Obliteration by Stanford left few smiles in Pullman, at least until Cougars coach Mike Leach saw “The Popcorn Guy” video. After 55-17, take what you can get.

Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday recovered enough from his battering against Stanford to work out Sunday. / Washington State athletics

Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday recovered enough from his battering against Stanford to work out Sunday. / Washington State athletics

Zack Menchel, Murrow News Services

PULLMAN — Bright spots for the Cougars were few and far between in the 55-17 shellacking at the hands of No. 5 Stanford in the annual Seattle Game. The undefeated Cardinal excelled in all three phases – they outgained WSU 560-373 — and made plenty of big plays early to bury a foe that simply did not look ready for prime time in front of an announced 40,095 fans on a blustery Saturday evening at CenturyLink Field.

Late-game showers and a fierce passing attack led by Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan (16 of 25, 286 yards, three TD’s) and wide receiver Devon Cajuste (four catches, 115 yards, two TD’s) crippled any chance of an upset.

Halliday hurting

Quarterback Connor Halliday played well until the third quarter, when he released a deep ball down the left sideline before a Stanford defender slammed him to the ground.

The pass was picked easily by safety Jordan Richards, who returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. Halliday limped off the field. He tried to return the next series but was unable to walk, so trainers escorted him to the locker room.

Coach Mike Leach doesn’t discuss injuries, but Halliday was able to practice with the team Sunday night.

During his press conference Monday, Leach refrained from naming a starter for Saturday but praised Halliday’s desire to get back on the field.

“I think Connor is tough to begin with and I actually expected him to be at practice,” he said.

Apodaca waits

Redshirt freshman Austin Apodaca replaced Halliday and hiccupped early as a screen pass intended for wide receiver Dom Williams was intercepted by linebacker Trent Murphy and taken 38 yards for the score.

Apodaca recovered however, finishing with 15 completions on 29 attempts for 138 yards and the first two touchdowns of his career.

If Apodaca plays against Cal (1 p.m., Fox Sports One), Leach seems to have no reservations.

“Austin’s leadership qualities are good. I think they started last spring where he worked hard and developed his rapport with the team,” said Leach. “He went out there and did an admirable job. I think everyone respected his efforts.”

First-blowout blues

Despite the loss, a prevailing narrative being echoed in Pullman Monday by players and staff alike is to learn from the loss, not dwell on it.

“We just weren’t playing our game, we weren’t playing Cougar football,” said senior safety Deone Bucannon. “We went out, addressed it on film, changed some things, and got better.”

Senior center Elliott Bosch repeatedthat sentiment: “The whole team was upset but we came in and made the corrections on film. It definitely fuels the team and we’ve got to put it behind us because it’s all about how we respond and come back the next week.”

Little protection

Although Stanford had just two sacks, there was a concentrated effort to rush and hit WSU’s quarterbacks in the pocket, which led to errant passes and miscues.

“When our QB gets hit it’s a reflection on us that we didn’t get our job done,” said Bosch. “It’s going to happen, playing a good defensive line such as Stanford’s, but I think we could have finished a little better.”

When asked to clarify the offensive line’s struggles as a unit, Bosch said, “We did some good things but had some breakdowns at crucial moments up front. It was always one badly missed block getting our QB hit and ending the drive.”

Protege faces mentor

Leach will see a familiar face patrolling the opposing sidelines for the Golden Bears when the Cougars take the field in Berkeley.

Head coach Sonny Dykes worked under Leach for eight years and at two universities, Kentucky and Texas Tech. Leach said the two are on friendly terms and speak with each other at coaching functions.

“We go way back. He was my graduate assistant at Kentucky and I hired him at Texas Tech so we spent a good amount of time together,” Leach said.

Asked about Dykes joining the Pac-12 ranks this year after three seasons of head coaching experience at Louisiana Tech, Leach said, “I was excited for him, as he got a great opportunity. He did a good job at over at Louisiana Tech so I know he’ll do well.”

Popcorn guy

Upon entering his press conference Monday, Leach had not seen the now-infamous “Popcorn Guy” video in which a clearly fed-up Cougars fan in the stands was caught by television cameras as he poured a bag of popcorn all over himself. It already has a quarter-million views on YouTube.

Leach was shown the video by a member of the media and playfully remarked, “That guy is awesome. I think I kind of felt the same way at the end of that game. His technique was good.

