1 It’s already starting to sound like a jammed keyboard, but the Cougars need to get off to a fast start. They haven’t led in a game while time was running off the clock since Nov. 8, 2008, when an 18-yard Dwight Tardy run put them up 7-0 against Arizona. That was also the last time they’ve scored a touchdown in a first quarter. Since Tardy’s run, WSU has been outscored 221-6 in the first 15 minutes of games. To snap their 10-game losing streak, the Cougars must shatter that streak. If Montana State jumps out early today, not only will WSU lose the lead, it might also lose the support of the crowd, something a young team needs. Which leads into …
2 Don’t play tight. Washington State seemed almost shocked last week after it pulled within seven of Oklahoma State in the second quarter, promptly giving up three touchdowns before halftime. This week’s practices tended toward the tense as game day drew nearer, which probably isn’t a good thing for a young group. They need to play with abandon against the Bobcats, as if they were the team with nothing to lose. For once, WSU is the more athletic team and it should play like it. It’s obvious Montana State, which played at Michigan State last season, will play loose. The Bobcats have nothing to lose.
3 Montana State’s defensive front averages about 260 pounds a man, with both defensive ends listed at 245. The bigger, stronger WSU offensive front has to put a hat on a hat, as coaches say, and drive the Bobcats down the field. It’s not often the Cougars go into a game with a sizable advantage up front, so they must benefit from it. The offensive line also must do a good job of giving quarterback Jeff Tuel time. When the sophomore was given that luxury last week, he was able to pick apart the OSU secondary. With Gino Simone and Jared Karstetter back this week, he has even more weapons.
4 There is one guy in the Montana State backfield that has to be contained. That’s redshirt freshman quarterback Denarius McGhee. It’s not only his passing ability – 11 of 17 for 178 yards and two touchdowns in his debut last week – or his quick feet – two carries for 15 yards – that worries the Cougars. It’s his ability to keep plays alive after they should be dead. If they can keep him under control, it will constrict the Bobcats’ offense. And the smaller the space in which they have to operate, the more WSU’s size and speed advantage up front comes into play.