The Cougars (4-5) need to win two of their final three — at Arizona, vs. Utah and at Washington — to become bowl eligible. WSU features the nation’s No. 7 pass offense.
In a freakish scheduling wrinkle, the Washington State football team’s game Saturday (11 a.m., Pac-12 Networks) against Arizona (6-3, 3-3 Pac-12) will be its third in 28 days. The Cougars (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) are well-rested and mostly-injury free — a rare occurrence for a program that typically wears down as the season progresses — but they’re reeling.
They were outplayed by a combined score of 169-83 in losses to Oregon State, Oregon and Arizona State. The WSU defense that nearly shut out USC earlier in the season yielded a combined 1,874 yards of total offense.
“In the first part of the season we were all doing our jobs,” said safety Deone Bucannon Monday. “We were solid and we weren’t worried about the other team. We just need to get back to understanding that the person next to you has your back no matter what.”
Bad tackling, leaky pass coverage — OSU quarterback Sean Mannion probably just threw another touchdown with safety Taylor Taliulu in coverage — and a recent inability to stop the run played roles in the beat-downs.
“We came out flat against ASU and that’s not something we want to continue to do,” said freshman receiver River Cracraft Monday. “We’re really taking this seriously.”
They must find a way to contain Wildcats running back Ka’Deem Carey, who in his senior season has 1,221 rushing yards (5.7 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns. Carey is the type of explosive, shifty runner that gave the Cougars fits in losses to the Cardinal, Sun Devils and Ducks.
Arizona runs the same spread-formation, read-option, run-heavy offense that WSU’s 83rd-ranked rushing defense (183.9 yards per game) struggled to counter during their five losses.
What it means for the Cougars: A win would allow for a look at the big picture. At 5-5 (3-4 Pac-12), WSU would be better than last year’s 3-9 team, marking the type of progress fans expected when athletic director Bill Moos hired Mike Leach in 2011. A loss would make the Cougars (4-6,2-5 Pac-12) desperate, with remaining games against Utah and the University of Washington. The Cougars would be pegged to lose both, and Martin Stadium would be deserted anyway when Utah visits Pullman Saturday because students will be on Thanksgiving break.
What it means for the Wildcats: Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, noted mostly for his offensive schemes, has an unenviable task this week: Inspiring his defense after UCLA linebacker Myles Jack ran all over it in last week’s 31-26 loss to the Bruins. The Wildcats are fourth in the Pac-12 South with games ahead against Oregon (in Tucson) and Arizona State (in Tempe). Saturday is a must-win for Rich-Rod.
Key Matchup: Quarterback B.J. Denker vs. WSU secondary. Denker is the only starting quarterback in the Pac-12 who has a worse QBR than WSU quarterback Connor Halliday. Bucannon and cornerback Damante Horton are capable of forcing turnovers (combined for nine interceptions). They’ll need to on the odd occasions when Denker doesn’t hand off the ball to Carey or take it himself (641 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns).
Prediction: Wildcats 49, Cougars 31. Remember that WSU team that went into a raucous Jordan-Hare Stadium and were just a couple breaks away from beating Auburn, 9-1 and ranked No. 7 in the country? Me neither. Carey is going to go full beast mode in the desert.
SERIES: Dates to Oct. 5, 1963, when the Cougars won 7-2 in Spokane. Washington State faces Arizona for the first time since 2010 and is making its first trip to Tucson since 2009. The Wildcats lead the all-time series 25-13 and have won five meetings in a row with the Cougars, including the last two matchups in Tucson. WSU’s last win in the series came in 2004, in Tucson, 20-19 behind two fourth quarter touchdown passes from Josh Swogger to Jason Hill.
WSU HEAD COACH Mike Leach (91-57 overall, 7-14 WSU): Hired Nov. 30, 2011 to replace Paul Wulff, who went 9-40 in four seasons, Leach’s 2012 Cougars led the Pac-12 in passing at 330.4 yards per game and finished the season by beating Washington in the Apple Cup. In 10 seasons at Texas Tech (2000-09), Leach earned 10 bowl bids. The Susanville, CA., native, who was raised in Cody, WY., recorded a school-record 84 victories. Leach’s offenses led the nation in passing six times and three times accumulated the most total yards. In 2009, the Red Raiders finished second in passing offense and fourth in total offense, both marks tops among BCS conference schools. Prior to Texas Tech, Leach spent one season as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma (1999). That year, the Sooners set six Big 12 and 17 school records.
WSU STATS / NOTES
COUGARS OFFENSIVE LEADERS
COUGARS DEFENSIVE LEADERS
|Tackles||Bucannon 85, Monroe 54, Sagote 52|
|Sacks||Cooper 4.0, Coen 3.0, Gauta 3.0|
|Interceptions||Bucannon 5, Hornton 4, Brown 2|
|Passes Defensed||Brown 5, Gauta 3, Monroe 3|
|Forced Fumbles||Bucannon 3, Cooper 2|
|Fumbles Recovered||Pole 2, Bucannon 2|
Pac-12 Standings / North
|Stanford||8-1||6-1||Sat, at USC|
|Oregon||8-1||5-1||Sat, vs. Utah|
|Oregon St.||6-3||4-2||Sat, at ASU|
|Washington||6-4||3-4||Nov. 23, at OSU|
|Washington St.||4-5||2-4||Sat, at Arizona|
|Cal||1-9||0-7||Sat, at Colorado|
Pac-12 Standings / South
|Arizona St.||7-2||5-1||Sat, vs. Oregon St.|
|UCLA||7-2||4-2||Nov. 23, vs. ASU|
|USC||7-3||4-2||Sat, vs. Stanford|
|Arizona||6-3||3-3||Sat, vs. WSU|
|Utah||4-5||1-5||Sat, at Oregon|
|Colorado||3-6||0-6||Sat, vs. California|
ARIZONA NOTES: The Wildcats (6-2) have victories over Northern Arizona (35-0), UNLV (58-13), Texas-San Antonio (38-13), Utah (35-24), Colorado (44-20) and California (33-28) and losses to Washington (31-13), USC (38-31) and UCLA (31-26) . . . The roster lists two players with ties to the state of Washington, LB Sir Thomas Jackson (Seattle) and CB Justin Samuels (Camas) . . . Rich Rodriguez is in his 29th year of coaching and second as head coach at Arizona. He served as head coach at Michigan from 2008-10 and West Virginia (2001-07). He is a West Virginia graduate.
Washington State 2013 Schedule/Results
|Date||Opponent||WSU Rnk||Opp Rnk||W/L||Score||Rec.|
|9/14/13||vs. So. Utah||—||—||W||48-10||2-1|