Here are 5 Things to know about Washington State, Iowa State’s Alamo Bowl opponent at 8 p.m. Friday (ESPN).
1. Meet Mike Leach
Washington State coach Mike Leach is a character.
At press conferences he tells stories of pet racoons, gives wedding advice and gives his theories on aliens and Bigfoot. Leach has almost become an urban legend himself for his press conferences.
Oh, and he talks football, too.
Leach was one of the innovators of the air-raid offense at Iowa Wesleyan — then an NAIA program — in Mount Pleasant back in 1989. He’s brought that offense everywhere he’s been, leaving a wake of broken offensive school records in his path.
In one season as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator, Leach’s offense broke 17 school records and six Big 12 records.
After serving as the Texas Tech coach for 10 years — reaching a bowl game all 10 seasons on the back of his prolific offense — Leach moved on to Washington State, where his offense hasn’t slowed down a bit.
Washington State is averaging 38.3 points, 380 passing yards and 82 rushing yards per game.
Leach might act the fool every now and again — even donning a fake mustache during a postgame interview — but he’s an offensive genius. He even has a law degree from Pepperdine, where he was in the top third of his class.
2. Gardner Minshew
Leach needs a quarterback to run his air-raid offense. Enter Gardner Minshew.
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Minshew is an East Carolina transfer and has found success at the helm of the Washington State football team.
He passed for 4,480 yards and 36 touchdowns. He passed for five or more touchdowns in a game twice this season. He passed for five touchdowns against Oregon State and he tossed seven touchdowns against Arizona.
He also threw for at least 400 yards six times.
Minshew isn’t much of a rushing threat, running for 103 yards and three touchdowns.
The year before he transferred, he threw for 2,140 yards and 16 touchdowns, proving once again how prolific Leach’s offense is in the hands of a capable quarterback.
3. Modest rushing attack
Washington State doesn’t run the ball a ton, but it is effective when it does.
The Cougars are led by running back James Williams. Williams rushed for 564 yards and 12 touchdowns.
His backup, Max Borghi, has rushed for 353 yards and seven touchdowns.
Their running backs don’t rush for a lot of yards, but Leach isn’t afraid to use them once they get in the red zone or near the goal line to punch the ball in.
4. Decent Defense
Washington State isn’t just an offensive powerhouse. The Cougars actually play some pretty solid defense, allowing just 23 points per game.
Washington State allows opponenets to convert third downs just 26 percent of the time.
The defense is led by Peyton Pelluer and Jahad Woods. Pelluer leads the team with 86 tackles. He also has nine tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
Jahad has 73 tackles and three sacks. But he stands out because of his forced fumbles.
Jahad has forced four fumbles this season and he’s recovered two fumbles.
As a team, Washington State has sacked opposing quarterback 35 times.
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5. Jim Walden
Iowa State and Washington State share a remarkable similarity for schools in completely different regions of the country.
Both are land-grant universities, heavy agriculture schools, have historically mediocre football teams that seem to be on the rise and, maybe most importantly, both fan bases love Busch Light — something the Alamo Bowl Twitter account isn’t afraid to exploit.
The schools share one more similarity: Jim Walden was previously their head football coach.
Walden coached at Washington State from 1978-1986. He coached at Iowa State after his stint at Washington State from 1987-1994.
He led Washington State to one bowl game, the Holiday Bowl, which his team lost to BYU. It was the Washington State’s first bowl appearance in 51 years.
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