Last game, the Washington Huskies faced a rebuilding and struggling team in the Colorado Buffaloes and lost 20-14 in a shocker.
On the season, the Huskies fell to 6-5 (3-5), which is a record that nobody saw coming before the year even got under way.
The Huskies inexplicably came out flat after their second bye week and couldn’t get anything productive going as a team.
Defensively, the Huskies were getting gashed all night long, as they couldn’t contain Colorado quarterback Steven Montez.
On offense, the Huskies couldn’t establish a running game and once again couldn’t win a close game down the stretch in the 4th quarter.
The Washington State Cougars are currently 6-5 (3-5) on the season, and last week they beat the Oregon State Beavers 54-53 at home.
After finally clinching a bowl game berth with their sixth win, the Cougars are looking to end their Apple Cup losing streak of six games in a row.
“Maybe they execute better this season but it’s the same system,” Washington head coach Chris Petersen said in regards to if this year’s version of the Cougars is different from last season’s?
The Cougars are entering this game tied for third place in the Pac-12 North Division, and are trying to get Mike Leach his first Apple Cup victory against Chris Petersen.
Here are some keys the Huskies must do to put themselves in a good position to win this game…..
Embrace The Rivalry
Simply put…there is no extra motivation needed this week because after all…It’s the Cougars! Yes…it’s Apple Cup and the cross-state hatred has begun. Coach Petersen is playing this game off as just another game on the schedule, that is as important right now as the next game on the schedule. That couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a huge game and a big rivalry, that should be embraced as more important than the other games on the schedule. The team needs to view it that way and embrace it! The Huskies have “owned” the Cougars as of late! Not allowing them to march into Husky Stadium, steal a victory and stomp on the “W” at midfield like the Oregon Ducks did earlier this season, is top priority. Don’t run from the hatred this week but use it as fuel to the fire!
Create “Explosives” On Offense
A major area where the Huskies can exploit the Cougars this year is with their defense. Washington State has one of the worst defenses in the entire conference, giving up 467.2 yards per game. Of that massive number, the Cougars are allowing 290.6 yards through the air and are giving up 13.8 yards per catch to their opponents. The Cougars secondary has been suspect all season long and the opportunity for the Husky offense to torch them down the field will be there. Washington quarterback Jacob Eason has a tremendous arm, so let him do what he does best and create some much needed “explosives” down the field. Test those Cougar “DB’s” often and early and get some big chunk yardage. It will make it much easier for the Huskies to match the Cougars scoring.
Shorten The Game
It’s no secret that the Cougars have a prolific “video game” offense with their “Air Raid” attack. The strength of the Husky offense has been their running game this season, behind a veteran offensive line. The biggest key to the game will be for the Huskies to keep the Cougars offense off the field as much as possible. The best way to accomplish that is to shorten the game with establishing the running game and controlling the time of possession. Hand the ball of to running back Salvon Ahmed for 20+ carries and let him pace some long drives down the field. If the Huskies can consistently sustain 6-minute drives on offense, then the Cougars offense stays off the field. It makes it harder for them to get into rhythm when they have been sitting on the sideline for long periods of time.
Ground The “Air Raid”
This is the annual game every season where Washington defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake earns his paycheck. He has an affinity for grounding “Air Raid” offenses and he has no problem making Wazzu aware of that fact as well. Earlier this season, Lake and the Husky defense grounded the USC Trojans “Air Raid” offense and the Huskies will have to step up and do it again. The Husky defense is built to defend this type of an offense, with the number of DB’s Lake likes to use on every down. Heading into each Apple Cup contest lately, Lake has had his team fully prepared with knowing exactly what is coming from the Cougars. Every season, the Huskies always have the blueprint to completely ground Mike Leach’s offense and they need to dominate and set the tone again this year!
Get Consistent Pressure On WSU Quarterback Anthony Gordon
Every year it seems that when the Cougars are ready to send a talented quarterback into graduation, another one emerges. “Minshew Mania” is gone but Anthony Gordon has actually come in and broke some records himself. Gordon is another pass-heavy talented quarterback who can really spin it. With the Cougar offense so dependent upon timing and rhythm, it will be critical for the Husky defense to get constant pressure on Gordon. They will need to push the pocket and get Gordon out on the run, trying to force plays down the field. The Huskies can’t afford to let Gordon sit in the pocket and just pick them apart all game long. Just as in years past, the Huskies have had great Apple Cup success recently by putting the “heat” on quarterbacks and forcing turnovers.
BONUS: Take The “Bulletin Board” Material Personal
After the Cougars win the other night against the Oregon State Beavers..Wazzu running back Max Borghi gave the Huskies some bulletin board material. When asked for a score prediction for the Apple Cup, Borghi said, “No score. But I will be scoring a lot.” The Husky defense was just handed some extra motivation to stop the Cougars offense and more specifically, Max Borghi. The Husky defense should take that statement personal and show Borghi what they think of that statement when they take the field against him this Friday. Any kindling that can be added to the fire can only inspire the Huskies to come out and show the Cougars who “Big Brother” is again. It’s time for the Huskies to bring that “fire” and “edge” to this game and “The CUOGS” just provided another reason why! Don’t let Borghi even sniff the end zone!
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