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Sunday, February 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 41° Partly Cloudy
Sports

Hawaii 38, Washington St. 20

High point

WSU moved the ball well at times in the first half, but a combination of turnovers and red zone mistakes kept the Cougars from the end zone. So the 15-play, 84-yard drive to open the second half was a revelation of offensive execution. The Cougars tore almost 7 minutes off the clock, converting two short fourth downs en route to their best scoring drive in two years. James Montgomery was the catalyst, starting the march with a 7-yard run, and ending it with a 2-yarder.

Low point

When Rodney Bradley cut across the middle early in the second quarter and caught a bullet from Greg Alexander 15 yards downfield, it looked like the Warriors would have another first down in the 21-0 game. After all, Daniel Simmons was on his back and Xavier Hicks was coming over to help secure the tackle. But Hicks and Simmons made more contact with each other than Bradley, and the Hawaii receiver broke free. Seventy-three yards later the Warriors led 28-0.

A pat on the back

When Montgomery transferred from Cal last year, he came with the hope that only talent can provide. From the first day of practice last fall, it was obvious his skill set was steps ahead of most of his new teammates. That showed Saturday, with Montgomery running around and over Hawaii defenders en route to 118 yards.

Needs fixing

It may sound negative, but the biggest weakness revealed Saturday is not fixable this season. The Cougars don’t have enough speed in the secondary to defend a spread passing game featuring quick receivers. Hawaii’s trio of Greg Salas, Kealoha Pilares and Bradley looked like Usain Bolt while running through the secondary. But the players WSU had on the field are the best the Cougars can put out there. They didn’t quit chasing the Warriors, and that helped to keep it from becoming a blowout.

Three unanswered questions

• Is Kevin Lopina the man? Once again the Cougars offense moved more efficiently with the senior at the controls. Lopina was 18 of 32 for 191 yards and did run for a touchdown. But he wasn’t perfect, as his two interceptions and some unseen open receivers indicate.

• Will the injured be back? With their depth – or lack of it – every starter WSU loses is important. But none might be felt more than linebacker Andy Mattingly, whose importance as a leader is hard to overestimate. So how quickly Mattingly rebounds from his possible concussion is crucial for the Cougars.

• What about SMU? A lot will be made about the Mustangs running the same run-and-shoot offense Hawaii sliced the Cougars with. But as former WSU coach Jim Walden likes to say, it isn’t the Xs and Os, it’s the Jimmies and Joes. Coach June Jones is only in his second year at SMU and the Mustangs have yet to build up the speedy receiver talent the Warriors have. Still SMU is 2-0 after stopping a UAB two-point conversion to win 35-33.

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