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Two-minute drill: Keys to victory for Washington State against Nevada

Washington State Cougars wide receiver Tavares Martin Jr. (8) hauls in a touchdown pass over Oregon State Beavers cornerback Jay Irvine (6) during the first half of a Pac-12 football game on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars wide receiver Tavares Martin Jr. (8) hauls in a touchdown pass over Oregon State Beavers cornerback Jay Irvine (6) during the first half of a Pac-12 football game on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Don’t take your eyes off

Two of the Pac-12’s top offensive tackles, Andre Dillard and Cole Madison, will line up against one of the Mountain West’s most productive edge rushers, Malik Reed. Per Pro Football Focus, Reed has managed eight quarterback hurries in three games, while Dillard and Madison have combined to allow just two. Reed has registered two quarterback hits and WSU’s tackles still haven’t given one up. Reed is pressuring the QB more than three times per game, but he’ll be up against a tandem that have allowed just four all year. What gives on Saturday?

When WSU has the ball…

Before the Oregon State Beavers came to Pullman last week, they’d given up just six passing touchdowns in three games. That number doubled by the time Washington State quarterback Luke Falk called it a day midway through the fourth quarter. Through their first three games, the Nevada Wolf Pack have also conceded six touchdowns. They’re allowing more than 284 passing yards per game and rank No. 99 in the FBS in points allowed (32.7 per game). So there could be more video-game numbers for Falk, Tavares Martin Jr. and Isaiah Johnson-Mack, but the Cougars may also try to jumpstart their run game, which ranks 123rd in the country with 77.3 yards per game.

When Nevada has the ball…

Kaymen Cureton is a true freshman who will make his second career start on Saturday. His understanding of the Air Raid offense is still at an amateur level compared to Cougars signal-caller Luke Falk, but the one thing he doesn’t lack is options at wide receiver. Two of them have been especially dynamic this season. McLane Mannix, also a freshman, has 15 catches for 297 yards and three touchdowns in three games, while senior Wyatt Demps has 16 catches for 192 yards and another three touchdowns. If the Cougars can blanket those two, they’ll be able to shut down the Matt Mumme Air Raid.

Did you know?

Nevada is 0-16 all-time on the road against Top 25 opponents and the Wolf Pack are 28-point underdogs on Saturday, so it would presumably be the largest upset in program history if Jay Norvell and company could stun the Cougars. The Wolf Pack have lost their last 10 games against the Top 25 and haven’t beat a ranked team since 2010. But that year they beat two. A quarterback named Colin Kaepernick guided Nevada to a 52-31 win over No. 24 Cal in nonleague play, then led the Wolf Pack to a 34-31 overtime win over No. 3 Boise State later that same season. Broncos kicker Kyle Brotzman is notorious for missing two crucial field goals in that game.


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