PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Washington State coach Mike Leach will continue to rely on younger players when his slumping team hosts California on Saturday night.
Leach says the Cougars (2-4, 0-3 Pac-12) have lost all three of their league games in part because they lack senior leadership.
Last weekend, the Cougars wasted a sterling defensive performance in losing 19-6 at No. 10 Oregon State. It was the second game this season in which the Cougars failed to score a touchdown.
"The Oregon State game offensively was a disaster," Leach said. "We need to learn from it and never let it happen again."
One consequence is that Leach has been replacing veteran starters with younger players. The Cougars have played 15 freshmen this season. Only 13 seniors remain on the roster, with four likely to start Saturday.
"We haven't had strength from the senior class, so we have turned to younger guys," Leach said.
Leach said some veterans have displayed "an empty corpse quality."
"It's not pleasant to say, but it's a fact and that's why it is necessary for us to have the youth movement we have," Leach said. "We've gotten a higher effort level out of them."
The changes include replacing senior Jeff Tuel as starting quarterback with Connor Halliday.
Halliday threw three interceptions in the loss to Oregon State, but also plays with the fire that Leach seeks.
"We are at the point in the season where we have to invest reps in somebody," Leach said of the quarterback situation.
Defensive tackle Tony Pole said the Cougars will look to build this week on their best defensive showing of the season.
"Our defense played with a lot of passion," Pole said. "We are getting better each week."
California (2-4, 1-2) is coming off a surprising 43-17 win over UCLA, and is seeking to prove that win was no fluke.
"They are good, quick, physical," Leach said. "They are a lot better than their record."
Cal's four losses this season have come to teams that are a combined 19-3. The Bears forced six turnovers against UCLA, including three interceptions.
"It was great to have some success and see the joy and fun that goes into a win," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "But also understanding that it can't be a one-night stand."
The Cal defense will face a Washington State passing offense that ranks third in the Pac-12 at 312 yards per game.
"They throw it a lot. Seventy percent pass, 30 percent run," Tedford said. "They lead with the pass without a doubt."
Defensively, the Cougars' nine interceptions and 19 sacks each rank third in the league.
"They're relentless getting after the passer," Tedford said.
Cal features a balanced offense.
C.J. Anderson had a career game against the Bruins, notching career highs with 21 rushes for 151 yards. Anderson's 386 yards lead the Golden Bears on the season, but Isi Sofele adds 354 yards and Brendan Bigelow 218 yards.
The Bears average 174 yards rushing per game, while WSU is averaging about 40 yards rushing per game.
Cal quarterback Zach Maynard has completed 112 of 181 passes for 1,348 yards this season, with nine touchdown throws and five interceptions. Against UCLA, he completed 25 of 30 passes for 295 yards, threw for four touchdowns and rushed for another.
"We have to stay balanced, no doubt about it," Tedford said. "I thought that was a key last week."
Cal has a seven-game winning streak in the series dating to 2005.
NOTES: Saturday is Mike Leach bobblehead day at WSU, with the first 10,000 fans getting a doll ... WSU's Travis Long is tied for the national lead with 7½ sacks.