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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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First look: WSU vs. HAWAII

What it means for WSU

Though coach Paul Wulff says every week is big, some are bigger than others for a football team looking for positives to build upon. A win here is crucial. And the Cougars have a shot. Last year in Hawaii, they had a measly 196 yards in total offense against Hawaii’s veteran defense. Yet they were still in the game, trailing 17-10 in the third quarter. With 10 starters off the defense either gone or relegated to backup roles, WSU has a great opportunity to show how much it has improved.

What it means for Hawaii

The Warriors struggled last week at home against Central Arkansas, an FCS school, trailing 20-19 going into the final minutes. Second-year coach Greg McMackin, a former defensive coordinator for Dennis Erickson in the NFL and college, was already on thin ice following a slur uttered at the WAC media day that cost him a month’s pay. A home loss to a big underdog would have been a killer. The close win didn’t help. The Warriors need to come across the water, upset the Cougars and set the tone for a three-game road stretch.

Key matchup

Washington State’s offensive line vs. Hawaii’s defensive front.

The Warriors return just one starter on defense, end Fetaiagogo “John” Fonoti, and he is questionable after sitting out the opener with a knee injury. Still, the Hawaii defense held UCA to 270 yards of total offense. But it had to deal with the Warriors offense turning over the ball four times. McMackin praised the WSU offensive line Monday, saying “they are very physical.” They’ll have to be as Hawaii can run out five defensive linemen who weigh more than 290 pounds. Their job is to keep the offensive linemen from getting to the second level, allowing linebackers R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane, who had a team-high 10 tackles in the opener, and Blaze Soares, who McMackin called the defensive player of the game, to roam and make hits. If WSU can control the line of scrimmage, run the ball effectively and keep the Hawaii offense off the field, the Cougars will win.

By Vince Grippi

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

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