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

Washington RB Myles Gaskin (9) has run for 1,125 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Don’t take your eyes off…

Wind, rain and stout defensive play on either side could turn this into a game decided by special teams. The Cougars and Huskies have two of the best specialists out there. For Washington State, it’s senior kicker Erik Powell, who’s 19-of-23 on field goals this season with three 50-yarders under his belt. That includes a career-long 56-yarder against Arizona. Washington hopes it can squeeze out a few more punt return touchdowns from senior wide receiver Dante Pettis, who set the NCAA career record with his ninth earlier this season.

When WSU has the ball…

Opponents haven’t had much luck throwing the ball around against UW this year, but the Huskies weren’t quite as suffocating in their last game against Utah. UW ranks No. 8 nationally in pass defense (168 yards per game allowed), but the Huskies conceded 293 yards to Tyler Huntley and the Utes. Huntley’s outside receivers had plenty of success in one-on-one scenarios near the boundaries and the Cougars could potentially take advantage of the same mismatches with an army of long, athletic pass-catchers that includes 6-foot-3 Tay Martin, 6-3 Isaiah Johnson-Mack and 6-4 Dezmon Patmon.

When UW has the ball…

The Cougars might have the deepest corps of receivers in the conference. Eleven games into the year, UW’s might be one of the thinnest. The Huskies have lost Chico McClatcher, Hunter Bryant and Quinten Pounds for the season – all three were the team’s second-leading receiver when they went down. Pettis is UW’s leader with 706 yards, but there’s a major disparity between him and the Huskies’ next leading WR, Aaron Fuller, who has just 226 yards. It doesn’t mean the Huskies won’t be productive throwing the ball, but expect plenty of touches for Myles Gaskin (1,125 yards, 15 touchdowns) and Lavon Coleman (408 yards, 4 touchdowns).

Did you know?

It almost feels like a quick start is imperative for the Cougars. In five Apple Cups under Mike Leach, WSU has been outscored 45-9 in the first quarter – and those nine points have come on three field goals. But their first-quarter touchdown drought lasts even longer than that. If the Cougars get into the end zone during the first period of Saturday’s game, it’ll be the first time they’ve done so since 2007 – also the last time they won the game in Seattle – when Alex Brink hit Devin Frischknecht for a 41-yard touchdown.