the country, though, of course, Woods was far more proven than Agholor. The depth is questionable but, at least based on recruiting rankings, it is talented.

Oregon: While De'Anthony Thomas is officially a running back, you can't help but allow him to toss some fairy dust here. Further, Josh Huff seemed to take a step forward from being a pure athlete to a legit receiver last year, and up-and-comer Bralon Addison as well as Daryle Hawkins and Keanon Lowe are back. It's worth noting the top six pass-catchers overall are returning.

Washington: Kasen Williams is the headliner after catching 77 passes last year. He's big and fast. The next two leading wideouts, Jaydon Mickens and DiAndre Campbell, also are back. Like the Ducks, the Huskies' top six pass-catchers, which includes a TE and RB you might have heard of, are back. Washington and Oregon fans will delight in knowing that I switched these two at the last minute, when I decided you couldn't completely ignore Thomas as a receiver.

Washington State: While there's no Marquess Wilson among the returning guys, this is a deep crew: Brett Bartolone, Gabe Marks, Dominique Williams, Isiah Myers, Bobby Ratliff and Kristoff Williams caught between 53 and 22 passes last year. Phil Steele ranked the Cougars 28th in the nation at this position.

Oregon State: The Beavers cling to "great shape" only because the speedy Cooks could be headed for a huge season after he caught 67 passes for 1,151 yards -- 17.2 yards per catch -- last year. There are some depth questions, though Kevin Cummings and Richard Mullaney combined for 31 receptions last year and Obum Gwacham and Micah Hatfield are back.

GOOD SHAPE

UCLA: Shaq Evans caught 60 passes for 877 yards last year, but after him the leading returning receiver is Devin Fuller, who caught just 20 passes. Still, there's young talent here, topped by Devin Lucien, Jordan Payton and Kenny Walker.

California: Sure, Keenan Allen is gone, but there's lots of young talent that saw action last year. Chris Harper was second on the 2012 Bears with 41 catches, while speedy Bryce Treggs had 21. Darius Powe and Maurice Harris also saw action, while redshirt freshman Kenny Lawler is promising. This might turn out to be a "Great shape" crew -- if there's a QB getting them the ball consistently.

Colorado: Don't laugh -- the Buffaloes are solid at receiver, particularly with Paul Richardson back after missing 2012 with a knee injury. He's an All-Pac-12 type talent, and the top two receivers from 2012, Nelson Spruce and Tyler McCulloch, are also back. Further, converted running back D.D. Goodson is intriguing. Question for Buffs is QB, not WR.

Utah: The Utes two leading wideouts in 2012 are back. Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott combined for 69 catches last year. And they are probably better than folks think because the Utes' passing game problems started at QB, where true freshman Travis Wilson was taking his lumps most of the season. It hurts that projected starter Quinton Pedrosa was given the boot this summer for violating team rules.

Arizona: The Wildcats would have been in "Great shape" if Hill hadn't blown out his knee and Tyler Slavin hadn't left the program. The issue isn't experience: Five guys return with at least 20-catch seasons. But there's a decided lack of a go-to guy. The leading returning receiver, Dave Richards, caught just 29 passes last year and ranked fourth on the team.

WE'LL SEE

Stanford: Five of the top six receivers from 2012 are gone, though it's worth noting the top two didn't play receiver. While Ty Montgomery hinted at his potential in 2012, he only caught 26 passes for 213 yards with no TDs. After that, there are just names and potential based on strong spring performances: Devon Cajuste, Michael Rector, Kodi Whitfield and Kelsey Young.

Arizona State: None of the Sun Devils' top five pass catchers from 2012 are back playing receiver this fall. The position was decidedly questionable last year -- see the top three receivers being a tight end and a pair of running backs -- and it is even more so this year, in large part because it's the team's only obvious hole. Yet, great hope hangs on incoming players, most notably the touted Jaelen Strong.

You can see previous previews here:

Quarterback

Running back
The watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, presented annually to the nation's top receiver, was announced Tuesday morning. Here are the seven candidates from the Pac-12:
The most obvious omission is Washington's Kasen Williams, and here's a bet one of Washington State's receivers -- Gabe Marks? Dominique Williams? Isiah Myers? -- will get some consideration. It's also worth noting that Arizona's Austin Hill would have been on the list had he not blown out his knee during spring practices.


More than 8,000 fans turned out in Spokane, Wash., to see to see the Washington State Cougars Gray team score a late touchdown and 2-point conversion to top the Crimson squad 22-21. Jesse Brown connected with Gabe Marks late in the fourth quarter and then he found Theron West for the game-winning two-point score.

Neither offense was particularly sharp in the first half so head coach Mike Leach gave them a pep talk at halftime.

