“We’re still trying to win this conference (the Pac-12),” nose tackle Ioane Gauta said Monday. “There’s no doubt in our minds that we will.”
“Our ultimate goal is to go to the Rose Bowl,” running back Marcus Mason said. “It’s going to be hard unless we win all these games.”
WASHINGTON STATE (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) reaches the midway point of the regular season Saturday at California (1-3, 0-1). FOX Sports 1 carries the game at 1 p.m.
“I know we’re going to win this game,” Gauta said.
“It’s going to define us this year, how we respond after a loss like this and come out the next week,” center Elliott Bosch said.
The Cougars played down any drop-off if redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Apodaca must play. Starter Connor Halliday was knocked out of the Stanford game in the third quarter.
Cougs vs Bears
The kickoff: 1 p.m., Memorial Stadium.
TV: Fox Sports 1.
The line: Cougs by 1 1/2.
The series: California leads 44-25-5.
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“He (Apodaca) still gets a good amount of reps, so he knows the offense,” safety Deone Bucannon said. “I’m very confident in what he can do. He’s a great player. He’s athletic. He’s an athletic quarterback. He’s faster than Connor, and he can make throws.”
Apodaca, who does not have as strong an arm as Halliday, has completed 18 of 36 passes for 165 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the two games he’s been under center. Mike Leach recruits only the type of quarterbacks who fit into his offensive system, which places a high priority on accurate, short passes, good field vision and smart decisions.
“Leach coaches them (Halliday and Apodaca) to play the same way,” Bosch said. “I think it took a little bit for Austin to settle in (against Stanford), but he played well.”
The Cougars don’t practice on Mondays, but Halliday was with the 1’s in Sunday’s standard practice -- a short, light workout with no tackling.
“He’s a strong guy,” Mason said. “We have faith in him, that he’s going to be able to fight through whatever.”
COUGAR PLAYERS SAID they don’t anticipate any hangover from the Stanford loss.
“By the time we went out to practice last night, it was over,” Bosch said. “We’re just movin’ on.”
“We just had to flush and move on to the next week, because it’s nothing we can change,” Mason said.
Gauta added, “Whatever happened last week, it’s in the past. You’ve just got to move on to the next game and win. Just win each and every week.”
THE COUGARS dropped from second to 11th in the nation in pass defense after giving up 322 passing yards to Stanford. Now WSU faces a pass-happy California team coached by Sonny Dykes, a Leach disciple from their days at Texas Tech.
“They’re a lot like our offense, especially with the offensive line,” Gauta said.
WSU defensive players were surprised Stanford placed so much emphasis on the passing game. The Cardinal beat the Cougars on several long passes, which upset Bucannon.
“We didn’t recognize the formations,” he said. “We didn’t get into our proper coverage some of the time. At times, it was just us being out of place and them making a play. You’ve got to tip your hat to them.”
The Cougars were not surprised by the physical play of Stanford’s defense. The Cardinal recorded only two sacks, but Halliday and Apodaca took some vicious hits.
“We obviously didn’t get our job done,” said Bosch, referring to the offensive line. “Playing a good D line, (quarterbacks getting hit is) going to happen here and there, but I think we could have finished (blocks) a little better. If you get beat, you can run a guy by (the quarterback), or do your best so he doesn’t get hit really hard.”
The Cougars had won three in a row before running into the fifth-ranked Cardinal. Now they face the only Pac-12 team with a losing record. USA Today ranks the Golden Bears 95th and WSU 64th among 125 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. WSU was 57th last week.
“There’s a lot of people probably out there who think less about us now,” Mason said. “We don’t care … this week, we’ve got to go out and prove everyone wrong.”