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Apple Cup chat (transcript)

Nov 23 2016, 11:28 AM
srchatWelcome to our weekly chat.This week we have a special guest,Christian Caple, an S-R alum who now covers the Huskies for the Tacoma News Tribune. Thanks to Christian for joining us to preview the Apple Cup.As always, please submit questions in advance and this week direct them at Christian or myself.
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:00 PM
srchatHello everyone, welcome to our weekly WSU chat. Christian, you're the guest so why don't you start us off?
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:01 PM
Guest2264 (guest)Does the Washington oline seem to perform differently at home versus on the road?
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:02 PM
srchatNot that I've noticed. I think the only game where they were really pushed around was the loss two weeks ago to USC, and that had more to do with the fact the Trojans simply have a big, strong, fast, athletic front seven. But UW is unbeaten on the road, and did run the ball well in Salt Lake against a tough Utah front, so they have at least shown an ability to bring it in a hostile environment against a quality opponent.
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:04 PM
Guest8657 (guest)It seemed like the Cougars were not 100% focused in the game against Colorado. Do you think that was the case? Do you think they will be ready for their best effort this week?
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:07 PM
srchatFocus tends to be the culprit when a team starts dropping passes it normally catches and missing tackles it normally makes. Whether or not they can fix that will determine whether or not they can win the AC.In recent years, I've felt the team got a little overly amped for this game, that WSU put UW on a pedestal and psyched itself out. Perhaps all the success of the last two seasons will eliminate that. -- JT
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:08 PM
srchatChristian, the Huskies have lost two of their best defensive players in Joe Mathis and Azeem Victor. How do the replacements look and what sort of impact have those injuries had on the UW defense? -- JT
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:12 PM
srchatIt's hard to know just yet how much Victor's injury will impact them,because DJ Beavers played well in his place last week and the Huskies held Arizona State to 15 yards rushing.Obviously, WSU presents a different challenge. But there is no question they miss Joe Mathis. He had five sacks in their first six games, and the team as a whole had only four sacks in the first four games that he missed due to injury. Connor O'Brien has played OK at times from that buck linebacker position ... (1/2)
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:13 PM
srchat... and has a few sacks of his own, but UW has definitely sent more extra blitzes in the last two games than it had previously. The days of racking up sacks with just a four-man rush are probably over for them. I would imagine they'll continue sending extra pressure this week if their front can't consistently bother Luke Falk. Budda Baker, in particular,has been blitzing more frequently from his safety spot. -- CC
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:14 PM
Guest8657 (guest)Jacob, do you think the altitude had any effect on the Cougars in the second half?
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:15 PM
srchatNot really, or rather, if it did it's because the Cougars allowed it to.CU's offense snapped the ball 100 times thanks to WSU allowing 13 third-down conversions. A defense would be tired playing that many snaps at sea level, and while the altitude may have come into play late in the game, it's only because the WSU defense did not give itself more rest.
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:17 PM
Guest1082 (guest)Christian, can you highlight the major differences in the way Leach and Petersen manage their respective staffs?
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:20 PM
srchatLeach certainly is a lot more hands-on with WSU's offense than Petersen is with UW's, even though Petersen is obviously an offensive coach and it's still his system and his principles. But I think Petersen is more apt to grant his assistants enough autonomy to make their own decisions about personnel and playing time. For example, Keith Bhonapha,the running backs coach, has total say over when to sub Myles Gaskin/Lavon Coleman in and out. Jonathan Smith,the OC and QB coach, works very closely with (1/2)
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:20 PM
srchat(2/2) ... Jake Browning. And the defensive coaches are allowed to rotate their guys as they see fit. Leach,I think, grants that level of autonomy to his defensive staff, but he obviously calls all of the offensive plays (though at this point, Falk is as much a part of that as Leach is) and has a lot more say over how that side of the ball operates than Petersen probably does.
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:20 PM
srchat(-- CC)
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:22 PM
Sid (guest)Jacob. How much of an impact did missing Hansler and Dotson factor in the loss?
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:22 PM
Guest7808 (guest)Has Isaac Dotson been practicing this week? Cougs need him
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:24 PM
srchatI think there is a good likelihood Dotson plays, but that's just a gut feeling. The Cougars have been practicing inside Martin Stadium for a week or so now, making it impossible to see what they're doing. I think having both players would have helped the Cougars contend with Sefo Liufau's running ability. If they had even managed to give WSU one or two more third down stops, it could have made a significant impact.
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:24 PM
srchat(JT)
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:26 PM
Dane BargabusHey gentleman I just moved to seattle and I am trying to find the best taco bell drive thru
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:27 PM
srchatThe best Taco Bell is always the third one you visit on any trip. --JT
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:27 PM
srchatThere is a great one in downtown Spokane, but the speaker can be a little wonky and sometimes the employees mistkenly think they're being cursed at. -- CC
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:28 PM
Guest2990 (guest)What do you think the key is offensively for UW to winning the game? The offense as a whole has seemed to slow down from their efficiency seen in earlier season blowouts.
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:31 PM
