Cougars make Eugene first stop
Washington State will finally get a taste of the road after going unbeaten at home to start the season.
The 11th-ranked Cougars' quirky schedule had them play the first five games of the season in Pullman. That changes this Saturday when Washington State travels to face injury-riddled Oregon (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12).
Among other things, it means the players will finally get their cheeseburgers. Running back Jamal Morrow loves the free cheeseburgers the team gets when they travel on Alaska Airlines to road games.
Morrow said all that home cooking this year has "been weird. I'm really excited to play an away game."
Coach Mike Leach doesn't see the appeal of the burgers. "He's more excited about those than I am," he said.
But Leach also acknowledged looking forward to hitting the road, noting home field advantage isn't typically a big deal in the Pac-12.
"This is a funny conference," he said. "Teams on the road play well."
Except in Pullman so far. The Cougars (5-0, 2-0) beat Oregon State there on Sept. 16 and then upset Southern California 30-27 last Friday, sending thousands of fans rushing onto the field to celebrate Washington State's first victory over the Trojans in Pullman since 2002.
"It's like Woodstock," Leach said, describing the scene. "Except everyone has their clothes on."
The other home opponents included Montana State and Nevada, plus a Boise State team that is not having its best season.
The road literally is much tougher now, as the Cougars play five of their next seven away from home. Besides Oregon, Washington State will also travel to California, Arizona, No. 20 Utah and No. 6 Washington. Their final two home opponents are Colorado and Stanford.
"Our focus needs to be on improving," Leach said. "Really the team we are playing this week is just as good as the team we played last week."
IT'S ALL FINE: Washington State was fined $25,000 by the Pac-12 this week because the fans rushed the field after the USC win, The Spokesman-Review reported. The league introduced a penalty structure in May for field rushing, imposing a $25,000 fine for the first offense, a $50,000 fine for the second offense and a $100,000 fine for the third offense. This was the second time WSU fans rushed the field this season. They also did it after the triple-overtime victory over Boise State in the second game of the season. The league chose not to impose a fine that time.