1 Run, run, run – on defense. The Cougars tried to simulate Oregon’s frenetic offensive pace in practice this week, but as linebackers coach Jeff Choate said, the Ducks’ speed isn’t something that can be accurately replicated by a scout team. WSU must line up properly on every play to have a chance of stopping an Oregon team that ranks fifth in the nation in total offense. It sounds simple enough, but running defenses ragged is what the Ducks do best.
2 Pick up the ball. If Oregon’s offense has one weakness, it’s the Ducks’ propensity for putting the ball on the ground. Only four teams have lost more fumbles (6) than Oregon this season, and the Ducks have recovered a number of their own fumbles, too. WSU can’t afford to watch Oregon drop the ball and pick it back up again. Capitalizing on those fumbles will be key.
3 Limit Thomas’ touches. De’Anthony Thomas has yet to return a kickoff this season, as Oregon’s opponents have kicked away from him thus far. WSU would do well to keep it that way. The Cougars have the kicker to do it – Michael Bowlin is more than capable of putting the ball through the end zone – but they must also contain Thomas on punt returns. There isn’t much WSU can do about the touches Thomas receives within Oregon’s offense, but the Cougars do have some say over whether he gets it on special teams.
4 Get a lead. Oregon isn’t the kind of team that gets discouraged when faced with a one- or two-score deficit. But WSU is the kind of team that could be greatly aided, at least mentally, by a leading margin early in the game. If the Cougars can prove to themselves in the first quarter that they can move the ball well enough to score consistently against Oregon’s defense, it could improve their psyche to a point where they could make a game out of it.