Washington State Preview

PULLMAN -- You wouldn't know it from looking at the calendar, but WSU's final game of the regular season is this Saturday against Arizona State. Ask anyone. Jason Gesser, Marcus Trufant, Rien Long, Derrick Roche, Issac Brown. They'll all tell you the same thing. This regionally televised matchup with the Sun Devils is the end of the road.

Gesser's confusion would be understandable given the pounding he took against UCLA last week. But if memory serves, Bruin 'backer supreme Robert Thomas didn't lay a hand on those other guys.

So what does Mike Price have to say about it all?

"This is the last game of the season, the last game for this Cougar football team, this is it," he said this week.

Say what?

"After this game is over we start a another season: The Apple Cup season, because it would be disastrous for some people if we didn't win the Apple Cup season. So we're not looking ahead, it's all on this one, this is it," he says.

So there you have it. Price wants his No. 11-ranked troops to have tunnelvision as they prep for the scrappy Sun Devils.

And the head man is leaving no stone unturned as he plans for the trip south. He's tinkering with the offense. He wants the receivers running crisper routes.

He's even gorging his players with water. That's right. Water.

"Playing in a game where it's going to be warm we've got to make sure we stay hydrated and keep plenty of fluids in us this week before we get down there sowe can go at it for four full quarters," Price said.

Makes sense. The high temperature in Pullman today was 44. Phoenix was 85.

Based on the 4-4 Devils' penchant for playing well at home, the Cougs will need every drop to get through this one with their Pac-10 title hopes intact at 9-1 heading into Seattle.

Despite the .500 record, the Sun Devils have played with abandon against the Pac-10's finest. Two weeks ago they took the Huskies to the wire before losing 33-31 on a last-second John Anderson field goal. And a week ago, the Devils refused to concede defeat in the face of a big Oregon lead and managed 24 points before all was said and done and that was with a rookie QB, Andrew Walter, subbing for Krohn.

"They (ASU) are dangerous," Price said. "They have a great running back (Delvon Flowers) and their quarterback (Krohn) is a heck of a player. They also have some real playmakers on the defensive side of the ball and have taken some real good teams down to the wire so I think it's going to be a real competitive game."

In order for the Cougs to win the "final" game of the season the offense must return to form. Washington State O has been pressing, scoring only 37 points in the last two games. In the six games before that the Cougs were averaging 44 points per contest.

"Everybody is doing their own thing and that is wrong," Price said. "One time one guy thinks 'I'm going to do this,' and then another guy thinks 'I'm going to do that.' Or 'I think I want to run this route 10 yards rather than six yards.' Or 'I think we need to throw that ball here rather than here.' It's not like I'm ready to slit my throat, but they've got to do better."

While Price may be a little worried about his team's offensive output, ASU first-year headman Dirk Koetter is confident WSU, especially Gesser, will be able to rebound.

"As far as Washington State goes, they have a totally different kind of quarterback," he said. "His escapability -- being able to make plays that break -- make him tough to stop."

Even if the O gets back in gear, the defense must be able to stop an ASU attack averaging 439.8 yards per game.

"We're going to have to do it with good defense, just like we did last week,"Price said. "I told the players 'It's the same game, just a different team with different uniforms.'"

Koetter agrees. "This year through eight games they (Cougars) have 30 takeaways and 74 tackles for loss. That's huge, and it really shows up in the way they play."

THE LINE: WSU favored by 2.

TV TIME: The Cougar-Devil game tees up at 3:30 Pacific Time on Saturday and will be televised throughout most of the West.

POLL WATCHING: After last week's victory against UCLA the Cougs moved up to No. 12 in the Coaches' poll and No. 11 in the AP. The Cougs' jump in the polls led to a three-spot bump, to No. 9, in the BCS ranking.

STAT OF THE DAY: The Cougs are 4-0 on the road this year. ASU is 4-1 at home. ASU leads the all time series, which dates back to 1960, 16-9-2 including last year's overtime victory in Pullman.

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