Washington State gave up 603 total yards last week to Colorado. This week, the Cougars will try to slow the Huskies' roll by limiting their ground attack
Washington’s offense ranks 29th nationally in passing (273.9 yards per game), and 38th nationally in rushing (208.8 yards per game) and will likely be the best offense Washington State’s defense has encountered this year.
That’s WSU outside linebackers coach Roy Manning’s evaluation of the Cougars’ Apple Cup opponent in a nutshell.
“They do it all. You don’t know what you’re gonna get because they do so much in the pass game and the run game, with the pre-snap shifts and motions and unbalanced formations. The execute and they do it well,” Manning said Monday. “You’ve definitely got to be on top of your P’s and Q’s to play well against them.
“It’s a big challenge, and obviously it’s a rivalry game, so our guys will be excited to play.”
The challenge this week for the No. 23 Cougars is to quickly shake off any lingering issues from their disappointing 38-24 defeat to Colorado last week and gear up to face an offense that Manning said “has no weakness anywhere.”
WSU’s defense gave up 603 total yards and five rushing touchdowns to the Buffaloes, which was something of a letdown because the Cougars have made stopping the run a point of emphasis this season.
Going into last week, WSU had the Pac-12’s No. 1 rushing defense and had held its last six opponents to a total of five touchdowns and less than 200 rushing yards per game. But between the efforts of quarterback Sefo Liufau and running back Phillip Lindsay, the Buffaloes exploded for 258 rushing yards and five scores – both single game season highs for WSU.
Still, Manning said there wasn’t anything specifically wrong with the defense, just an overall lack of execution.
So this week, there will be no drastic defensive fixes. Instead, the Cougars will stay the course and once again focus on slowing the Huskies’ ground game and limiting explosive plays.
No. 6 UW is averaging 208.8 rush yards per game and has scored 19 rushing touchdowns. Sophomore running back Myles Gaskin leads the way with nine touchdown runs. He’s averaging 102.7 yards per game, and has put together back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing campaigns, with 1,130 yards this season. Gaskin also rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns against WSU in last year’s Apple Cup.
“We’ve got to take something away and we’ve kinda hung our hat on stopping the run this year,” Manning said. “Regardless of the opponent, that’s not gonna change. And you want to eliminate the big plays. You look on film and they’ve got a lot of explosive plays where guys run by or break tackles, or see how dynamic they are with the ball in their hand, and a quarterback who can get it to them.
“So I think you start there. It’s not always scheme, it’s how you execute it. That’ll be the big emphasis this week for our guys.”
Why no media?
WSU head football coach Mike Leach took a page out of UW coach Chris Petersen’s book this week and has shut down all player media access leading up to the Apple Cup.
His rationale: “There’s a lot of distractions. I don’t want them distracted. I want them focused in on just playing. Plus we have a short week, so everybody’s work this week is accelerated,” Leach said.
Petersen did not allow his players to talk to the media before last year’s Apple Cup, and he took that position again this year.
Luke Falk will return for senior season, says Leach
Two weeks ago, WSU quarterback Luke Falk shot down a media report that quoted unknown sources and said Falk had decided to leave early for the NFL Draft.
On Monday, Leach also expressed his belief that his junior quarterback should, and will, he thinks, return to WSU for his senior season in 2017.
“Most guys who go out early at quarterback are not successful. They don’t make the team,” Leach said, adding, “I think he will (come back to WSU).”