SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Washington State coach Mike Leach doesn't think the Cougars need to do anything special to prepare for the heat and big crowd expected when they play at Auburn on Saturday in the season opener for both teams.
The temperatures in Pullman have been as hot or hotter than temperatures at Auburn in recent weeks, Leach said this week.
As for the expected crowd noise, Leach said it can only get so loud.
"Once it's loud, it's loud," Leach said. "Once you need non-verbal communications, it's all the same."
This is Leach's second season at WSU, and expectations are a little more muted after last year's 3-9 campaign. Last year the Cougars opened at BYU, losing 30-6 in a game that seemed to set the tone for much of a disappointing season.
Still, there are some reasons for optimism.
The Cougars ranked near the bottom of FBS teams in scoring and rushing last season. But the offensive line, which gave up a nation's worst 57 sacks last season, is expected to be much improved.
"As inexperienced as we are, we're significantly more experienced," Leach said of the line. "We are improved."
In fact, greater experience seems to be the hallmark of this team, as the Cougars benefit from having played 17 freshmen last season.
Junior quarterback Connor Halliday appears to have seized the starting job after a training camp challenge from Austin Apodaca. He has a deep corps of returning receivers, which was bolstered by the additions of freshman River Cracraft and transfer Vince Mayle.