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Two minute drill: Keys to victory for Washington State against Cal

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 12, 2017, 5 p.m.

 (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
(Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Don’t take your eyes off

Neither Jahad Woods or Justus Rogers expected to be starting for the country’s eighth-ranked football team this season, but the redshirt freshmen could be Washington State’s middle linebackers when the Cougars go out for their first defensive series on Friday night. Isaac Dotson is still listed as the starter at Mike linebacker, but he’s limped off the field with an injury during the first quarter of the last two games and Nate DeRider’s name didn’t show up on the two-deep released by WSU on Wednesday. Woods doesn’t have the size most Pac-12 programs want at the position, but he’s been a gem for the Cougars thus far, totaling 27 tackles and three tackles-for-loss. Rogers is a former high school quarterback who definitely didn’t look out of place in the game at Oregon.

When WSU has the ball…

The Golden Bears are giving up plenty of passing yards (264 ypg) but not a ton of passing touchdowns (9). On the other hand, teams are rushing for only 172 yards per game against Cal, but scoring on the ground more than twice per game on average. So, expect Luke Falk and his receivers to play pitch and catch until they get down to the red zone, but once they’re close, the Cougars might be best handing the ball to Jamal Morrow, James Williams or Gerard Wicks.

When Cal has the ball…

Since building an actual brick wall in front of Ross Bowers isn’t realistic, the Golden Bears will have to find some other way to protect their first-year starting quarterback. Bowers has been sacked 14 times in the last two games and the Cougars will do all sorts of things with their pass-rush to try and confuse Cal’s sophomore signal-caller. As long as the Bears don’t commit two false start penalties their first two plays, they’ll get off to a better start in this game than Oregon did last week against WSU.

Did you know?

Cal sophomore linebacker Evan Weaver is a Spokane native and Gonzaga Prep graduate. Weaver has played defensive end and outside linebacker for the Bears, but seems to have found his calling card at inside linebacker. Weaver, who was offered by both of the Pac-12 schools in his home state, had the best statistical game of his career in a loss to the Huskies. He matched a career-high with six tackles and recorded two tackles-for-loss.