Rutgers Football: Q&A With Seattle Times’ Washington State Beat Writer, Bud Withers
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights football team will board a plane following practice Tuesday and make their way to Seattle, Washington where they will begin their 2014 season on the road against Washington State. DoubleGSports.com will have plenty of content leading up to the game and we start today with a quick Q&A with Washington State Beat Writer, Bud Withers, of the Seattle Times.
DoubleGSports: What is the general feeling surrounding Washington State’s football program as the 2014 season is set to begin?
Bud Withers: As with every team, there’s a lot of anticipation, I think. Part of it stems from this being the third year of the Mike Leach regime, and a belief that his system is now more entrenched, with three recruiting classes.
DGS: Have there been any significant expectation changes from the spring to now?
BW: I wouldn’t say so. They seemed to be satisfied with their spring session, and fall camp has only dovetailed with that.
DGS: From the Cougar’s fan’s perspective, what are the expectations for 2014?
BW: I’d project that most people think that since they finally got to a bowl game last year, they would figure to do it again in 2014. But they won three league games on the road last season, which was a surprise, and if you assume that’s not going to happen this year, they have to make it up somewhere else. The Las Vegas over-under total on them is 5.5, so Vegas is a bit iffy on their repeat of the post-season.
DGS: Give us one reason for optimism this season for Washington State?
BW: The presence of fifth-year senior Connor Halliday, who has taken his lumps both physically and figuratively, but flourished down the stretch last season and now gives them a savvy quarterback steeped in the system. He has the top eight receivers returning, so the expectation is they’ll be able to score.
DGS: One reason for concern this season?
BW: I’ll give you two. The secondary is young and unproven, and you could say the same thing about the offensive line except for the left guard and left tackle. They’ll start three players who haven’t seen college action on the right side of that line, and in the secondary, if memory serves, they have only about 16 combined starts among the four.
DGS: What part of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights team should worry Washington State the most?
BW: I know the quarterback, Gary Nova, has had problems with inconsistency, but he’s a veteran who could find himself against a young secondary. The Rutgers defensive line is capable and may give WSU’s green offensive front problems, which Halliday doesn’t need.
DGS: What part of Rutgers Scarlet Knights do you think Washington State should be able to take advantage of?
BW: Sounds like the Rutgers secondary has had some shuffling because of depth and injuries. That would be an obvious concern against a team that might throw it 65 times.
DGS: What is the typical game-day crowd like at Cougars’ home games?
BW: Well, this is obviously different, being in Seattle. In Pullman, the crowd is festive, fun and the stadium is in the middle of campus. It’s a true college feeling, although the students have a way of trickling out at halftime and finding better things to do. It’s been a while since the Seattle game was played this early, and with classes having just started at WSU, I’m not sure there will be much of a student crowd coming west. There are thousands of alums who live on the west side of the state, and that’s what will predominate. In my mind, the over-under on the crowd would be maybe 45,000, although tickets have been relatively slow to sell to date.
DGS: Outside of the game itself, what can visiting fans expect from the area as they travel in from New Jersey?
BW: Should be a great time to visit. Summer weather has been terrific, lots of days in the 80s, and fall rains haven’t yet set in. Seattle’s a great place to explore, and the water and mountains nearby offer all sorts of activity for anybody staying the entire weekend. And you can eat (and drink) well here.
DGS: Care to make a game prediction?
BW: WSU 41, Rutgers 27. But keep in mind, I thought square tires would catch on, too.
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