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Sat., Nov. 26, 2011

Minute Drill

1 Limit running back Chris Polk’s yardage. Washington State University head coach Paul Wulff believes Polk is the best running back in the Pac-12 Conference. He played like it last season against the Cougars, rushing for 284 yards on 29 carries. In that game, Wulff and his players admit they may have spent too much time worrying about quarterback Jake Locker’s legs. With Locker graduated, the worry is Keith Price’s arm. The sophomore has stepped in and has completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,334 yards. But if he’s always facing third-and-long, his options are more limited.

2 Be efficient – and protective – with Marshall Lobbestael at quarterback. Lobbestael has stepped in as the Cougars’ starter three times this season, but none of those games was as crucial as this one. He is capable of throwing for more than 300 yards and putting points on the scoreboard, but the other 10 offensive players have to support his efforts. Up front, the Cougars may be thin, with starting left tackle David Gonzales a game-time decision with an ankle sprain. The loss of slot receiver Isiah Barton to a knee injury has to be overcome.

3 WSU needs to know where Austin Seferian-Jenkins is. It might seem odd that it would be easy to lose a 6-foot-6, 258-pound tight end, but the Cougars have done it before. Teams with strong rushing attacks have been able to get WSU’s safeties to bite on play fakes, leaving the tight end free to run down the middle. San Diego State did it, Stanford did it. If Washington can do it, the Cougars will have trouble getting the Huskies offense off the field.

4 This is a carry-over from last week, when the Cougars did a good job of staying focused for 60 minutes, although the overtime period was not what they wanted. An Apple Cup always brings its own baggage, but this season’s game comes with even more. The noise swirling around Wulff and his job status has been heard in the locker room, no matter how much the players try to ignore it. There could be a tendency to try to do too much.


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