WSU's Taylor is upset-minded
A year ago the Washington State Cougars were on top of the world as Pacific 10 Conference champions with their fab-five wide receivers and NFL-bound quarterback Ryan Leaf.
Now, with a record of 3-5 and a dismal 0-5 mark in the Pac-10, they are feeling the effects of graduation and the NFL draft.
The only player remaining from those six outstanding offensive players is senior wideout Nian Taylor, who is not too pleased with the Cougars' lack of success this year.
"It is disappointing because you want to go out a winner, not a loser," Taylor said. "But we are young and rebuilding and I am supposed to be getting my prop year back so maybe I will get another shot to go out on top."
Taylor did not play football his freshman year, so he is eligible for one more year after the 1998 season if he is granted it.
In the previous two seasons as a backup receiver Taylor has caught 22 passes each year. Last year those 22 receptions lead to 570 yards and six touchdowns.
In those two seasons he had the privilege of having now-San Diego Chargers quarterback Leaf throwing him the ball. This year is different as the Cougars have experimented with the two-quarterback system with junior Steve Birnbaum and sophomore Paul Mencke.
"It is very different. Ryan had the experience, but we're going to get it together. They are making the little mistakes," Taylor said. "Ryan is old news and these guys are new news. They are the ones throwing me the ball now."
This season, despite missing some playing time due to a calf injury he suffered at Cal and having two inexperienced quarterbacks throwing to him, Taylor's statistics do not disappoint
He has caught 30 passes for 598 yards and seven touchdowns. One of those was a 97-yard score.
As he and the Cougars travel into Tucson looking to be the spoilers of the Wildcats' season, Taylor will be the guy that could make the difference and Arizona's senior cornerback Chris McAlister may be his shadow.
"From the films he looks like a nice receiver with good hands and speed," McAlister said. "I really don't know too much about him, though."
When asked if it is his job to try and shut Taylor down, like he did last weekend to Oregon's go-to guy Damon Griffin, McAlister's only response was, "We are trying to develop a lot of flexibility in our defense. If he comes my way, then I will play him."
According to Washington State coach Mike Price, Taylor is looking forward to a challenge that McAlister can give him.
"I'll be shocked if they don't put McAlister on Nian," Price said. "He is going to have to find where Nian's at. Nian is real excited to go up against Chris."
For Taylor, he doesn't care who plays him, he just feels it is time to win.
"Of course I think we have a chance to pull the upset," he said. "We lift, get treatment and practice hard every day. It is our time to win; we haven't in a long time."
To win this game, Taylor said the Cougars are looking at last year's overtime thriller with Arizona, in which the Wildcats almost knocked them out of Rose Bowl contention, as motivation.
"We are motivated for every game. This is their home field and they almost upset us in our house last year," Taylor said. "We don't have anything to lose and they have everything to lose."
Dan Rosen can be reached via e-mail at Dan.Rosen@wildcat.arizona.edu.