The Cougars run a version of the three-receiver West Coast offense, and sophomore Josh Swogger takes three- to five-step drops, getting rid of the ball fairly quickly. The 6-foot-5, 247-pounder started nine games last season, and threw for 240 yards in WSU's win over New Mexico last week.
Swogger plays behind as big an offensive line as CU will see this year, as WSU averages 313 pounds along its front five. Tackle Calvin Armstrong is a four-year starter, but he missed practice time this week with a knee injury. The group is adept at pass protection, but unproven in run blocking.
Junior Trandon Harvey may eventually become WSU's playmaker this year, but true freshman Michael Bumpus has people in Pullman excited with his potential at slotback. Tight end Troy Bieneman is a big target at 6-4, 245.
Senior running back Chris Bruhn is a big-type back at 6-3, 220-pounds, but he had no where to run vs. New Mexico, and averaged just 2.3 yards per carry on 20 rushes.
KEYS for COLORADO
Put pressure on Swogger
CU failed to register a sack of Justin Holland last week. CU coaches lost the chess match with their CSU counterparts in that game, in terms of putting the Buffs in the right pressure package on the right play. The Rams staff was one-step ahead of the Buffs staff, especially in the second half. The WSU O-line is big and experienced, especially on the outside. Because Swogger gets rid of the ball so quickly, it'll be difficult for the CU defense to get to the WSU QB, but if they do, it will probably be from blitzes up the middle.
Bolster their weaknesses
WSU offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller analyzes the Cougars' opponent's weaknesses and tries to exploit them with a specialized game plan each week. CU secondary coach Craig Bray said this week that the WSU offense is probably licking its chops after the Buffs gave up 403 passing yards to Colorado State. If junior free safety J.J. Billingsley can't play, or can't play well (knee) on Saturday, CU loses a lot of experience on the back end.
DEFENSE After boasting a top 10 run defense in 2003 (2.7 yards per rush), the Cougars are young up front in 2004. True freshman defense tackle Ropati Pitoitua (6-8, 269) was a grayshirt signee in 2003, and participated in spring ball. He led WSU in TFL and sacks vs. UNM, but the linebackers and secondary are the strength of the Cougars' aggressive 4-3 defense.
Senior All-American candidate LB Will Derting is the heart and soul of the defense, but is playing with a big cast on his left wrist.
WSU's defensive backs are experienced (three seniors and a junior start) and aggressive, and like to play in man coverage on the corners.
Player to watch: Junior corner Alex Teems had seven tackles and two INTs vs. UNM.
KEYS for COLORADO
Give Joel Klatt more time to pass
Klatt struggled against Colorado State, missing several targets in the second half after he got dinged up by the CSU pass rush in the first. While the CU offensive line played superbly in the run game, the unit needs to improve its protection so that Klatt and the passing game can get untracked Saturday. Colorado may help itself along by going to shorter drop-backs, and keeping a RB in to block. WSU DBs like to press, so it will be important for the CU WRs to quickly fight through that initial pressure and get to their spot on the timing patterns. If CU can run the ball as well as they did against the Rams, the long ball may be there on play-action plays. Perhaps we'll see if CU has a wide out who can stretch the field.
WSU STATISTICAL LEADERS
Passing: Josh Swogger, 24-38/240, 2 INT, 3 TD
Rushing: Chris Bruhn, 20-47/2.3
Receiving: Trandon Harvey, 6-46/7.7, 1 TD
Kickoff returns: Tyron Brackenridge, 3-67/22.3
Punt returns: Marty Martin, 2-9/4.5
Punting: Kyle Basler, 7/47.0
Tackles: Hamza Abdullah, 3UT, 8T
Tackles for loss: Ropati Pitoitua, 2-17 TFL
Sacks: Ropati Pitoitua, 1.5-57
Interceptions: Alex Teems, 2-0
NOTES: Last year's 47-26 loss to Washington State at Folsom was the game where Bobby Purify and Joel Klatt were injured. …CU DB coach Craig Bray was on the WSU staff from 1987-88 and 1994-99. According to Bray, the Cougar program is still reaping benefits from its 1997 Pac-10 co-championship and Rose Bowl appearance (a loss to Michigan). WSU was able to haul a strong recruiting class off of that 1997 season, most of whom were upperclassmen in the 10-2 2001 season. WSU has had three consecutive 10-win seasons from 2001-03.