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Cougars' Mayle credits confidence for success

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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) For Washington State wide receiver Vince Mayle, it's not just good hands and fast feet that make him the top pass catcher in team history. It's confidence.

''It's very important,'' Mayle said. ''If you're not confident, and you're just looking at the guy across from you - and you feel he's going to do his job better than you're going to do your job - then you've already lost.''

Few do their job better than Mayle.

So far this season, Mayle has caught 101 passes for 1,405 yards, both Washington State single-season records, and nine touchdowns. He's tied for first in the nation with 9.2 receptions per game, and second in receiving yardage. Mayle is also a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award given to the nation's top receiver.

And Mayle has one game left, the annual Apple Cup showdown Saturday with archrival Washington, to add to his numbers.

''I'm just going to go out there and play like it's my first game ever,'' Mayle said. ''I know it's the Apple Cup, but you can't go into a game thinking it's bigger than what it is. Yeah, it's a rivalry but it's still another game you've got to treat normal.''

Coach Mike Leach has been pleased with Mayle's season.

''Biggest thing this year is he started playing really physical,'' Leach said. ''The more physical he plays the better he is, and he's faster than you think he is.''

Mayle took a circuitous route to Washington State. Growing up in Natomas, California, he was primarily interested in basketball, making it as far as the community college level in 2009-10.

Then he took time off from school to care for his ailing mother, and was advised that his best chance of playing sports at the university level was to try out for football.

He played a year at Sierra College in 2012, catching 61 passes and 16 touchdowns. That brought him recruiting interest from Washington State and other programs. He chose the Cougars, and was impressive from the beginning.

''He was built like a Saturday morning cartoon character,'' Leach has said. ''He was all chiseled up.''

The coach said Mayle has clearly improved since his arrival.

''I think he knows more of the nuances of the game,'' Leach said. ''I think he's more explosive. I think he doesn't hesitate. I think he does a good job completing the next play. He's a lot better at catching the ball over his outside shoulder.''

Mayle built a solid rapport with record-setting quarterback Connor Halliday, who is still the nation's leading passer.

Earlier this season, he caught 11 passes for a team-record 263 yards in a loss to California. That was the game in which Halliday set the NCAA single-game record with 734 yards passing.

But Halliday broke his leg on Nov. 1 and his season is over. Freshman Luke Falk replaced Halliday and Mayle hasn't missed a beat.

He caught a school-record 15 passes for 252 yards in a loss at Arizona State last Saturday.

The offense was clicking, but five turnovers, including four interceptions by Falk, doomed the Cougars.

Of course, statistics tend to become gaudy in Leach's Air Raid offense, where the team is likely to throw 60 times a game.

Mayle is hardly a one-man show. Isiah Myers has caught 75 passes for 906 yards. River Cracraft has 63 catches for 731 yards and Jamal Morrow has 61 catches for 460 yards. Four other WSU receivers have at least 27 catches this season.

''I feel like all of our receivers are better than the DB's (defensive backs),'' Mayle said.

Mayle on Monday accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl, an annual showcase of talent for NFL scouts and general managers. But right now he is focused on the Apple Cup.

''I try not to get too ahead of myself because that's when I make mistakes,'' Mayle said. ''I just want to take one game a week and make the best out of each game.''