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

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 16, 2018, 7:03 p.m.

Don’t take your eyes off …

There were two Pac-12 teams that offered J.J. Taylor out of Centennial High School in the Los Angeles area: the one he’s playing for and the one he’s playing against Saturday at Martin Stadium. Arizona and Washington State were also the only Power Five schools interested in the redshirt sophomore running back, who’s rushed for 1,221 yards this season and was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award earlier this week. “We just felt like he was a good, explosive player,” Mike Leach said of Taylor. “There’s some difference between being some super measurable guy and making a ton of plays, and we thought he was one of those guys.” Taylor averages 5.9 yards per carry and has scored six touchdowns this season.

When Arizona has the ball …

Kevin Sumlin hasn’t shied away from feeding the workhorse in his backfield the last few games. Taylor recorded a season-high 30 carries when Arizona played Oregon three weeks ago, then shattered that mark six days later against Colorado, when the running back carried the ball 40 times. Expect lots of designed run plays set up for Taylor and not quite as many for quarterback Khalil Tate, who had 10 or more rushing attempts in eight separate games last year but has done it just once this season. Tate’s going to the air significantly more under Sumlin than he did with Rich Rodriguez and has fired at least 20 passes in seven of the nine games he’s played this season. That happened only three times in 11 games last year.

When WSU has the ball …

The running backs may not be getting their due from a national standpoint, but in many respects, WSU’s backfield has been the most productive in the Pac-12 this season. Don’t solely focus on the 720 rushing yards for James Williams and Max Borghi, but the 1,464 yards of total production for WSU’s redshirt junior and true freshman. The Williams-Borghi duo has accounted for 15 touchdowns on the ground and seven through the air. Add in the 31 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards for Keith Harrington and the Cougars need 249 more rushing yards and 206 more receiving yards for a third consecutive season of 1,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving yards.

Did you know?

The Cougars are still being outdone in the third quarter – opponents have scored 56 points and they’ve scored 41 – but they’re outscoring opponents 130-32 in the fourth quarter. Minshew’s numbers are equally impressive in crunch time. The quarterback has thrown 11 touchdowns compared to no interceptions in the fourth quarter of games and he’s completed 83 of 116 passes (73.5 percent) for 1,076 yards. That equates to 107.6 yards per quarter for the fifth-year graduate transfer. He’s already led the Cougars on three game-winning drives in the fourth quarter, against Utah, Stanford and Cal.

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