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WSU at SMU

Time: 12:30 p.m., Saturday in Dallas

TV: CBS College Sports

Records: WSU (1-1, 0-0 in Pac-10); SMU (1-1, 1-0 in Conference USA)

Last week: Washington State defeated Montana State, 23-22.

SMU defeated Alabama-Birmingham, 28-7.

Last time: Washington State defeated SMU, 30-27, in overtime in Pullman in 2009.

The line: SMU by 22

What it means for WSU: The Cougars were able to pull out their first win in almost a year, rallying past Montana State last Saturday with 16 unanswered fourth-quarter points. The last team WSU had been able to defeat prior to that was SMU, as the Cougars returned two second-half interceptions for scores in the overtime victory. Washington State will also be looking for its first road victory of Paul Wulff’s tenure, now in its third year. A win Saturday takes the heat off Wulff and would give the Cougars some confidence heading into the Pac-10 season.

What it means for SMU: The Mustangs weren’t happy to blow a 17-point second-half lead in Pullman last season, in the process becoming an answer to a trivia question – what was the only team WSU defeated in 2009? – so revenge would be tasty at home. The Mustangs are also looking to rediscover their passing attack, mysteriously MIA in last week’s win over UAB. SMU was 15th in the nation last year in passing, averaging 280 yards per game. Against the Blazers, the Mustangs’ Kyle Padron and J.J. McDermott combined for just 174 passing yards.

Key matchup: SMU receiver Darius Johnson vs. WSU safety Chima Nwachukwu.

Last season, senior Emmanual Sanders breezed through the Cougars secondary en route to 18 catches for 178 yards. But Sanders has moved on, with his spot as the go-to receiver now held by the 5-foot-11 Johnson. In the Mustangs’ first two games, the sophomore has grabbed 11 passes, though for only 81 yards. But he was Padron’s target near the goal line last week, as two of his seven catches were for scores. Nwachukwu is the on-field director of the WSU defense, and it will be his job to ensure the Cougars are in the right spots against SMU’s run-and-shoot offense. He and the rest of the WSU back seven must also tackle well.

Vince Grippi

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

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