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Washington State Looks to Stay Unbeaten in Conference Play

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Gabe Marks scoring a TD in last years shootout win in Tuscon
wsucougars.com

Saturday Afternoon Washington State will be hosting the struggling Arizona Wildcats as they look to remain unbeaten in the Pac-12 season and continue controlling their own destiny to the conference championship and a possible Rose Bowl berth. But before all that it is essential for the Cougars to take care of a 2-6 team at home. After having pretty good seasons in Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez’s first couple of seasons as the coach of the Wildcats they have been in a pretty downward spiral the past two seasons. They have seen inconsistent quarterback play because of a number of injuries and just poor play and they have gotten worse on the defensive side of the ball.

Players to watch for Arizona: There aren’t too many players that should really strike fear in Washington State, but one of them would be quarterback Brandon Dawkins. He has been fairly inconsistent throwing the ball but he his capable of hitting some big throws downfield if the secondary falls asleep and lets guys get open, but they should be fine on not allowing a lot of pass yards as long as they pressure the receivers and don’t give Dawkins easy throws, because I’m not sure he can beat them if he has to throw against good coverage all afternoon. Dawkins is also the Wildcats’ leading rusher. It will be very important for the front seven to keep him in the pocket and not allow him to escape and extend plays. Shun Brown is the main receiver to watch out for on Arizona. He’s averaging 17 yards per catch and has three touchdowns on the season. If the safeties can make sure that he doesn’t get deeper than them they should be able to control the passing game of the Wildcats.

Keys for the Cougars: The main key is that they have to get off to a faster start than they did in last weeks win at Oregon State. They are playing another team that they should pretty much have no trouble beating, but if they come out of the gates just going through the motions they could find themselves down big again and they might not be able to overcome a big deficit this week. Quarterback Luke Falk has to avoid getting hit so much this week. He got so beat up last week against Oregon State, so this week he has to do a better job of reading the defense at the line and getting rid of the ball quickly to help out an offensive line that has been pretty spotty in pass protection lately. He has to continue spreading the ball around to a good number of his playmakers. If they are using a number of different targets in the pass game it will only make it more difficult for a defense that is short on numbers and is giving up 33 points per game. They are also vulnerable to giving up yards on the ground, giving up 210 yards per game in such fashion. Luke Falk needs to be able to check to run plays when they are there and not be afraid to ride Jamal Morrow and the other running backs and take some of the pressure off himself and the receivers. The last big key is to be more sharp on special teams. Last week they had an extra point blocked and muffed a punt inside the ten yard line. These are mistakes I’m sure they worked on cleaning up in practice, but they can’t happen again because they could end up costing the Cougars a game and having one game they can still lose and win the North if you are going to lose you don’t want that game to be to a 2-6 Arizona team.

Other info: The game will kickoff at 1 PM P.T. on the Pac-12 Network. The Cougars come in as 17 point favorites and the over/under is set at 66. The weather is expected to be in the low 60s with a few clouds.