Bucannon, Halliday brimming with confidence


PULLMAN -- Washington State's impressive first-half performance against Oregon seems to have put some moxie in the young team's attitude. The Cougs may be the underdogs this week at Oregon State, but you wouldn't have guessed it based the body language and general vibe that Connor Halliday and Deone Bucannon brought to Monday's media availability.

"We can compete with anyone in the nation," Halliday said. "We're good enough to put up points against anyone in the nation. When this team plays with confidence, we're a darn good group."

Bucannon was equally stoked. "A bunch of confidence," he said about the Cougar D, which limited Oregon to 169 air yards. "We have the potential to play with anybody. We're not into moral victories, but this was a huge step for us."

He added, "We got out there with a chip on our shoulders. We understand we're the underdogs, but we go out there playing everyone the same. We're going to play Pullman High School the same we play LSU. We're gonna play them as hard as we possibly can."

Maybe that first 30 minutes against the Ducks was the breakthrough the Cougs and their fans have been waiting for. Maybe, like Highway 26 that leads to Pullman, the Cougs have covered the stubborn ground and are now turning right at Colfax and headed to that oasis in the sea of wheat. Have they finally reached the bend in the road? Is the corner going to be fully turned?

If it is, Leach knows exactly where he wants to end up.

"You got a team like Oregon that is several years in the making and a lot of things have gone their way that they've earned," he said. "They've stacked up several recruiting classes and done a lot of good things to build what they have. That's where we need to get to, that's what we need to do. I think we're headed that way, but it's difficult to do overnight, just like it didn't happen overnight for Oregon."

Ironically, the Cougs take on Oregon State this week, a team that has seemingly skipped the long road back routine and performed an overfly straight back to respectability. Heading into 2012, many pundits pegged the Beavers to finish at the bottom of the Pac-12 North. Now they're ranked No. 14 in the nation, having knocked off a heavily favored Wisconsin team, followed by impressive victories on the road against UCLA and Arizona.

"Oregon State's really physical," said Halliday. "They're big upfront, they're big in the linebacking corps, they're big on the back end, they're a big Pac-12 defense."

The Cougs and Beavers face off at Reser Stadium this Saturday at 3 p.m. (TV coverage via the Pac-12 Network).

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