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

UPDATED: Sat., Sept. 1, 2018, 12:19 a.m.

Don’t take your eyes off…

Gardner Minshew. In an alternate world, the East Carolina graduate transfer is enrolled at Alabama, sitting behind Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts on the quarterback depth chart as an insurance policy for the top-ranked Crimson Tide. But credit to Minshew for realizing his value. He may not collect as much hardware at Washington State, but the opportunity to play for Mike Leach, a coach he’s admired since his teenage years, and run the Air Raid offense, a system he’s studied since junior high, was way too good to pass up. Replacing Luke Falk isn’t an easy task, and Minshew, as a fifth-year senior, is only a short-term solution. But it’s overtly clear he’s the right solution for the Cougars this season.

When WSU has the ball…

Giving the Cougar playmakers chances to, well, make plays could be more important than anything else. That begins with the offensive line, which is blending in three new starters this season and could have a tough time holding off Wyoming’s fierce pass-rush, which Leach believes is the strength of the Cowboys defense. Minshew plays with an urgency Falk could have used at points last season and his quick decision-making could be a factor in this game if he’s not getting the protection he needs. Either way, with the talent the Cougars boast at wide receiver and running back, it’ll be key to put the ball in play and avoid the pass rush at all costs.

When Wyoming has the ball…

The Cowboys wouldn’t mind another explosive day from Nico Evans, who gained 190 yards on 24 carries with two touchdowns in last week’s win at New Mexico State. How does that contrast with what the Los Angeles native did his first three seasons in Laramie? He nearly doubled his career production in one game. As a freshman, sophomore and junior, Evans recorded 36 rushing attempts and picked up 108 yards without getting into the end zone. But he’s evidently found a new gear as a senior and used it to account for more than half of Wyoming’s 312 rushing yards last week.

Did you know?

The Cougars’ dismal track record in season openers under Mike Leach is well-documented. They’re 1-6 in such games and were winless until last year’s 28-0 rout of Montana State at Martin Stadium. Another drought would come to an end if WSU can knock off Wyoming. The Cougars have lost their last five true road openers, to Auburn (2013 and 2006), BYU (2012), Oklahoma State (2010) and Wisconsin (2007). The margin of defeat in those games was 25.8 ppg. But maybe it bodes well for the Cougars that their last win in a road opener came against the Mountain West Conference. They opened the 2005 season by beating New Mexico 21-17.


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