"I think some guys were afraid to go out and turn it loose," Leach said. "Performance anxiety, I guess, maybe they tried to make too much happen. We definitely had some of that. We definitely had too many dropped balls. We didn't get our work done in the first half so we're going to play a full second half."

The offenses came to life in the second half. Quarterback Connor Halliday completed 38 of 58 throws for 406 yards with three touchdowns -- but he also threw a pair of interceptions. Austin Apodaca was 27-of-45 for 279 yards with a touchdown.

Leach, never one to get too chatty about his quarterbacking hierarchy, called Halliday and Apodaca "pretty even."

"I thought other than turnovers, Connor played pretty decent in the second half," Leach said. "I thought Austin, when he settled in, played good. I thought he played nervous and frantic a little bit in the first half."

Marks caught a game-high 11 balls for 107 yards and pair of touchdowns in the victory. Kristoff Williams led the Crimson squad with seven catches for 136 yards and a touchdown. Isiah Myers and Bobby Ratliff also had receiving touchdowns for the Crimson team while Apodaca scored on the ground for the Gray squad.

"When we get a little tempo going and put a streak together, that was good," Leach said. "We need to make these streaks longer now."

Because of the split squad, the defense was limited to staying in base fronts. Leach said they could shift and twist, but there was no blitzing. The defenses combined for 10 "sacks" and safety Taylor Taliulu and linebacker Justin Sagote each had 11 tackles. Taliulu and Jared Byers also had interceptions.

The Cougars will wrap their spring session on Tuesday -- with more work ahead as they look to fall camp.

"This is going to continue," Leach said. "It's going to be heavy weight room and heavy running and they need to continue to work and develop their skills. We need to make more out of this time than the people we play. I think that's very important."

Big night for Allen as Cal tops Wazzu

October, 14, 2012
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The California Bears have themselves a winning streak.

Behind a huge game from standout wide receiver Keenan Allen, the Bears (3-4, 2-2) won their second consecutive game -- and their eighth straight over Washington State -- by downing the Cougars 31-17 in Pullman, Wash.

Allen caught 11 balls for 166 yards -- including a 69-yard touchdown to give the Bears a 7-0 lead -- to move up to No. 2 on Cal’s all-time reception list.

Quarterback Zach Maynard, who was coming off one of the best games of his career last week against UCLA, wasn’t quite as efficient this week. He did, however, complete 14 of 23 balls for 189 yards and a score with two interceptions. He also showed off his running ability, scrambling 10 times for 78 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown that stretched Cal’s lead to 21-3 early in the third quarter.

C.J. Anderson totaled 112 yards on 15 carries with a pair of scores as part of a 318-yard rushing night for Cal.

“I thought Zach made a lot of good reads and pulled it down for some positive yards,” Cal head coach Jeff Tedford told the Pac-12 Network after the game. “And the backs always run hard.”

For the Cougars (2-5, 0-4), who have now dropped four in a row, it was another inconsistent showing. Starting quarterback Connor Halliday was replaced by Jeff Tuel for the second week in a row after Halliday completed just 4 of 10 passes for 74 yards with two interceptions.

Tuel looked sharp at times, completing 30 of 53 balls for 320 yards with two touchdowns. Brett Bartolone hauled in both of Tuel’s touchdown passes. Isiah Myers led the Cougars -- who were without Marquess Wilson for the second half after he took a hard shot in the end zone -- with eight catches for 108 yards.

Early games: Colorado fizzles vs. Sac State

September, 8, 2012
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The Pac-12 should stop scheduling Sacramento State. And Colorado might want to rethink its ideas about FCS teams.

Sacramento State, which won at Oregon State in the 2011 opener, beat Colorado 30-28 with a 30-yard field goal as time expired.

Colorado, 0-2 after losing to Colorado State in the opener, is now 1-2 all-time against FCS teams. It lost to Montana State in 2006.

The Buffaloes didn't just lose, they got beaten. They jumped to a 14-0 lead, but the Hornets didn't back down. They outgained the Buffs 466 yards to 341. While Sac State did most of its damage through the air, it still outrushed Colorado 154 yards to 153.

But the biggest difference was at quarterback. Sophomore Garrett Safron threw for a career-best 312 yards on 25-of-37 passing for the Hornets. He also was 4-for-5 for 53 yards on the game-winning drive.

Colorado quarterback Jordan Webb was just 12 of 24 for 160 yards. In Webb's defense, it's clear the Buffs don't have much talent at receiver.

The lone bit of good news for Colorado was freshman fullback Christian Powell, who ran for 147 yards and three touchdowns.

Colorado was hoping to get its young team off to a fast start against a very soft early schedule. Now that the Buffs are 0-2 against that soft schedule, it's not easy to see where victories -- even a victory -- will come.

A notoriously bad team on the road, Colorado will be at Fresno State next weekend.

