Week 12: UW (4-7) at WSU (6-5)

Washington is playing for pride and an opportunity to keep WSU from winning a school-first three Apple Cups in a row, while WSU is playing for a bowl berth. Washington has lost six straight while WSU has lost two in a row. Who will right the ship on Saturday? Here is a preview.

LAST WEEK: Washington State got waxed by both Arizona schools in the past two weeks. Last weekend the Cougars went to the desert and got trounced by the Sun Devils in a game that was never close. That came on the heels of an extremely disappointing loss at home to a suddenly resurgent Arizona Wildcats squad. The Cougars are depleted in the wide receiver ranks due to injury and it is catching up with them. ASU was able to get a lot of pressure on QB Alex Brink while playing man-to-man defense on the WSU receivers. The result was a melt down on offense for the Cougars. LAST WEEK: Washington played perhaps their worst football game in the past 30 years, dropping a 20-3 decision to a woeful Stanford team in Husky Stadium. The Cardinal entered the game with the nation's worst rushing defense and winless, but left Seattle with their first victory. The defeat left the Huskies at 4-7, with losses in their last six games. The past two games have been a crushing defeat to Oregon and of course, the debacle to Stanford. The Huskies are getting no production out of the quarterback, running back, and receiver positions, which makes it difficult to win unless the defense or special teams can score for you.
KEY INJURIES: WR Jason Hill (out), WR Jason Hill (out), TB Demaundre Woolridge (out), TB Derrell Hutsona (out), WR Michael Bumphus (possible), WR Chris Jordan (possible). KEY INJURIES: QB Isaiah Stanback (foot - out), QB Carl Bonnell (separated shoulder, thigh bruise - probable), QB Johnny DuRocher (concussion - possible), DE Brandon Ala (dislocated elbow - out), Jason Wells (knee - possible).
WHEN WASHINGTON STATE IS ON OFFENSE: Alex Brink is the trigger man, but all of his favorite targets are hurt. Charles Dillon and Brandon Gibson will be his chief targets this week most likely. For the season, Brink has completed 61% of his passes for 17 TDs and 2,571 yards, with 10 interceptions. Cody Boyd is a solid tight end who has had 25 receptions and one touchdown. He'll likely test the UW linebackers. Dwight Tardy has taken over the #1 tailback spot and has rushed for 562 yards and three touchdowns with a long of 46 yards. He averages 51.1 yards per game. His backup, Kevin McCall, has only touched the ball 7 times but one of those went for 53 yards. The Cougar offensive line is big, led by OT Bobby Byrd (6-7 316). Charles Harris is the other tackle (6-6 320), and on the interior are C kenny Alfred (6-2 293 frosh), Sean O'Connor (6-6 290) and Dan Rowlands (6-5 290 soph). The offense ranks 6th in scoring in the Pac-10 (23.9 ppg), #2 in passing offense (253.5 ypg), #5 in rushing offense (130.7 ypg), and #4 in total offense (384.3 yards per game). This unit is beaten up and has struggled the past two weeks, but they figure to move the ball by spreading the field against a Husky defense that gets very little rest from their offense. WHEN WASHINGTON IS ON OFFENSE: Don't hold your breath. This unit has fallen apart steadily since the Cal game when Carl Bonnell and Kenny James were at 100%. Now defenses play man-to-man, stuff the box, and Washington has had no answers for it. Bonnell will go at QB if he is healthy enough to take the snaps. DuRocher will come in relief if he improves enough this week from his concussion suffered last week. It is not unlikely that senior walk-on Felix Sweetman will see serious action at quarterback for the first time in his career. Kenny James will start at tailback and Louis Rankin will spell him. James has been injured and Rankin has been shut down since the USC game. The wide receivers are having a difficult time getting separation and are now suffering the drops. WR Sonny Shackelford and WR Anthony Russo will start, and lead the team in receptions. TE Johnie Kirton will move to the backfield on short yardage situations, which shows how little faith the Husky coaches have in FB Mark Paliata and FB Paul Homer to move the chains. The offensive line was atrocious against Stanford last week. OT Ben Ossai and OT Chad Macklin combine with OG Stan Daniels and OG Clay Walker, with C Juan Garcia anchoring the middle. These five guys play every snap possible and have worn down over the course of the year due to depth concerns.
