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WSU football: Washington State sandwiched in tough Oregon stretch

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
1. What were the biggest positives to take away from Washington State's loss to Oregon State? What impressed you the most in defeat?

Well, that's a tough one, but the way the team came out was encouraging, but that's about it other than that they were able to move the ball on the ground a little bit.

2. What were the biggest negatives to take away from the loss? Where did Washington State show the most vulnerability?

I think everyone expected them to give up a ton of yards through the air against a passing attack like Oregon State's, but I expected them to at least be able to match it and their lack of explosion in the passing game is concerning and clearly going to be a problem. Unlike Oregon State, it looked like they had limited big-play ability. And, of course, Halliday's continued interception problem. Overall, I think this game was especially depressing because it was the Cougars chance to maybe make a run at the top half of the division and they came up well short.

3. Midterm time: Grade your players! How is each unit performing based on your level of expectation coming into the season?

QB - C: Halliday has looked golden in Leach's offense at times, but has only thrown one more touchdown than interceptions and has really struggled against quality opponents.
RB - B: These guys aren't relied on much, but they have improved quite a bit from last season and Laufasa has developed a much-needed nose for the end zone.
WR - B+: The lifeblood of the team, I don't know if I have ever seen a deeper unit in the conference. A little bit more big play potential in big games is needed and I expected more from Dom Williams, but other than that, this is a great unit.
OL - B-: Expectations were low, very low for this unit and they have really exceeded them and improved, greatly limiting the number of sacks allowed while opening up the run game a bit.
DL - B+: This unit was underrated last year and now is starting to get some much earned attention. Ioane Gauta is one of the more underrated defensive linemen in the Pac-12.
LB - C: They have played solid but not spectacular and are getting a lot of help in the run game from the guys up front.
DB - B: I might have had this unit as an A- or a B+ before the Oregon State game, but it's hard to give them that grade with how many yards they have given up the past two weeks. Otherwise, they have been stellar and Deone Bucannon is one of my favorite players in the conference this season.
ST - B: Nothing exciting in the return or return defense game, but Andrew Furney has been great, as expected.

4. Midterm time: Grade your coaches! How are the position coaches all performing based on your level of expectation coming into the season?

Mike Breske (DB) - B-: Coaching defensive backs in the Pac-12 is a tough job with the level of quarterbacks in the Pac-12, but Breske is working with some good talent in Bucannon and Damonte Horton this year and going a good, but not great job.

Jim Mastro (RB) - B+: The running back position isn't much more talented than it was in 2012, but has been much more effective.

Clay McGuire (OL) - A-: There is not much talent or experience on this unit and many thought it would be a disaster, but it hasn't been yet - hints at good coaching.

Eric Russell (ST) - B: Furney has been great, but he's a talented kid with a big leg. Everything else has been average across the board.

Joe Salave'a (DL) - A-: Love Salave'a's intensity and I think he is a big reason why his unit has become a strength.
Dennis Simmons (OWR) and Eric Yost (IWR) - B: Receivers have been solid, but not spectacular.

Ken Wilson (LB) & Paul Volero (OLB) - C: Similar to receivers, these guys have done their job, but aren't playing over their head or anything.

5. Washington State is probably not going to win in Autzen, but what are you looking for from the Cougars this weekend that would be a sign of improvement?

I don't think the Cougars have any hope of slowing down Oregon's nightmare offense (who can?) so this is all about if their offense, especially Connor Halliday can bounce back and limit mistakes against the conference's best secondary. They simply have zero margin for error this week if they hope to compete with the Ducks and it will be up to Halliday to make sure they don't turn it over and end it early.