Tucson, Ariz. • Arizona Stadium
Saturday, Sept. 25, • 12:30 p.m. (MST/PDT)
Radio: KCUB (Brian Jefferies, Lamont Lovett)
Television: Fox Sports Net (Keith Jackson, Bob Griese)
WASHINGTON STATE AT A GLANCE
Head Coach: Bill Doba (2nd year, 10-3 overall)
2003 Record: : 10-3 (2nd in Pac-10) (Beat Texas in the Holiday Bowl)
Site: Pullman, WA
Series Record: Arizona leads the series 20-12. WSU beat Arizona 30-7 last season.
Starters Returning: Offense 6, Defense 2
Key Players: LB Will Derting; OT Calvin Armstrong; RB Chris Bruhn; DE Adam Braidwood; OT Sam Lightbody
Key Additions: WR Michael Bumpus; WR Greg Prator; OL Andy Roof
Key Losses: QB Matt Kegal; DE DD Acholonu; S Erik Coleman; OL Josh Parrish
ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE:
We finally get to see if Bill Doba can coach. He was amazing last year using Mike Prices' players, but now he needs to integrate a lot of youth to a team that lost 14 starters.
Washington State is the surprising answer to an interesting trivia question. It's the only program in the history of the Pac-10 to win at least 10 games for three consecutive seasons. That said, it seems unlikely the feat will be duplicated this year. Wazzu has to start off strong, because the schedule gets more daunting as the season progresses.
WHEN WSU HAS THE BALL:
Offense has been a mixed bag for the Cougars. They looked shaky the past two games, but put up 49 points against a poor Idaho squad last week. Against New Mexico and Colorado, the Cougars averaged just 16.5 points.
It could be even tougher on WSU as starting quarterback Josh Swogger is questionable at best and probably won't play. Back-up Alex Brink has done some nice things, but made a freshman mistake against Colorado when he took off running in the final seconds and the game came to an end as he was tackled short of the endzone. For the season he's a solid 13-25 for 278 yards and a score.
This season the Cougar receivers have given little help to the passers. They have dropped a number of passes, some of them easy grabs. Jason Hill has been the team's big play guy. He averages over 31 yards a catch and has scored four touchdowns, including a 76-yarder. The ground game has been solid, but not spectacular. Chris Bruhn gets the bulk of the carries and has been grinding out 4.2 yards a carry. Allen Thompson, Kevin McCall and Jerome Harrison also get their share of carries.
WSU has the advantage up front with their big, physical offensive line. They will try to wear down the Wildcats like Wisconsin did a week ago.
The Cats have been playing great defense and they want to force the Cougars to throw, especially if Brink gets the start. The Cats would love to put the game in his hands and force him to make plays. Expect the Cats to blitz Brink and force him to make quick decisions.
WHEN ARIZONA HAS THE BALL
The Wildcats have struggled on offense and need to get things on track. The Wildcats have moved the ball between the 20's but just haven't been able to punch it in.
Kris Heavner is the key. He has completed a high percentage of passes, but has not made a number of big plays. Part of that is by design and part of it is due to a lack of time and playmakers. Heavner should be bolstered by the return of Biren Ealy, who is the Wildcats' best deep threat.
Mike Bell is still the go-to guy, but he has to take care of the ball. Bell has been dinged up and put the ball on the ground a little too much for the coaches' liking. He's the best playmaker on offense but will team with power runners Gilbert Harris and Chris Henry to mix up the looks they give the Cougars.
Washington State has one heck of a defense. They have given up just 15 points a game and have kept teams in check. Linebacker Will Derting is a throwback player who reminds many of players like Dick Butkis or Mike Singletary. He has a nose for the ball and does damage when he gets there.
What is very surprising is that the Cougars have played so well despite losing nine starters. The group has some talented players like linebackers Scott Davis and Pat Bennett, plus DB's Karl Paymah and Alex Teems.
OUTLOOK:Both teams have struggled a bit on offense and have looked terrific on defense. This should be another close, defensive football game. Last week the Cats came within a couple of feet of getting the win and this week they could be due.
PREDICTION: Arizona 14, Washington State 13 (For the season 2-1)