By Will Martin
Saturday – December 21 – 1:00 PM
University Stadium – Albuquerque
Back in July of 2011 I had the opportunity to do an interview with Mike Leach. One time coach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders who in the minds of many got railroaded out of a job in Lubbock Texas. He was cordial, unapologetic, quick witted, opinionated, unafraid to act and think outside the box, and talked about anything. He was a joy to talk to!
I was one happy guy when he decided to go to Washington State to revive a Cougar program in 2012.
It just so happens Coach Leach and Washington State will open up the string of bowl games in New Mexico against the Rams of Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl.
I told you Mike Leach likes to pass. At 6-6 Washington State will pass early and often. The Cougars of 2013 were fourth in the nation in passing yards with 364.5 per game. No team attempted more passes. This will also be the Cougars first Bowl appearance since 2003.
The Colorado State Rams will be making their first postseason appearance since the 2006 season led by Jim McElwain with a 7-6 mark.
Connor Halliday will be quick to pass to anyone and everyone as evidenced by his 656 passes attempted and 412 completed for 28 touchdowns, 21 interceptions and 4,187 yards! His primary receivers will be sophomore receiver Gabe Marks (69 yards, 770 yards, six TDs). Junior tailback Marcus Mason (83 carries, 424 yards, two TDs) will run often but Washington State has rushed less than 20 times in half of its games.
Rams senior right defensive end Shaquil Barrett with 12 sacks in 2013 will try to be the equalizer to keep Conner Halliday at bay. Don’t count on it as only 19 sacks have been recorded on the Cougar QB.
The Rams feature the Mountain West’s leading rusher in sophomore tailback Kapri Bibbs (254 carries, 1,572 yards, 28 TDs). Junior QB Garrett Grayson (3,327 yards, 21 TDs) exceeded 300 yards passing five of CSU’s last nine games. Freshman wideout Rashard Higgins and senior TE Crockett Gilmore are key pieces to the passing game.
Prediction: Expect little defense and a lot of offense when the Cougars roll in New Mexico 45-10.