srchatI don't know that they've slowed down all that much, aside from the USC game. They had a slow first quarter against ASU but wound up averaging 7.0 yards per play and looked pretty efficient for the final three quarters. I think the key for them against WSU is to follow the Colorado script -- establish the run early and get into third-and-short situations where it's easy to move the chains. WSU ranks 93rd nationally in yards per play allowed and 80th in passing efficiency defense, so I think UW probably(1/2)
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:31 PM
srchat(2/2) feels like it should be able to throw the ball, too. But I don't see them being successful without really getting Gaskin going. (CC)
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:32 PM
Adam LewisBased off his comments every year, it seems like Mike Leach doesn't treat the Apple Cup differently than any other game. Yet he gets a bonus for beating the Huskies. It's the most important game for his fan base. Do you think Leach is actually indifferent to the rivalry?
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:34 PM
srchatI think Leach is aware of the rivalry in that it creates a lot of noise he'd rather not listen to. You're right that AD Bill Moos sent a pretty clear signal about the game's importance by writing a bonus for winning it into Leach's contract. But I also wonder if Leach feels that his players have psyched themselves out a bit the last couple years by putting too much emotion into one game. (1 / 2)
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:36 PM
srchatThis year in particular, Leach seems to be taking extra steps to remind his players to treat this game the same way they treated each of the eight games that came before it. No doubt he feels that is the best way to win, and collect that extra paycheck.
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:36 PM
srchat(2/2) (--JT)
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:37 PM
Guest2990 (guest)What, if any, affects will the Gardenhire leaving the team have? Seemed odd giving the timing and direction of the season, but could just be something out of nothing.
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:39 PM
srchatIt's hard to say. It might hurt them more on special teams, where he was a regular contributor. He hasn't started a game this season at cornerback, as the Huskies have opted to go with freshman safety Taylor Rapp when they roll out their nickel package. But Gardenhire obviously has a lot of friends on the team who are no doubt disappointed to see him up and leave like that, so who knows, maybe there will be some hangover from that. (CC)
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:39 PM
Guest8297 (guest)Jacob: Do you think not having coach Joe at Colorado impacted the defensive line's performance?
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:41 PM
srchatPerhaps initially. I tend to believe that all those oddities fade away once the game starts and players are worried about hitting and being hit on every play. I can see where not having Salave'a there took away the opportunity for him to rally the linemen or defense at some point,but would also point out that the line's leader on the field, Robert Barber, was present for the first time in a month.
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:41 PM
Guest7787 (guest)How many students do you think will show up for the game?
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:43 PM
srchatIt seems like the students almost always come through when there is a worry about Thanksgiving Apple Cups and find their way back to Pullman , and I would expect that to be the case on Friday. The caveat is that the pass does look really bad, and I can see some students (and their parents) deciding not to risk the trip.That said, this is one of if not the most important Apple Cups ever, and if you're fortunate enough to be a student at either school when both teams are good ... (1 / 2)
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:43 PM
srchatyou sort of owe it to yourself to find a way to be in the stadium. (2 /2) -- JT
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:44 PM
Guest9077 (guest)Do you expect the husky defense to rush 4 and play man mostly? If they try that. Can they be successful?
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:45 PM
srchatI do expect them to play a lot of man. With corners like Sidney Jones and Kevin King, they can get away with that. But it will be interesting to see how they approach the pass rush. Rushing four worked fine when they had Joe Mathis coming off the edge, but they've obviously lost some productivity with him being out, and WSU's offensive line has been pretty stout for most of this season. They might play it by ear -- if they're getting home with four, great.If not, they'll have no choice but to send (1/2)
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:46 PM
srchat(2/2) extra pressure from the linebackers and secondary. (CC)
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:46 PM
Guest7787 (guest)Why wasn't Salave'a at the Colorado game? Apologies if I missed something.
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:47 PM
srchatSalave'a was home taking care of some personal business.
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:47 PM
Guest2990 (guest)Who do you think has potential to be an unsung (or not big name) hero for both teams?
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:49 PM
srchatFor WSU, I think you might see the inside receivers have a memorable game. Robert Lewis played well against Colorado, and Kyle Sweet has the potential to break out. John Thompson as well had that touchdown. The outside receivers have another tough matchup with UW's corners, but with Azeem Victor not playing I think you could see Luke Falk find a lot of success throwing to the middle of the field.
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:52 PM
srchat(JT)
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:53 PM
srchatAnd for UW, let's go with backup tailback Lavon Coleman. He's had a very good season, and leads all qualified Pac-12 players in yards per rush with a clip of 8.27. And I just think if the game is close and/or high scoring, Coleman will get enough chances to make a difference at some point, similar to the way he did at Arizona earlier this season. (CC)
 
Nov 23 2016, 12:55 PM
srchatWell, that's all over the questions we've got. If you have any more for Christian, follow him on Twitter @ChristianCaple. Thanks for joining us. Enjoy your Thanksgivings and the Apple Cup, and drive safe if you're making the trip over from the west side.



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Jacob Thorpe
Jacob Thorpe joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the Sports Desk covering Washington State University athletics.

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