1 Pressure! The Cougars have improved their pass rush this season, already sacking the quarterback 16 times through five games after finishing last year with 17 total sacks. The Beavers have allowed just six sacks through three games, and quarterback Sean Mannion has benefited from having time to throw. WSU’s defensive front must aid its defensive backs by making sure Mannion doesn’t have time to stand in the pocket.
2 Run the ball – at least some. No, Washington State isn’t reliant on a power running game to win games. It never will be under coach Mike Leach. But the Cougars at least need to do better than they did last week, when a bevy of sacks and short runs resulted in a rushing total of minus-8 yards. OSU is traditionally physical and aggressive with its defensive front. A couple of decent rushing gains might help keep the Beavers at bay.
3 No turnovers. WSU’s defense ultimately tired against Oregon last week, but the turning point in that 51-26 loss was Connor Halliday’s interception in the third quarter that was returned for a touchdown. Those kinds of mistakes are even more of a killer on the road. The Beavers’ pass defense has been weak at times this season, so Halliday would do well to take Leach’s advice about taking what OSU gives him.
4 Ignore setting. Good or bad, the Cougars have too often let the scoreboard and game environment change their level of play this season. It happened against Colorado, when WSU led by 17 points, became complacent and then hung its head during a Buffaloes comeback. And it happened last week against Oregon, when Halliday said afterward too many players were happy with simply being in the game at halftime. Against a solid team playing in front of its own sellout crowd, WSU will face its toughest test of the season in this regard.
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