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WSU Cougars Football

First look: Oregon vs. WSU

Tue., Sept. 25, 2012

Location: CenturyLink Field in Seattle

Time: Saturday,

7:30 p.m.


Records: WSU (2-2, 0-1 in Pac-12); Oregon (4-0, 1-0 in Pac-12)

Last week: WSU lost to Colorado, 35-34; Oregon defeated Arizona, 49-0

Last time: Oregon defeated WSU in Eugene, 43-28, in 2011

The line: Oregon by 29

What it means for WSU: The Cougars are hurting after a 35-34 loss to Colorado in which WSU squandered a 17-point mid-fourth-quarter lead. But that collapse was two weeks in the making, as the Cougars played poorly in the second halves of wins over Eastern Washington and UNLV in weeks prior. Coach Mike Leach called his team “mentally weak” and said they’re “afraid of success,” saying complacency seems to set in when they gain a lead in the second half. Their attitudes need to improve against Oregon if they expect to have a chance.

What it means for Oregon: The Ducks are used to being heavy favorites, especially this season – their closest game was a 17-point win over Fresno State, and they’re coming off a 49-0 win over then-No. 22 Arizona. This game presents another chance for Oregon – now ranked No. 2 in both major polls – to simply keep rolling against what appears to be an overmatched opponent. Despite scoring 49 points last week, the Ducks’ offense was inconsistent at times. A WSU defense ranked 103rd in the country might struggle to force a similar result.

Key matchup: Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas vs. WSU’s front seven.

The front seven are going to have their hands full, but this might as well extend to the Cougars’ defensive backfield, too. Barner is the latest in a long line of small, powerful, speedy running backs at Oregon. And Thomas is in a category all his own. He’ll run the ball. He’ll catch the ball. And he’s a nightmare to defend as a kick returner. WSU must play sound in its assignments and fill every gap to have any chance of containing these two speedsters.

“They really prey on guys that don’t get lined up quickly enough,” Leach said. “You know, guys that are out of position. They’ve got a handful of plays that they run really well, and they do it over and over. And they do it at a really high speed. And it’s like, ‘all right, you can’t line up and make the transition to execute your defense as fast as we can because we do it every day, we do it all the time and we do it really fast, so here we go.’ ”

Christian Caple

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