We're sitting in the press box at Boone Pickens Stadium – by we, I mean John Blanchette and myself – as we await Washington State's season opener. Keys to the game? We'll we covered that some this morning, but we have some other thoughts as well, so read on.
• First, the injury news. Other than the trio that is out for the season, WSU is pretty healthy. Freshman Toni Pole didn't make the trip, so the backup defensive tackle is out for this one. So is freshman receiver Kristoff Williams, who also didn't make the trip. Otherwise, only receiver Gino Simone is questionable, dealing with the hamstring that bothered him during camp. He's a game-time decision. Tyson Pencer is off the depth chart with his groin injury, but he said Thursday he could play if needed. ... We have this new feature on game days concerning four keys to Washington State's success, an element I'm still getting used to. As I look at what I wrote, I notice I never really went into the one fundamental that may make the difference today: tackling. The Cougars, especially their back seven, must make tackles in space. They are going to have multiple opportunities, and they need to be successful at least 95 percent of the time. If they screw up more often than that, Oklahoma State is going to light up the scoreboard. Not to say anyone is more important than anyone else, but Sam linebacker Myron Beck may be the key guy. Beck is really more of a rover or monster back than a linebacker in that he'll be on the field side more often than not. He has to be able to run with receivers downfield but, more importantly, close down on running backs (read: Kendall Hunter) catching the ball in the flat on the wide side. If he's crisp and tackles well – along with his backups Arthur Burns and Jamal Atofau – than the WSU defense could force some third and longs. If not ... The Oklahoma State team is filing out to the field as we type, coming down the stands and out to surround the OSU in the middle of the field. The hands are clapping. Now they are holding hands and praying. For a lot of Cowboys, it's their first time with this pregame ritual. ... In our crucial elements today's paper, I did mention the blocking by the O-line. Will David Gonzales be able to handle Ugo Chinasa? Can Micah Hannam deal with Richetti Jones on the other side? Will center Zack Williams, making his first major college start at that position, hold up? How about Wade Jacobson, who has never played guard before? The question marks abound. How they are answered will tell the tale for WSU's offense. ... Finally, the weather is perfect. It's warm, but not too warm. It's humid, but not too humid. Just perfect for football.
• That's all for now. We'll be back at halftime with some thoughts. Until then ...