“My wife and daughter will sometimes hold contests where they throw M&Ms up in the air and field it with their mouths, but I think this guy could give either one of them a run for their money.”


Washington native/former Cougar Andrew Furney taking reps with Seahawks

Zack Menchel, Murrow News Service

Posted June 9, 2014

Washington State kicker Andrew Furney celebrates his go-ahead 41-yard field goal with 3:03 to play against Southern California on Saturday. Photo Courtesy: (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Washington State kicker Andrew Furney celebrates his go-ahead 41-yard field goal with 3:03 to play against Southern California on Saturday. Photo Courtesy: (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

SEATTLE, Wash. Former WSU placekicker Andrew Furney has been kicking all his life, but it was an abrupt positional change in high school that led to his latest gig, with the reigning Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks.

Furney, a lifelong soccer player, first began suiting up for organized football during his freshman year at Burlington-Edison High School in Skagit County.

“Football was just something I really wanted to do,” said Furney. “I played tight end and defensive end but it was a bit frustrating at first because I didn’t really get to play at all and sat on the bench.”

Regardless, Furney hung in there and the following year, something peculiar happened.

“The varsity coach approached me and let me know that they didn’t have a kicker because their original guy failed four classes,” said Furney. “That just kind of got plopped on me so I said, ‘why not’ and the rest is history I guess.”

Furney went on to set a state prep record with 33 career field goals at Burlington-Edison.

“I still kind of laugh about it because I went from never playing on the freshman C-team to all-state on the varsity team in one year,” he said. “It was quite an interesting flop of things.”

Furney kicked in front of numerous high-profile college coaches and against some of the best kickers in the nation in an attempt to land a scholarship offer.

Although he said he outperformed several talented kickers, Furney recalls being flustered with a lack of offers after the audition process was complete.

Regardless, Washington State expressed serious interest in Furney’s abilities but would only offer him aid if he could win the starting job as a freshman.

“That was a bit frustrating because I felt WSU would have offered me right away had I gotten competing offers from other schools,” said Furney.

With few options, Furney’s hand was forced but he says he was willing to embrace the challenge of walking on at WSU because it presented him with the right opportunity he was looking for.

“My idea of college football was being seen on TV playing in big stadiums and in one of the nation’s best conferences,” said Furney. “If I was going to walk-on anywhere it would have to be a Pac-12 school so WSU fit that bill.”

At WSU, Furney became a folk hero of sorts. Standing 5-feet-10 inches tall and pushing a hefty 235 pounds, he was known first for his unorthodox kicker physique upon arrival.

Pushed perhaps by the coaching change that brought in the hard-nosed, no-nonsense disciplinarian Mike Leach and by his own aspirations to go pro, Furney shed weight, roughly 25 pounds to a svelte 210.

“For me, it was more like, ‘I don’t want to be remembered for being the big, fat kicker that kicked at Washington State,” Furney told the Seattle Times’ Bud Withers, last year.

It was his consistency and a penchant for clutch kicks that helped endear Furney to football fans in the Palouse and become known as the next great Cougar kicker on a list that includes longtime NFL veterans Jason Hanson and Rian Lindell.

“One reason why I even came to WSU was the great tradition of kickers,” said Furney.

“In fact, just being mentioned in the same sentence with those guys is an honor because we’re talking over 30 years of NFL kicking experience between Hanson and Lindell.”

At .714, Furney’s career percentage on kicks beyond 40 yards (15 of 21) trumps past Cougar greats like Hanson, Lindell, and Drew Dunning.

As a sophomore, Furney was successful on 14-of-16 attempts and went on to sink 47 career field goals while wearing crimson and gray.

Reminiscing about the 141 points worth of field goals he accumulated at WSU, Furney said the 41-yarder he hit to beat No. 25 USC in the Los Angeles Coliseum last year and the 60-yarder against Eastern Washington in 2012 were among his favorites.

However, his most memorable kick was one that Cougar fans will not soon forget, the 27-yard game winner that sunk the Huskies in the 105th battle for the Apple Cup in 2012.

“As a Washington native I went to quite a few Apple Cup games in person as a kid,” said Furney. “It’s absolutely crazy to think about how I got to end up kicking a game-winner for the Cougs with so much history and tradition on the line.”

Although a Seahawk in rookie mini camp for the time being, Furney faces extremely unlikely odds to land a roster spot with Seattle as the Seahawks signed Steven Hauschka to a three-year $9.15 million contract in March.

