1 Keep receivers in front of them. Freshman UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen will let it rip. Only the Cougars have completed more passes of 10 or more yards than UCLA’s 77 and the Bruins have sure-handed receivers in Jordan Payton and tight end Thomas Duarte to reel in Rosen’s bombs. Cornerbacks Darrien Molton and Marcellus Pippins have shown the ability to play well on an island. Still, if hard-hitting safety Shalom Luani can make a few intimidating tackles or pass breakups early in this one it would go a long way toward discouraging those deep passes.
2 Stay focused. Like all the Pac-12 schools, WSU recruits heavily in the Los Angeles area and quite a few Cougars will be playing in front of their friends and families for the first time in years. That emotion can provide motivation, but can also be a distraction. The Cougars will have time to see their friends and families after the game, and it’s going to be a lot more fun if they’re celebrating a victory.
3 Sack the quarterback. Rosen may only be a freshman, but he’s already very mature when it comes to avoiding costly sacks. The Bruins only give up a sack on three percent of his pass attempts, the best rate in the country. WSU’s linebackers are among the best in the country at making plays in the backfield and the defense already has 23 sacks, and that pressure is a big reason it has already doubled the number of turnovers it forced last season. The Cougars can take some heat off their secondary by getting to Rosen before he has time to throw his deep passes.
4 Keep an eye on Perkins. While it’s tempting to focus on UCLA’s freshman phenom and the stellar passing game, running back Paul Perkins is what makes the Bruins offense work. After rushing for nearly 1,600 yards last season, Perkins has garnered more attention this year and is still averaging better than six yards per carry. Perkins had to deal with some injury issues this season but indications are he will be ready for Saturday’s game, so the Cougars defense better be ready as well.
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