THE COUGARS ON OFFENSE
Overview: WSU runs a standard spread offense which passes to setup its running game. They are deep at receiver and deep at running back, but have become a huge question mark with injuries to Matt Kegel. WSU's system requires an experienced signal caller who knows the audibles and hot routes like the back of his hand. Without Kegel, redshirt freshman Josh Swogger suddenly becomes the center of the entire Cougar attack. Swogger has looked brilliant at times but has also made the typical freshman mistakes like staring down receivers and forcing passes into coverage.
Strategy: Teams have had little trouble generating turnovers against WSU when the running game isn't working. ASU should focus on shutting down the run up front and maintaining an opportunistic zone defense in the secondary. Many of the points surrendered by WSU recently have been through offensive miscues.
Players to Know:
Josh Swogger, QB: Swogger is the future of WSU football and assuming Kegel is out for this week's contest, the future is now. At 6'5 240 pounds, he is already a physically developed figure who looks fearless under center. In limited action this season he has completed just 45% of his passes for 234 yards and has thrown 2 interceptions. Most of his playing time came last week as Swogger struggled but never lost his composure against the Bruins. In general, the verdict remains out while Swogger learns the offense but the physical tools are all there. ASU will likely look to confuse the freshman and force him to make accurate throws under pressure.
Devard Darling, WR: Darling is WSU's Ferrari at wide out. The transfer from Florida State has prototype NFL size and speed. He hasn't had much trouble getting separation this year but has dropped a couple big touchdown passes for no apparent reason. He currently leads all WSU receivers with 38 catches for 656 yards and 5 scores.
Scott Lunde, WR: When teams blitz, Lunde sees a lot of balls. The slot receiver has only 31 catches for 453 yards but has a knack for holding onto the ball even amidst crushing blows from the defenders.
Jonathan Smith, RB: Smith is a scat back type rusher, who has emerged as the most dependable of the three WSU tailbacks. He has rushed for 665 yards and a team best 8 touchdowns. He also has excellent hands and has 24 catches for 270 yards and another score.
THE COUGARS ON DEFENSE
Overview: The Cougar defense has been flat out scary at times. They currently lead the Pac-10 in sacks, turnovers, scoring defense and yards allowed per play. As a unit they are lighting quick and seem to generate turnovers at will. In several games this season they have actually generated more points than they have surrendered. The basic scheme is a blitz-happy 4-3, but the reason for its success has been the personnel running it. The starting rotation features nine seniors who have seen just about every type of offense ever invented by this point in their careers. The defensive line enormous at the tackle position but quick and agile on the ends, which can cause mismatches with offensive linemen.
Strategy: ASU should try and force a low scoring game and look to avoid costly turnovers as much as possible. This means keep the passing game simple and protect the football on running plays, as cold Pullman air is not a running back's friend. ASU must be effective but conservative, and try getting to short yardage downs when the Cougs have been beaten for a few big plays. Andrew Walter needs to understand that if he is facing 3rd and long, the defense has already won the series. Quarterbacks that have tried to force passes on obvious passing downs have met disaster.
Players to Know:
Eric Coleman, FS: Coleman is the hard-hitting leader of the WSU defense. He leads the team with 69 tackles and has six interceptions to his credit. Nothing flashy, but a sure tackler with a knack for getting to the football. He recently made the Nagurski watch list.
Will Derting, SLB: Will Derting is right out of Tecmo Bowl. While he is the youngest starter on the WSU defense, he is arguably its most talented player. The speedy sophomore seems to be at the center of every play delivers bone crushing hits without mercy. He is a three-time Pac-10 defensive player of the week in 2003.
Isaac Brown and DD Acholonu, DEs: WSU features two of the most fearsome pass rushers in the country. Acholonu and Brown have nearly 50 career sacks between them and many teams have adjusted their strategies to try and nullify their effect. Seven step drops have been virtually removed from opponent's playbooks and short passes have become their bread and butter. While these two excel at attacking the passers their relatively lightweight has been a focal point in opponent's rushing tactics.
Jeremy Williams and Tai Tupai, DTs: Between Williams and Tupai, WSU has 13 feet and 627 pounds of tackle at the center of the line of scrimmage. Few teams have had much success running up the gut on them and have often been forced to contend with WSU's speed off the edges as a result. Depth behind these two is relatively strong as well, allowing them to rotate in and remain fresh throughout the game.
Jason David, CB: A semi-finalist for the Thorpe Award, David plays much bigger than his 5'8 frame. He has broken up 12 passes this year and has six interceptions, two of which were returned for scores. Team have looked exploit David's size all year but have had only marginal success. David's agility and recovery speed make him a nuisance for receivers regardless of their size.
THE COUGARS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
WSU special teams players are among the best in the conference at every. Kicker Drew Dunning has converted 21 of 24 field goal attempts from as far as 49 yards. Punter Kyle Basler averages almost 44 yards per punt and has placed 22 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Kick returner Sammy Moore averages a league best 25 yards per kickoff return and nearly 10 yards per punt return.
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