CAL FACES NO. 8 WASH­ING­TON STATE

Lodi News-Sentinel - - Sports - By Josh Dubow As­so­ci­ated Press Writer Nick Geran­ios in Pull­man, Wash­ing­ton, con­trib­uted to this re­port.

BERKE­LEY — The fast start to the sea­son un­der first-year Cal­i­for­nia coach Justin Wil­cox is a dis­tant mem­ory.

Three straight losses against some stiffer com­pe­ti­tion af­ter a per­fect non­con­fer­ence slate made sure of that. The task only gets harder this week when the Golden Bears (3-3, 0-3 Pac12) try to snap their skid Fri­day night while host­ing No. 8 Wash­ing­ton State (6-0, 3-0) in their third game against a top 10 team in four weeks.

“We’re just try­ing to come back,” quar­ter­back Ross Bow­ers said. “What­ever bad habits we formed th­ese past three weeks, we’re try­ing to get out of them and get back to our goals. We’re try­ing to get back to the win col­umn and do all the lit­tle things right dur­ing the week.”

The Bears opened the sea­son with wins over North Carolina, We­ber State and Mis­sis­sippi be­fore drop­ping games to No. 5 South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon and No. 6 Wash­ing­ton in a gru­el­ing stretch of the sched­ule that con­tin­ues this week.

“We ap­pre­ci­ate the hard work and the ef­fort they’re giv­ing,” Wil­cox said. “Un­for­tu­nately that doesn’t win games. You need it. You can’t win with­out it. We have to go out and per­form bet­ter. There’s a lot to go into that. Ev­ery­one has a role in it.”

The Cougars have per­formed quite well so far this sea­son and are off to their best start since win­ning their first seven games in 2001. Led by pro­lific quar­ter­back Luke Falk and an im­proved de­fense, coach Mike Leach’s squad has the school hold­ing its high­est rank­ing in 14 years.

But Wash­ing­ton State still has much loftier goals in its sights.

“As happy as we are with six wins, it’s only six wins and it re­ally gets us nowhere,” line­backer Dy­lan Hanser said. “It will be a lot bet­ter when we get the next six.”

Here are some other things to watch:

Fab­u­lous Falk: Af­ter ar­riv­ing at Wash­ing­ton State as a walk-on, Cougars QB Luke Falk will leave as one of the most pro­duc­tive passers in Pac-12 his­tory. He has thrown for 12,893 yards with 108 touch­downs for his col­lege ca­reer, set­ting school records for ca­reer TD passes, pass­ing yardage and to­tal of­fense. He is eight TD passes be­hind con­fer­ence record-holder Matt Barkley of USC and this week can break the school record for wins by a QB (24) held by Ja­son Gesser.

“It’s pretty cool to tie a guy who did such great things for our pro­gram here,” Falk said.

Bow­ers boost: Bow­ers has strug­gled against top com­pe­ti­tion so far this sea­son, throw­ing four INTs in a loss to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and throw­ing for just 80 yards last week at Wash­ing­ton. He has com­pleted 55.9 per­cent of his passes this sea­son and has al­ready thrown eight INTs. But Wil­cox is stick­ing by his QB for at least one more week.

“Ross did some good things. He’s just got to be more con­sis­tent in his play,” Wil­cox said. “That goes for ev­ery­body.”

Leach above .500: Last week­end’s vic­tory at Ore­gon gave Wash­ing­ton State’s Leach a record of 35-34 in his sixth year in Pull­man. Leach has also taken the Cougars to three bowl games.

Late kick­offs: Leach doesn’t have a prob­lem with late kick­offs like this week’s 7:30 p.m. start. A night owl, Leach is more up­set by morn­ing kick­offs. He also dis­putes the no­tion that night games hurt West Coast teams that are hop­ing to get into the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off or get their play­ers na­tional exposure when it comes to the big­gest awards.

“I’ve been to the East Coast. The bars there don’t close till 4 a.m. be­cause they’re plan­ning to stay up late,” Leach said.

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