1No more sacks. OK, so maybe that’s an unrealistic expectation. But the Cougars at least need to protect quarterback Jeff Tuel better than they did last week against Stanford when the Cardinal sacked him 10 times. A strong offensive performance is possible against a Utah team that has been shaky against the pass this season, but the Utes’ front is strong enough to put Tuel on his back if the offensive line doesn’t play well.
2Cut out the busts. You can point to two plays that led to WSU’s loss to Stanford last week – a missed defensive call that resulted in a blown coverage and a 70-yard touchdown pass, and an interception returned for a touchdown thrown by Tuel. If the Cougars eliminate those kinds of catastrophic errors, they give themselves a much better chance to hang with a beatable team like Utah.
3Stuff the run. This is pretty obvious by now, but against another one-dimensional offense, the Cougars can stay in the game by forcing the Utes to pass. Utah’s running game is its primary source of offense, but it hasn’t exactly been dominant. WSU’s run defense hasn’t, either, but it was last week in holding Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor to 58 yards on 21 carries. A similar output from Utes back John White would be desirable.
4Kick far, cover well. Utah kick returner Reggie Dunn earned national headlines last week by returning two kicks 100 yards each for touchdowns, an NCAA record. WSU’s kickoff coverage team has played well this season – 10th in the nation – but the Cougars might do well to simply tell kicker Mike Bowlin to boot the ball through the end zone. Keeping Dunn from busting a big return will help WSU limit Utah’s scoring chances.