Washington State falls flat in debut under Mike Leach
Brigham Young scores 30-6 victory over WSU
Seattle Times staff reporter
PROVO, Utah — All things considered, the Mike Leach era was a lot more entertaining in the offseason than it was in the opener.
Under its colorful, flamboyant new coach, Washington State produced just about the poorest possible result here Thursday night to start the Leach regime, sputtering most of the night offensively and falling to a solid, well-drilled Brigham Young team, 30-6.
It was a rude bucket of cold water for Washington State fans who had suffered through a 9-40 record the past four years, only to see — most of the night, anyway — more of the same futility.
Quarterback Jeff Tuel was 30 for 45 passing for 229 yards for WSU, but was hampered by two interceptions and untimely holding penalties.
WSU had just 224 yards total offense, with the running game held to minus-5 yards. BYU had a total of 426 yards of offense.
What developed early wasn't what was anticipated from a Leach team. WSU had trouble mustering any sustained offense and couldn't put up a touchdown all night. It was the first time since 1971 that the Cougars failed to score a touchdown in their opener.
After falling behind 24-6 at halftime, the first moments of the second half were more of the same for Washington State. Freshman running back Teondray Caldwell raced the kickoff back 63 yards for WSU to the BYU 35, putting his team in position to get back in the game with a touchdown. But quarterback Jeff Tuel sustained a 7-yard sack, Andrei Lintz was whistled for a penalty on a hitch pass, and WSU faced second-and-27.
A 16-yard pass to Marquess Wilson got WSU back to the BYU 36, but then Tuel, firing for Wilson on the left sideline, was picked off by cornerback Jordan Johnson, who hauled it 64 yards to the WSU 9-yard line, setting up a field goal that made it a three-touchdown game at 27-6.
All night, the hosts took what was given defensively and pieced together methodical drives to take control by halftime.
The crimson Cougars couldn't ignite what was figured to be an explosive passing game against a defense that managed to keep virtually everything in front of it. Tuel didn't seem comfortable in the pocket, even as he had appreciable time to throw most of the evening.
The night began in promising fashion for the visitors, who held BYU after two first downs on its opening possession, and WSU took over at its 20. Tuel hit redshirt freshman Dominique Williams for 20 yards — Williams' first college catch — and then Tuel, running right to left as he was flushed out of the pocket, tossed for 13 yards to Marquess Wilson on a diving catch.
But the drive ended shortly thereafter as the well-schooled blue Cougars got an interception of a short Tuel pass from linebacker Uona Kaveinga.
In a first half that lacked rhythm because all six timeouts were used and 11 penalties were called, BYU then drew first blood, driving 80 yards. Quarterback Riley Nelson threw 7 yards to Skyler Ridley, and afterward, WSU cornerback Daniel Simmons — subbing for an injured Nolan Washington — discussed an apparent mix-up with safety Deone Bucannon.
WSU answered fecklessly, with three consecutive incompletions, the third of which, on a pass toward Wilson, Leach argued vociferously for pass interference.
BYU took over at its 29, and after a 71-yard drive, WSU was down 14-0, repeating its problems with third-down defense it experienced on the first BYU drive. The hosts were 7 of 10 in the first half on third-down conversations.
BYU crossed up the red Cougars for the score. It sent in reserve quarterback Taysom Hill in at the WSU 18 on a fourth-and-one try, and he faked a fly sweep, rolled right and hit tight end Kaneakua Friel in the end zone as the visitors were out of position.
The hosts rolled up 294 first-half yards, and WSU's only answer was a pair of long field goals by kicker Andrew Furney, who connected from 47 and 41 yards. The latter came as time ran out before the break, a play after WSU had seemed to strike for its first touchdown on a back-of-the-end-zone leaping catch by Wilson, only to see it wiped out by a holding penalty.