California 50, Southern Utah 31: California led just 20-17 in the third quarter, but the the Bears erupted in the fourth quarter to post an easy win. Quarterback Zach Maynard completed 17 of 23 passes for 229 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Running back Isi Sofele rushed for 104 yards on 19 carries, and wide receiver Keenan Allen had two touchdowns, one on a 69-yard punt return. It was the Bears' first victory inside newly renovated Memorial Stadium. A week after looking terrible in a loss to Nevada, the Bears piled up 518 yards, scoring 30 points in the fourth quarter. Still, it was hardly an impressive win. The Bears defense, expected to be strong, surrendered 371 yards. The Thunderbirds had just 209 yards in a 34-3 loss to Utah State the previous week. Cal is at Ohio State next weekend.

Washington State 24, Eastern Washington 20: Mike Leach has his first win coaching the Cougars, but his offense is still not clicking. Jeff Tuel threw a pair of touchdown passes to Isiah Myers, but the Cougs were outgained by the FCS Eagles 469 yards to 355. The Cougs' highlight, in fact, was a 60-yard field goal just before halftime from Andrew Furney. Tuel completed 20 of 26 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He may have cemented his hold on the starting job, as backup Connor Halliday completed just 5 of 11 for 76 yards with an interception. Washington State is at UNLV on Friday.

Weekend scrimmage recap

April, 9, 2012
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Catching you up on the spring scrimmages from over the weekend.

UTAH

There were highlights on both sides of the ball as the Utes ran 97 plays in front of more than 3,000 fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Projected starting quarterback Jordan Wynn completed 11 of 27 passes for 103 and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Dres Anderson caught seven balls for 96 yards, which included a 22-yard touchdown reception. A lot of the veterans on both sides sat out to yield time to the younger players. In the absence of running back John White IV, Harvey Langi rushed nine times for 42 yards -- earning praise from head coach Kyle Whittingham.

"He's starting to play the way that we envisioned he would when we recruited him," Whittingham said. "... He really did some good things."

The defense also had its share of highlights. They managed five sacks -- despite defensive lineman Star Lotulelei and linebacker Trevor Reilly sitting out. Joe Kruger tallied three sacks and Joape Pela notched a sack and a pair of tackles for a loss. Cornerback Keith McGill returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown.

"It wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination," said new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson. "But I thought we did a nice job moving the ball and guys showed up ready to play. Still got some work to do these last two weeks, but I think we've been doing a nice job so far."

Whittingham added that he thought the "flow" and "tempo" of the play calling was much better from the quarterbacks and Johnson.

WASHINGTON STATE

The defense recorded 12 sacks -- though a sack was granted when a defender could "grab" the quarterback. Still, defensive end Logan Mayes was able to get his hand on the quarterback four times and defensive tackle Xavier Cooper got there three times.

Quarterback Jeff Tuel settled in and completed 19 of 33 passes for 253 yards, two touchdowns and an interception -- one of four turnovers created during the 110-play session held in front of a couple of hundred fans at Martin Stadium.

"I feel real comfortable like I'm really starting to get a grasp of the plays," Tuel told reporters after the session. "That's really what it is. Once you get it mentally, you start playing physically and not thinking about things. That's one of the things coach [Mike] Leach harps on is being hesitant. You really have to let it go."

All six scores came through the air with Gino Simone catching seven balls for 101 yards and a score. Bobby Ratliff and Andrei Lintz also caught five balls apiece and touchdowns, followed by scores from Isiah Myers and Rahmel Dockery.

Quarterback Cody Clements also threw a pair of touchdowns on 8-of-12 passing with an interception and David Gilbertson completed 15 of 26 balls for 192 yards and a score.

USC

The banged-up Trojans held a non-tackling scrimmage on Saturday. Garry Paskwietz and Erik McKinney from WeAreSC break down what they saw from USC -- specifically running back Buck Allen getting his reps now that Tre Madden is gone for the year. Allen has been hampered by a hamstring injury.

"Today gave me confidence," Allen told USC's blog. "A teammate went down, so I knew I had to step up. I could have taken the day off, but I didn't."

Head coach Lane Kiffin talked about Madden's injury and said he thinks he'll come back as a "great player." He also said that Madden's switch from linebacker to running back is permanent.

"Extremely disappointing," Kiffin said of losing Madden. "Probably one of the most valuable guys on our team as of last week because we have a lot of great players, but sometimes we have guys that are similar to them. We don't have anybody like him, nor do we have anybody coming in really like him.

"To have a big guy that could run a 4.5 electronic, with his hands, it was really unique and it was a great experiment. Unfortunately he won't be here this year for us."

In other injury news, wide receiver De'Von Flournoy suffered a high ankle sprain.

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