Coach Mike Leach makes his return to the Lone Star State when No. 20 Washington State travels to Houston, where protege Dana Holgorsen awaits on the opposite sideline in the Battle of the Cougars on Friday night.
Holgorsen played wide receiver under Leach at Iowa Wesleyan and coached on Leach’s staff at Texas Tech.
“It’s a good storyline — good for y’all and good for the entertainment aspect,” Holgorsen said Monday. “All of that is very positive for college football and positive for the University of Houston and Washington State as well.
“Everybody trades ideas, everybody makes phone calls and tries to figure out the other opponent. It gets right down to putting your players in the best position you can possibly put them in and then trying to get them to play really well.”
The game is especially important to Leach and his Cougars, with the Pac-12 season looming and his squad seemingly a constant in recent Top 25 rankings.
Washington State (2-0) dismantled Northern Colorado 59-17 last week. WSU has outscored its first two opponents 117-24 behind stellar play from new starting quarterback Anthony Gordon.
Leach said Washington State’s offense regained its footing after hitting a lull in the first half last week.
“We came out really good the third quarter,” Leach said. “And then fourth quarter, we let a lot of guys play. We were explosive on both sides of the ball. We did a good job of shutting down drives at key times (on defense). We’ve just got to be sharper.”
Washington State ranks in the national top-10 in multiple categories, including total offense (seventh, 606.0 yards per game), scoring (fifth, 58.5 points per game) and, unsurprisingly, passing yards (second, 494.0 yards per game).
Gordon passed for 464 yards and four touchdowns in his second career start. He’s second nationally in passing yards (884), tied for first in passing touchdowns (nine) and is third in passing efficiency (218.9 rating).
“I got the first game out the way, and (spent last week) mentally watching all the film and pulling from some mistakes,” Gordon said of the win and his confidence after the first week. “I’m just working to get better and improve from every week. We will have to be much better against Houston.”
Washington State, which moved up two spots in this week’s Associated Press poll, has pounded two overmatched opponents and will need to face tougher competition to get a better picture of its abilities. It will have that chance this week against explosive and experienced Houston.
Houston (1-1) bounced back from a season-opening loss to No. 4 Oklahoma with a 37-17 victory over Prairie View A&M last Saturday.
Kyle Porter ran for a career-high 120 yards and a touchdown in the win while quarterback D’Eriq King added two rushing touchdowns, helping the Cougars extend their winning streak over FCS-level opponents to 28 games.
Houston’s offense rolled into idle in the second half after building a big lead at halftime, a scenario that did not sit well with Holgorsen.
“Our body language was bad, and our effort was bad,” Holgorsen said. “We thought we had done enough in the first half and wanted it to be over. Defensively, we were still motivated. We went out there and took advantage of our snaps.”
Holgorsen said Leach, as expected, has Washington State hitting on all cylinders.
“I’ve changed a lot — he hasn’t,” Holgorsen said Monday. “He’s going to throw for a gazillion yards and is going to have his receivers in the right spots. The thing that’s different with his program is that defense. It’s really good. He’s really done an outstanding job up there.”
—Field Level Media