SPOKANE — Washington State’s narrow loss at Auburn has given the Cougars confidence they can win their Pac-12 opener on Saturday at No. 25 USC.
Washington State produced 464 yards of offense in losing its season opener 31-24.
Quarterback Connor Halliday was 35 of 65 for 344 yards and one touchdown, connecting with 10 receivers.
But he also was intercepted three times.
“We stopped ourselves,” Halliday said. “They didn’t do too much to stop us.”
Washington State also rushed for 120 yards, after averaging only 29 yards last season.
Center Elliott Bosch said the Cougars made plenty of first-game mistakes, but looked a lot better than the team that stumbled to a 3-9 record last year.
“A few things here and there going in our favor and there would have been a different outcome,” Bosch said.
“We played more as a team,” Bosch added. “Everyone believed we were going to win, and we got a great effort.”
Auburn capitalized on a 100-yard kick return and a 75-yard scoring run in the second quarter that gave it the lead for good. The offense wasn’t that effective otherwise.
“For the most part we beat ourselves — turnovers and big explosives,” Bosch said. “If you take away those, the outcome is different.”
The early conference game against USC (1-0) has WSU traveling to a traditional power with a big stadium for a second consecutive week.
“We’ve got to put (Auburn) behind us and take another step by getting better this week,” Bosch said. “We can’t stay the same.”
The teams have not played since the 2010 season, when the Trojans won 50-16 in Pullman.
“We want to go down there and show SC the improvements we have made, go get a win,” Bosch said.
Halliday said he was excited to play in the Coliseum, especially with this team.
For coach Mike Leach, a big plus was his team’s effort against Auburn. Last year, Leach was highly critical of what he said was a lack of effort in numerous games.
“We spent a lot of time last year as coaches and players trying to get effort,” Leach said.
He was especially pleased with an offense that produced more yards than Auburn.
“That was good when you consider our opponent,” Leach said. “That’s a great opponent.”
Halliday is also playing better, despite the costly interceptions, Leach said.
“He’s certainly taken the team on his shoulders as a leader,” Leach said.
The team’s newfound confidence is good, Leach said. But he noted the Cougars still lost.
“We have to get a lot better,” Leach said.
This will be Leach’s first time coaching in the Coliseum, but not his first time in the stadium. When he was in law school, he attended a Los Angeles Raiders game there and remembers seeing a fan wearing a shirt with the opposing team’s name.
“The fans ripped off his shirt, passed it up and dropped it off the back of the Coliseum,” Leach recalled. “For Raiders games, it was a pretty lively place.”