After a week of Mike Leach being very vocal in the media, questioning his team’s toughness and saying that his players are being unfairly singled out by law enforcement after being asked about some incidents that happened during the off-season and why those players are being allowed to play. This is a very important week for the Cougars. After an 0-2 start to the season, this is a game they should win because Idaho (1-1) is going to be over matched athletically by Washington State, and the Cougars need to get a win before they start conference play so they can feel better about themselves.
Players to watch for the Vandals:
The Vandals don’t really have any standout players on offense. Quarterback Matt Linehan has only thrown for 315 yards in the teams first two games, and Aaron Duckworth, the teams leading rusher has only run for 142 yards in the teams first two games. The offense as a whole is only averaging about 340 yards. The defense isn’t giving up a whole lot of yards so far, but they have given up an average of 38 points. That average has been spiked by giving up 59 in a blowout loss to the Washington Huskies last week. Overall, this should be a game that the Cougars are able to get right on both sides of the ball.
Keys for the Cougars:
Washington State needs to come out from the kickoff and punch the Vandals right in the mouth. This is a game they should be able to win by a lot and that they should be able to get a lot of different guys in the game that don’t normally get to play. They should be able to pad some stats in this game through the air, but what I want to see is the offense establish some sort of a run game. I’m not saying run the ball 40 times, but at least show you can run the ball and start to have some confidence in it going into conference play. I know Leach loves to throw it, but if they can start to generate a little bit of a run game it will help out the pass game mightily, especially in the red zone where the passing windows become smaller. I would also like to see the defensive front really establish a pass rush and be all over Matt Linehan. They need to be better defending the run as well. The secondary took a good step forward last week and needs to continue to make strides. I look for them to be able to force some turnovers. Another thing is that Luke Falk needs to avoid costly interceptions. Obviously when you throw the ball so much you are going to throw some, but in the first two week he’s thrown really costly ones, even though he’s only thrown two total. I want to see him take good care of the ball this week.
The game is scheduled for an 11:00 AM PT kickoff on the Pac-12 network. The Cougars are 27 point favorites and the over/under for the game is set at 69.