Washington State players are excited to return to Southern California

Washington State's Dom Williams (80) celebrates a touchdown with teammates Jacob Seydel (66), Kyle Sweet (83) and Gabe Marks (9) against Arizona State last Saturday.

Washington State’s Dom Williams (80) celebrates a touchdown with teammates Jacob Seydel (66), Kyle Sweet (83) and Gabe Marks (9) against Arizona State last Saturday.

(William Mancebo / Getty Images)

Washington State has long been a landing pad for Southern California players who were not recruited by UCLA or USC.

The Cougars have 33 players from the region on their roster who will be returning to close to home for Saturday’s Pac-12 Conference football game at the Rose Bowl.

“All you hear about from the guys is, ‘I can’t wait to get back to Cali,’” said receiver Dom Williams, who played at Pomona Garey High. “There is a lot of hype about going back to California right now.”


Said guard Eduardo Middleton, who played at Oceanside High: “I was a bit of a USC fan growing up, but none of those [coaches] showed up at my high school. Now I’m anxious to beat USC and UCLA whenever we play down there.”

The Cougars have a 5-7 record playing in Los Angeles since 2000. They defeated USC, 10-7, on their last visit in 2013, but have not won at the Rose Bowl since 2006.

Williams said Washington State players are more “excited to play in your hometown” than holding any grudges against UCLA or USC for not recruiting them.

“I always wanted to play in the Rose Bowl when I was growing up,” said Cougars linebacker Kache Palacio, who played at Gardena Serra High. “Also, I don’t like UCLA. I used to like USC. Now I’m playing [UCLA] and it is pretty exciting.”

The demand for tickets among Washington State players is high.

“It starts before the season starts,” Middleton said. “Everyone starts making deals. This is definitely a hard game to get. But I got mine.”

He would still like something more, though.

“We don’t want to get lost in being down there,” he said. “We want to win.”

Just visiting

Washington State Coach Mike Leach is also excited to come to Los Angeles this week. It stirs memories.

“I have never played in the Rose Bowl,” said Leach, who attended law school at Pepperdine. “When I was in Los Angeles, I always wanted to go to the swap meet at the Rose Bowl. I wasn’t necessarily planning to buy anything as much as to be able to say, ‘Hey this is cool; it’s right by the Rose Bowl.’”

Senior moment

UCLA will honor its senior players at the end of the first half Saturday. The ceremony will include a special presentation to the family of former UCLA receiver Nick Pasquale.

Pasquale died when struck by a car in September of 2013. His family is expected to attend the game, and UCLA players who were teammates of Pasquale will wear his No. 36 on their helmets. A handful of players paint his number on their arms for games.

“This would have been Nick Pasquale’s last home game as well …" UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. “As everyone knows, Nick had a tremendous impact on us and his family continues to. We just want to show our appreciation for them.”

Mora said he expects the ceremony will be special for all the families of Bruins seniors. “Hopefully this isn’t their last game on the Rose Bowl grass,” the coach added.

Saturday marks UCLA’s final home game of the regular season, but the Bruins hope to return for the Rose Bowl game Jan.1.

Quick hits

Mora said receivers Devin Fuller (ankle) and Stephen Johnson (head), and linebackers Isaako Savaiinaea (ankle) and Josh Woods (hamstring) will not play Saturday. … Receiver Thomas Duarte did not practice Tuesday and Wednesday because of the flu. He is expected to play against Washington State.

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