Washington State Cougars

PULLMAN, WA - OCTOBER 17:  Shalom Luani #18 of the Washington State Cougars carries the ball to a touchdown on an interception return against the Oregon State Beavers in the fourth quarter at Martin Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Pullman, Washington.  Washington State defeated Oregon State 52-31.  (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)
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Wazzu’s Shalom Luani won’t face charges stemming from assault

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After a very public back and forth between the police and university, Washington State has some (somewhat) positive off-field news on which to celebrate.

Monday, Whitman County (WA) prosecutor Denis Tracy announced that he will not file charges against Cougars safety Shalom Luani in connection to a fight outside of a Pullman Domino’s Pizza shop.  Video evidence indicated that it was Luani who broke a man’s nose with a punch; however, the prosecutor stated that a jury would likely conclude that Luani, who claimed he was ambushed by six males who pushed him from inside the pizza shop outside and sustained a concussion in the scuffle, had acted in self-defense.

From Tracy’s letter to the alleged victim:

[I]n order to prove that a criminal assault happened, the prosecutor must not only prove that the suspect hit someone, but the prosecutor must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect was not acting in self defense.”

“In this case, it is my view that no reasonable jury could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Luani was not acting in self defense. …

“Since I cannot prove that Mr. Luani was not acting in self-defense. I cannot prove that he committed a criminal assault.

WSU athletic director Bill Moos, who along with the university’s president met with the chief of the Pullman Police Department earlier this month, issued a statement expressing his happiness over the prosecutor’s decision.

We are pleased that the prosecuting attorney’s office came to the same conclusion as we did regarding this case. While not always afforded the opportunity, I believe this illustrates the stance we have taken from the beginning which is to handle such matters internally, not speak in great detail, until the legal process has played out. Though we choose to reserve comment on such instances, we continue to cooperate with law enforcement, and assume innocent until proven guilty. We will not engage in public debate, rather, will let the legal process run its course, and as best we can gain an understanding of all the facts, without publicly acknowledging guilt or innocence prematurely. We will continue to educate our student-athletes on representing our fine university is a positive manner and also emphasize they remove themselves from situations that have the potential to impact them and the university negatively.

Luani started all 13 games for the Cougars last season after transferring from the junior college ranks, earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors.  This season, he leads the team with two interceptions.

Reports: Starting NT Robert Barber expelled from Wazzu for role in July brawl

PASADENA, CA - NOVEMBER 14: Josh Rosen #3 of the UCLA Bruins passes the ball under pressure from Robert Barber #92 of the Washington State Cougars during a game at Rose Bowl on November 14, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The first tangible fallout from a July brawl purportedly involving Washington State football players has dropped.

The Spokane Spokesman-Review is reporting that Robert Barber “has been expelled from the school following a University Conduct Board investigation into a fight over the summer that left one student unconscious and another hospitalized with a fractured jaw.”  The Seattle Times, citing a source close to the situation, subsequently confirmed the initial report.

The senior starting nose tackle is currently appealing the decision, and will be permitted to continue practicing with the team.  He won’t, however, be allowed to play in games until a decision on the appeal is rendered.

Police are still investigating a brawl at a backyard party in July that allegedly involved multiple WSU football players.  The fracas allegedly began when aid players threw fireworks at attendees.

No charges have been filed against any of the six players allegedly involved.

Barber had started the first two games this season for the Cougars.  He has started 15 games in his career.

The Barber incident was one of three involving Wazzu football players in the last three months.  Safety Shalom Luani was arrested in late August for second-degree assault, while linebacker Logan Tago was arrested earlier this week for second-degree assault and second-degree robbery in connection to a June incident.

Mike Leach Tuesday very vociferously and publicly laid the blame for the spate of incidents involving his players at the feet of the Pullman Police Department and the media, claiming his players have been unfairly targeted by both entities.  The head coach’s outburst led to a meeting Thursday between the PPD’s chief of police and Wazzu’s president and athletic director, the latter of whom addressed the get-together in a statement.

“The meeting was a chance for all three of us to come together face-to-face and discuss these recent incidents,” Bill Moos said. “It was an opportunity to express thoughts, on all sides, and gain a better understanding of processes and procedures in incidents like we have seen recently,”

“We certainly respect the task facing law enforcement and throughout my tenure as athletic director, have made every effort to fully cooperate with local authorities. I am encouraged as we move forward that we will continue to have an open line of communication and allow the full legal process to play out to ensure fairness is given to all involved.”

WSU AD Bill Moos addresses recent events involving Cougars players

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 10: Head coach Mike Leach of the Washington State Cougars looks up at the video screen during the third quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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The 2016 season has not been a very positive one for Washington State. Aside from losing at home to an FCS opponent and following that up with a road loss against Boise State, the Cougars have been in the headlines for off-field reasons as well, which is never a good look. This has led to the athletics director at Washington State to issue a brief statement.

