Cougs, Buffs heading in different directions

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
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Washington State and Colorado, which will meet on Saturday, sit at the bottom of the Pac-12 power rankings at 11 and 12, respectively. But the drop-off from 11 to 12 appears to be fairly steep.

Both teams suffered Week 1 losses to FBS teams, Washington State to BYU and Colorado to Colorado State, but the Cougars have been able to bounce back and string together a couple of victories. Colorado, however, hasn't yet found the right strings to pull.

Still, these teams might have more in common than you'd think.

[+] EnlargeJeff Tuel
Jake Roth/US PresswireJeff Tuel and the Cougars are looking for a third-straight win against the Buffs on Saturday.
"I think we're similar teams from the standpoint of we don't quite have a tent over our circus right now," said Washington State coach Mike Leach.

Both teams will be playing a ton of youngsters on Saturday and both have questions at quarterback.

The Buffs used three -- Jordan Webb, Connor Wood and Nick Hirschman -- in their 69-14 loss to Fresno State last week. Washington State starter Jeff Tuel sat out last week with a knee injury and Connor Halliday took the opportunity to throw four touchdowns on 26 of 45 passing for 378 yards in a win over UNLV. But he also had a pair of interceptions. Who starts this week for the Cougars is anybody's guess.

"You're going to have to stay tuned and watch very closely," said the always-quotable Leach. "The anticipation is killing everybody including me. We'll have a good week of practice and see where that ends up."

How about Tuel's knee?

"He's ridiculously healthy," Leach said. "He's one of those guys that Tony the Tiger would be proud of to be in a commercial and have him eat cereal. I do think he'd represent the whole thing well."

Jokes, however, aren't on the schedule in Colorado. While the Cougars are looking for their first three-game win streak since 2006, the Buffs are off to their worst start since 2006.

"I've seen shining moments on offense and shining moments on defense," said Colorado offensive lineman David Bakhtiari. "I've seen halves played by offense, and halves played by defense. I've seen four quarters that are not played by either side of the ball. No execution at all. And if you want to win, you have to execute at a high level. This is Division I football. We can't just go out and hope for the best. We don't have the slack to do that. We have to go out and execute."

Both teams are looking for consistency -- though the Cougars have had more success. After failing to reach the end zone in the season opener against BYU, they scored 24 in a win over FCS Eastern Washington and 35 last week against UNLV.

"We're really good at going down field, but then there's intermediate stuff and stuff underneath when downfield's not perfect that we need to utilize," Leach said. "... We're explosive, but we're not consistent. We're more consistent than we were several weeks ago."

Consistency has been an issue with Colorado as well. And though there have been calls in the local media for changes on the coaching staff, Bakhtiari still believes in what the Buffs and the coaches are trying to do.

"I've told the kids on our team, these are the best coaches I've ever been coached by," he said. "They know how to win. They are trying to instill that into these guys. They are trying to get the depth; get the players they need and get the mentality they want. You look at these coaches, there's something like 66 years or NFL experience. I have high respect and high regard for [offensive coordinator] Eric Bieniemy ... These coaches know what they are doing. We just need to execute their plan. It can't be one or three or five guys doing it. It has to be all 22 guys, as a whole, executing it for four quarters. That's all they want. If we lose off of that, so be it, I don't think they would care. But I don't think we'd lose if we execute at that level."

Leach anti-injury report

The idea of a mandatory, standardized Pac-12 injury report has been floated. Leach said he's not a fan.

"I would still refuse," he said. "I would still be very elusive on it. It would also violate the HIPAA law which would be interesting to me if the [conference] could get that law overturned. It's nobody's business. And obviously, if some kid doesn't want you to know, why should you? I still wouldn't tell."

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