<
>

Season review: Washington State

Today we start our team-by-team review of the Pac-12 with Washington State. If you want to check out last season's reviews, click here.

Offense: Washington State was very Mike Leach-esque this season, which we all expected. Quarterback Connor Halliday (who we're wishing a speedy recovery to) made some major strides in his passing from last season to this season. His completion percentage improved from 62.9 to 67.3 and he cut his interceptions in half (22 to 11). Just as impressively, when Halliday went down, freshman Luke Falk stepped in and played like he had been starting all season. In the four games in which he saw major time (plus his two passes against Portland State), Falk threw for 1,859 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Yes, his third-of-a-season statistics put him just about 200 yards behind Taylor Kelly and Travis Wilson for total yardage. But giving this offense a grade is always difficult. Statistically, the Cougars were insane, leading the nation in passing (477.7 yards per game), and from Leach's perspective there was a run game since the Cougs averaged 39.8 rushing yards per game. But it wasn't all roses -- when you lead the conference in interceptions (18), are second in interception-to-pass-attempt percentage (2.3 percent) and are in the bottom third in sacks given up (36), your grade is going to take a bit of a hit. Grade: B

Defense: The Cougars' defense had its highlights this season. Its performance against Oregon -- though it was eventually a loss -- was quite promising. But the only thing that game did was show that, yes, this group could be productive and get to opposing quarterbacks. So, where was that the rest of the season? The upset of Oregon State was also big -- the Cougars held the Beavers to just 4-of-12 third-down conversions. But there were far more lowlights than highlights with this group. The Cougs were near the bottom of the Pac-12 in all of the yardage categories, but more troubling was the fact this group really didn't make much happen. The Cougars only forced seven fumbles all season. They only recorded three interceptions all season. They were one of four Pac-12 teams to not record a single defensive touchdown all season. And at year's end, Leach fired defensive coordinator Mike Breske. Honestly, if your offense gets up in the 30s (or 50s -- cough, cough), you'd think that'd be enough to seal a win. But plenty of times this season we saw that simply wasn't true. Grade: D

Special teams: Oy. Where to start? Maybe that missed 19-yard field goal against Cal? Maybe the continued punt and punt coverage issues throughout the season? Maybe the time Leach fired special-teams coach Eric Russell midway through the season? On kickoffs, the Cougars gave their opponents the best field position in the Pac-12. They were the worst in the conference when it came to net yards per punt. They were also second worst in kickoff returns and No. 9 in the Pac-12 in punt returns. Grade: F

Overall: A season removed from being bowl eligible, the Cougars took a big step back as they only managed to win three games in 2014. At the beginning of the season there was serious talk about Wazzu going 3-0 leading into that big matchup with Oregon. Yes, the Cougars picked up big wins over Utah and Oregon State, giving the fan base something to cheer about. But it wasn't nearly enough. This team had a lot of talent. Yes, there was a lot of youth, specifically on the defensive side of the ball, but expectations were higher and this season was a big disappointment. Grade: C-