“We are well aware of recent incidents involving Washington State football, including many details associated with each incident that have not been reported,” Washington state AD Bill Moos said in a released statement on Wednesday. “We take such allegations very seriously and, as always, we will fully cooperate with local authorities. We intend to respect the legal process and all the rights guaranteed to everyone involved. Until the full legal process has reached completion, WSU Athletics will have no further comment on these matters. We believe such a position is most fair to all parties and best protects the integrity of the legal process.”

The released statement comes the day after Washington State linebacker Logan Tago was arrested for second-degree assault and second-degree robbery. Over the summer, a couple six players were investigated for their role in a massive brawl, which was caught on video. On Wednesday, Washington State head coach Mike Leach blasted the media and police for targeting his players.

“We’re going to let the legal system take its course,” Leach said, per The Spokesman-Review. “But the system has to be checked if – with the number of people involved in these incidents – the only ones accused are football players. If that’s the case, then something is seriously wrong, which goes far deeper than whatever has even been alleged.”

As you might expect, the police chief in Pullman denied any allegation by Leach that his department was profiling Washington State football players.

Wazzu’s Logan Tago arrested on pair of felony charges

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After a period of relative calm on the legal front, it’s once again time to reset the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker back to double zeroes.

According to both Pullman Radio News and the Spokesman-Review, Washington State linebacker Logan Tago was arrested for second-degree assault and second-degree robbery.  Both of those charges are felonies.

Tago was arrested when he came into the Pullman Police station to be interviewed by detectives in connection to a June incident.  From the Spokesman-Review:

Tago and several other men approached a 23-year-old man early on the morning of June 4th, who was carrying a case of beer on California Street in Pullman. The alleged victim claims the group demanded his beer and assaulted him when he refused. The alleged victim suffered a concussion and the group stole the beer.

The alleged victim was able to positively identify Tago as one of his assailants. Thus far, Tago is the only individual who has been charged, although “other persons of interest have been identified” by detectives.

The sophomore started the Cougars’ season-opener at RUSH linebacker. He has been listed as a co-starter on the depth chart leading into the Week 3 game with Idaho.

Tago’s incident is the third involving assaults in the last three months for a current Cougar. Police are still investigating a brawl at a backyard party in July that allegedly involved multiple WSU football players and which one alleged victim was knocked unconscious for 10 minutes and another sustaining a broken jaw that’s going to require reconstructive surgery. Additionally, safety Shalom Luani was arrested in late August for second-degree assault.

News of the latest off-field issue involving a Wazzu football player comes just a short time after head coach Mike Leach very publicly ripped into his team for their on-field issues.

Boise State sneaks past Washington State in wild shootout on the blue turf

BOISE, ID - SEPTEMBER 10: Offensive lineman Mason Hampton #59 of the Boise State Broncos and linebacker Peyton Pelluer #47 of the Washington State Cougars scramble for a loose ball during first half action on September 10, 2016 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images)
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The combination of Boise State’s blue turf and Washington State’s quirky head coach Mike Leach was bound to produce a memorable game Saturday night that would serve as a flashback to WAC shootouts from yesteryear.

Mission accomplished.

Boise State scored an 85 yard pick-six on the first series of the game, had an 88-yard touchdown drive on their first offensive drive and then blocked a field goal in the first half but failed to put away Washington State in a wild 31-28 game that always seemed to have one of the two teams making a crazy play every few minutes down the stretch.

The Cougars managed to regroup coming out of halftime and make  a serious run at the win before ultimately falling just short. Wazzu scored two touchdowns in the 4th quarter to cut it to a one score game with four minutes to go but couldn’t quite force overtime or find a game-winner.

Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien, the nephew of ex-Washington State star Mark Rypien, threw for 299 yards and a touchdown but tossed two late interceptions in the 4th quarter that nearly put the victory in jeopardy. Luckily the sophomore was able to hand the ball off to tailback Jeremy McNichols for most of the night as he rumbled his way to 116 yards and two scores but the two turnovers were decidedly un-Boise like.

The Broncos’ normally reliable defense did not have a second half to remember either on their way to giving up 480 yards through the air to quarterback Luke Falk. Still, they came up big on the final play of the game to knock down his Hail Mary attempt and secure the program’s first win over their Pacific Northwest rival.

Boise State isn’t done with the Pac-12 after that one either, as they’ll travel to Oregon State next week looking for their second straight victory over a Power Five opponent. Washington State, meanwhile, will have to regroup after starting 2016 with an 0-2 record and an uphill battle to make a bowl game.