WHEN WASHINGTON HAS THE BALL: Washington State ranks 6th in the conference in scoring defense, giving up 22 points per game. Teams have had success throwing the ball against the Cougars, as WSU gives up an average of 240 yards a game through the air. Against the run, the Cougars are a bit more stout, only giving up 114 yards per game. Those marks combine to make the Cougar defense #7 in the Pac-10, one spot above the Husky stopping unit. DE Mkristo Bruce is the guy that makes the defense go for WSU. A 6-7 250 pound senior, Bruce has tallied 62 stops, 13.5 for loss, and has 10 sacks. Lance Broadus is just 219 pounds but mans the other side of the Cougar line. He has 7.5 sacks on the year, using his speed to get through bigger men. The interior guys are both over 300 pounds - fellow juniors Bryan Tarkington and Aaron Johnson are the starters. The linebackers are Scott Davis, Greg Trent, and Steve Dildine. All three have over 60 tackles apiece and are extremely active. The Cougar secondary is led by Eric Frampton (95 tackles, 4 interceptions). Hasain Abdullah is the other safety. Tyron Brackenridge and Don Turner are the corners, and both have good size and play physical. WHEN WASHINGTON STATE HAS THE BALL: The front four will be Wilson Afoa and Jordan Reffett inside, flanked by Greyson Gunheim and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim on the ends. Senior Donny Mateaki rotates inside while Caesar Rayford rotates on the ends. The linebackers are led by seniors Scott White and Tahj Bomar on the inside and junior Daniel Howell on the outside. Donald Butler was effective rotating in the middle before getting injured in practice. Trenton Tuiasosopo also rotates inside while E.J. Savannah has played some good outside linebacker and Chris Stevens adds pass rush from the outside. As a unit, this group has gone from being active and swarming to underperforming as the year has gone on. They have struggled with their tackling in the past two games. The secondary is led by senior CB Dashon Goldson and junior CB Roy Lewis. These two have shown the most improvement of the entire defense. The safeties are C.J. Wallace and Chris Hemphill. Hemphill has filled in extremely well for the injured Jason Wells, but the fact that Coach Tyrone Willingham has suggested that Hemphill would not be invited back for his fifth year next season looks to have been a big distraction last week.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Cougars have had injuries at the placekicking position. In Loren Langley's absence, Abdollmohammodi handles both PK and kicking off. He has made his only field goal attempt. The puner is Darryl Blunt (41.7) and the top (healthy) returers for WSU are Charles Dillon and Brandon Gibson on kickoffs, and with Michael Bumphus dinged up, look for Charles Dillon to field punts as well. WSu has had one punt and one field goal attempt blocked this year. SPECIAL TEAMS: Michael Braunstein, in the same boat as Hemphill in terms of not being invited back next season, has had a solid year. He has connected on 10 - 12 field goals and his kickoffs have been high and deep (when he gets the chance to kick off). Punter Sean Douglas has gone inconsistent since his strong beginning to the season, but still should punt on Sunday's next year. He is currently #2 in the conference. Marlon Wood is the best Husky return option on kickoffs and punts, while Roy Lewis also returns kickoffs.
WASHINGTON STATE CAN WIN IF: They play up to their capabilities. This is not a very talented Husky team they are facing. MKristo Bruce should have a field day against a porous Husky offensive line, and the Huskies aren't good at pressuring the quarterback. This means Alex Brink should have a lot of time to look downfield and pick apart a thin Husky secondary. The Cougars are playing for a bowl berth, and for the chance to be the first WSU team to take down the Huskies three years in a row, so they have more to lose than Washington. Of course, that means that they have more to gain as well. They have to keep that perspective and not "Coug it." WASHINGTON CAN WIN IF: The Cougars take them lightly, somehow. If WSU gets too full of themselves, they have shown a capacity to self destruct, just as Washington did against Stanford last week. The Cougars are very capable of turning the ball over, and if the Husky defense can take it away three times, and perhaps even score once, the Cougars could panic. Remember, they enter this game after being swept by both Arizona schools and their bowl game is on the line. There is definite pressure on Bill Doba's team while the Huskies can play loose as a goose, knowing that their season ends in Pullman when the clock ticks 0:00.
WASHINGTON STATE WILL LOSE IF: They turn the ball over and give the Huskies a short field to work with. Kenny James is a good enough back to pound the Cougars inside if the drives are short enough. Washington is not capable of long sustained drives without Isaiah Stanback, but if the need is for only 20-30 yard drives for points, the Huskies are capable. And Braunstein has been very accurate with his placekicks. WASHINGTON WILL LOSE IF: They don't get some breaks from WSU. The Huskies have lost six in a row and their seniors face the humiliation of never getting to a bowl. They cannot feel too good about themselves right now, and one has to wonder if Willingham lost his team last weekend. If WSU takes care of the ball and doesn't give the Huskies any freebies, their talent should be enough to win the Apple Cup.
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WSU's preview section was written by David Samek. Portions of Cougfan.com and the official website of WSU were used in preparing this capsule. David Samek is the Publisher of Dawgman.com and the Editor-In-Chief of Sports Washington magazine. He has been covering Washington football since 1996.

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