Cougs need to play at their level rest of way

THE COUGS ARE now in a position, with four regular season games remaining, that the margin for error can fall only one more rung. WSU has to win three of their last four to go bowling. And to do that, they need to do one thing above all else.

Stop playing to the level of their competition.

If Washington State plays like they did against Oregon, they will win three of their last four. They might even run the table. But if the Cougs play like they did against Oregon State, UCLA, or for about 50 minutes against Colorado, they're going to struggle.

Cal is about as critical as it gets. Lose and the Cougs will have to do what UW did last year, win their last three to get to 6-6 and a bowl game.

Washington State needs to find their own pace against Cal, and dictate it. Then Cougar D did a good job of that in the first half on the road at Eugene. Truth be told, so did the offense, but four drives stalling out, with just three net points, destroyed much of the good that was done on that side of the ball.

THE COUGS ARE running more. Defenses can't just play the pass, and/or pin their ears back and blitz. The Cougs need to stick with that – and they're due to break some long ones. Twenty-three of WSU's 39 first downs against Oregon came via the run.

Rickey Galvin looked the best he has in a long time towards the end of the game – he's been playing with bumps and bruises and he's been slowed. But it looks like he's ready to turn some of those 5-yard gains into 15-plus chain movers. Carl Winston has been the Cougs' best back this year and he was one step away on a few different occasions. Logwone Mitz runs hard, and can be key in short yardage situations, whether to carry the ball or stay home and protect.

The offensive line did some of their best work against the Ducks. But they have to now build on that. On Saturday against Cal, they cannot take a step back. They gave up three sacks to Oregon but all three came on blitzes and Marshall Lobbestael was the first one to say he held the ball too long. Overall, WSU's o-line won the battle against Oregon's d-line.

And then Lobbestael must make quicker decisions and in some cases, throw the ball away.

THE D-LINE had a much better effort in Eugene than in recent weeks. It got away from them a bit in the third quarter but they helped the defense mount more of a pass rush, something that had been non-existent of late, and limited UO runners for most of the first half.

Cal's quarterback, Zach Maynard, is a feast or famine type player. There has been no in between with him. He played solid against Utah, awful this past week against UCLA. In addition to his four picks, (Cal committed five turnovers overall), he was off target on a number of other passes, finishing 14-of-30.

Cal has a solid defensive front, but they were riddled by UCLA. The Cougs need to follow suit, albeit in different ways.

Cal's defense had troubles galore stopping UCLA's passing game, despite the fact UCLA was missing three of their top four WRs. But the big thing, what won the game for them, was that UCLA's quarterback ran off tackle for 163 yards. That's not an option for WSU, Lobbestael is not a running QB. But getting to the edge, in a variety of other ways, is decidedly doable for WSU against Cal.

If ever there was a time for the Cougs to set the pace and play at their level, this is it.

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