Time: 4 p.m. Saturday
TV: FSN alternative
Records: WSU (0-1, 0-0 in Pac-10); Montana State (1-0, 0-0 in Big Sky)
Last week: Washington State lost at Oklahoma State, 65-17; Montana State defeated Fort Lewis College, 59-10
Last time: Washington State defeated Montana State, 53-28, in Pullman in 2001
The line: None
What it means for WSU: It may sound trite, but there probably isn’t a bigger game all season for the Cougars. Sure, the Bobcats are just another Big Sky team invited to Pullman for a slaughter, right? Sort of like Portland State in 2008. But this WSU group needs success, no matter what team it comes against. FBS, FCS, Division II, whatever, the Cougars must play well. If they do, the confidence, dealt a tough blow last Saturday, can begin to be rebuilt. The Cougars, who have already lost five players for the season due to injury, can’t afford to have anyone hurt, which is exactly what happened in the rout of PSU two years ago.
What it means for MSU: First and foremost, $375,000. Most FCS schools play one guarantee game against a FBS school like WSU each season to help the athletic budget, and for MSU, this one is it. Besides that, the Bobcats, ranked 23rd in this week’s coaches poll, get a chance to post an upset against a Pac-10 school on the road. That goes a long way toward establishing FCS field cred.
Key matchup: Montana State quarterback Denarius McGhee vs. WSU defensive ends Travis Long and Kevin Kooyman.
McGhee, a redshirt freshman who once won 27 consecutive games as a starting quarterback for Trinity High in Euless, Texas, shined in his college debut, connecting on 11 of 17 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns. And it’s the 5-foot-11, 203-pounder’s feet that give him room to throw. “When Denarius scrambles, Denarius looks to throw,” MSU coach Rob Ash told the Bozeman Chronicle. “He can still run and he will run, but he always keeps his eyes downfield.” If Washington State tackles Brandon Rankin and Bernard Wolfgramm apply pressure up the middle as they are expected to, then McGhee will probably attempt to get outside to throw. That’s where Long and Kooyman come in. They have to keep containment, not getting too far inside. Otherwise, McGhee would have a chance to roam around a while to find an open receiver.