Saturday, Oct. 4th - 2 p.m. PDT/MST
Martin Stadium, Pullman, Washington
Radio: KNST (Brian Jefferies, Les Josephson)
T.V.: Fox Sports Arizona (Chris Marlowe, Clete Casper) Tape delay 11 a.m. Sunday
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WASHINGTON STATE AT A GLANCE
Coach: Bill Doba (4-1, 1st year)
2002 Record: 10-3; Pac-10 7-1, T/1st (Lost to Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl)
Site: Pullman, WA
Series Record: Arizona leads 20-11.
Last Meeting: The Cougars beat the Cats 21-13 in Tucson last season.
Matt Kegel is no Jason Gesser, but he hasn't needed to be. All Kegal has done is throw for 1,280 yards and eight scores in the team's first five games. He may not be the game changer that Gesser was, but he's quickly establishing himself as one of the better quarterbacks in the Pac-10.
"I've been very impressed with their offense; they look like a veteran, well-oiled offense," said Mike Hankwitz. "(Matt) Kegel has stepped in and played extremely well at quarterback."
One benefit to Kegal is the improved running game. Jermaine Green and Jonathan Smith give the Cougars a great one-two punch at running back. They average 145 yards a game, up over 15 yards a game from a year ago. The talented twosome get to run behind an O-line that returns four starters, including 6-8, 315-pound Calvin Armstrong.
"Their offensive line is big, and they have shown improvement in their ability to run the ball," said Hankwitz. "(Jonathan) Smith and (Jermaine) Green give them another dimension because they are running it more consistently at approximately 145 yards a game. For a team that throws it extremely well, it makes it a lot harder to defend."
The receiving corps is very deep. Devard Darling heads up a group of wide outs that include four players with at least 12 receptions and four more with at least seven catches each. Darling is a real talent, while Troy Bieneman gives the team a great target at tight end.
"They have a wealth of receivers to go to, and the quarterback has done a great job of getting the ball to the right people," noted Hankwitz. "They are a very challenging offense to defend."
The Wildcat defense is showing signs of coming together. With the offense able to run some time off the clock, the defense didn't tire and put in a great effort against TCU. The Cats are still going with their version of the 4-3 that includes Clay Hardt playing rover. Hardt had an amazing game against TCU, racking up 13 tackles and keeping the offense from being a big weapon. The Cats will need Hardt to help out against the WSU rushing attack.
The Cats have a nice set of defensive backs, but they will get tested. Michael Jolivette has played well all season and the safety duo of Darrell Brooks and Lamon Means. The Cats will need big days from Gary Love and whoever else plays corner back opposite of Jolivette.
One thing the Cats have been doing is tackling better. They looked bad against LSU and Oregon, but made a great improvement the past two games. The team has also been really hitting, flying around and just drilling people. The Cats will need to keep it up if they want to have any success against the Cougars.
WHEN ARIZONA HAS THE BALL
True freshman Kris Heavner will make his second career start against Washington State. Heavner had a good deal of success against TCU but did make freshman mistakes, including three interceptions, one in overtime. He did move the team as well as any one has all season and took pressure off the defense.
Because of injuries, the Cats have a patchwork line that did a good job against TCU. They will need to step it up against the Cougars. They kept the heat off Heavner last Saturday, but need to do a better job establishing the run. The Cats have moved guys all over the line to patch-up holes and have almost no depth. Their performance against TCU was inspiring but Washington State is a whole new ball game.
A big question is the role of Clarence Farmer. It is no secret that Farmer and Mackovic had more than their share of differences. But with Mackovic gone will the Cats go to the talented senior more often? Farmer has yet to return to his 2001 form, but he's still the best runner the Wildcats have. If Farmer doesn't get the workload, expect Beau Carr to see his fair share of carries.
One of the positives from the TCU game was the use of the receivers. For most of the season Biren Ealy had been the main target. Against the Horned Frogs Heavner found seven different receivers, including all three tight ends. Ricky Williams had a career game, catching five passes for 131 yards and Steve Fleming had a breakout game.
Washington State lost a lot of stars on defense but have fielded a very effective unit. They forced eight turnovers against Oregon and are playing very hard right now.
"From what I have seen on film thus far, they are much more aggressive this year as a defense," said Hankwitz. "With the way their offense is playing, they can afford to be.
The defensive front lacks a lot of starting experience, but does not lack overall experience. There are five seniors among the top eight defensive linemen and they don't make many mistakes. The linebacking corps is solid and the defensive backfield returns three starters.
OUTLOOK: Washington State has hardly missed a beat from last year. Without players like Jason Gesser, Marcus Trufant and Rien Long and former head coach Mike Price, many thought the Cougars would struggle. After a tough loss to Notre Dame the Cougars have come on strong and are serving notice to the Pac-10. The Cats come into the game with a lot of emotion. Last year they rallied to beat Cal after the players' revolt and there could be similar motivation this week. The Cougars are the superior team and should win, but strange things can happen when emotions come into play.
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