“Realistically I just want to make a team but of course everyone would like the chance to play for their hometown team,” said Furney.

Because each of the 32 NFL teams typically carries just one kicker throughout the year, Furney realizes that he needs to make the most out of each and every opportunity, even if his chance to play doesn’t necessarily come this year.

When he decides to hang up the cleats for good, Furney said he’d like to utilize his business degree to follow an entrepreneurial path.

“I can use my drive and creativity since I had such a diverse education and it would be kind of cool to bring all those tools together and be my own boss,” he said.

“I have a path now that I just need to follow because God is going to make the right things happen if I let him guide me.”


A Pre-Draft Interview With Washington State Safety Deone Bucannon

Zack Menchel

Murrow News Service

PULLMAN, Wash. The 2014 NFL Draft begins on May 8 but for former Washington State safety Deone Bucannon, the path to selection at Radio City Musical Hall was carved out long ago.

Bucannon, a first-team All-American and first-team All-Pac-12 selection in his senior season for the Cougars in 2013 has the chance to be the highest drafted WSU player since Marcus Trufant went 11th overall in 2003.

Although he admits that he’d like to get taken as early as possible, Bucannon said he will sit back and enjoy the process no matter what happens.

“I love the game of football and it’s just something that I’ve dreamed about since I was a little kid,” said Bucannon. “These opportunities were laid out in front of me so I had to make the most of it.”

Throughout his collegiate playing career with the Cougars, Bucannon became well known for his penchant for big plays and reputation as one of the hardest hitters in the Pac-12.

One of the better players on some poor defenses, Bucannon’s quiet confidence and leadership endeared himself to teammates, coaches, and Cougars fans alike.

Bucannon was awarded the CFPA Elite Defensive Back Trophy in March after leading the Pac-12 conference with 114 tackles.

“It was truly a humbling experience and an honor to be presented with the trophy due to the history behind it with all the people who won it who went on to have awesome careers,” said Bucannon.

“I never was big on individual accolades and I’m still not today because I believe in team over anything but at the same time it was something I truly appreciated.”

It all started for Bucannon when at he tried out flag football in second grade at the behest of his parents in order to gauge his interest and ability in the game. After that, he was finally allowed to try full contact football in Pop Warner.

Bucannon initially struggled to find a position to stick with on the field and contemplated quitting the sport before ultimately listening to his mother’s advice to stick with it.

He then found his true calling in getting to hit people while on defense and his admiration for the game blossomed.

“I started to love football even more and the rest is history,” said Bucannon.

Although he displayed impressive speed and strength, Bucannon was not very highly recruited out of Vanden High School in Fairfield, California. He received only a few offers, primarily from lower division schools aside from WSU.

Rated only three stars by scouts, and ranked rather low in his positional group, Bucannon used the perceived disrespect to propel himself in college with a chip on his shoulder.

“Not too many people had faith in me, or gave me a chance as far as schools go and I’m actually really appreciative of that,” said Bucannon. “That’s what has really driven me and gotten me to this point.”

Bucannon made sure he always maintained the mindset that he could one day translate his skills to the pros and establish a future for himself in the NFL and it started as early as high school.

“My high school coach knew how much I loved the game and believed in me so he trained me, and gave me an opportunity during my sophomore year,” said Bucannon. “From then on it’s when I figured out I may be able to make something out of football.”

Taking these aspirations seriously meant playing on the big stage and that in turn led to Bucannon’s decision to commit to WSU, the first and only Pac-12 school to extend him an offer.

“It was definitely a blessing and the best decision I’ve ever made in my life,” he said. “When I went down to Pullman on my first official college visit, I fell in love with the place, the atmosphere, and the fans.”

Bucannon said WSU proved to be a great organization with a strong support system that guided him on his journey to reach both his academic and career goals.

The consensus prognostication of draft experts on when Bucannon will be selected is in rounds 2-3 with the possibility to sneak into the late first round.

Although fully aware of all the pre-draft speculation, Bucannon plans on giving it his all no matter what round he’s selected and what team he goes to.

“I am thankful to even be in the conversation so there is no particular team I’d prefer to play for and I’d be more than happy anywhere I land,” he said.

 “Whatever team I go to is going to get someone who will work hard right off the bat and do everything they need me to do to impact the team in a positive way.”