1 Protect the quarterback. Well duh, right? This sounds like a no-brainer, and it is. But the simple fact is that in the last eight quarters, WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel has been sacked 16 times. That’s just not an acceptable number, and not one that’s going to lead to a victory, either. Maybe it’s unrealistic to expect Tuel not to be touched. But if WSU’s front five can limit the Bruins to a sack or two, WSU’s offensive efficiency will spike.
2 Run the ball (at least some). Cougars running backs have carried the ball just 12 times in the last two games. Both contests resulted in a negative rushing total because of all the sacks. UCLA’s defensive front isn’t quite as salty as Stanford’s or Utah’s – the Bruins rank 57th in run defense – so this might be the week the Cougars can use Carl Winston, Teondray Caldwell and Marcus Mason to complement their passing game. WSU is last in the nation in rushing yards, attempts and yards per carry.
3 Have fun. Not an easy thing to do when you’re 2-7 and riding a six-game losing streak, sure. But the Cougars have been at their best this season when they’ve relaxed some and played as if there was nothing to lose. And with a bowl game out of the question and everyone expecting a UCLA victory, there really isn’t anything to lose. So WSU would do well to forget about their problems for 60 minutes and just go play.
4 Tackle. This has been an off-and-on problem for the Cougars all season. They didn’t do it well when California rushed for 318 yards against them. They did it fine against Stanford. They did it poorly against Utah. So which tackling team shows up this time? UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin is one of the nation’s best, and he’ll make the Cougars pay if they don’t wrap up.