Two minute drill: Keys to victory for Washington State against Stanford
Oct. 26, 2018 Updated Fri., Oct. 26, 2018 at 7:27 p.m.
Don’t take your eyes off …
Last week versus Oregon, Max Borghi went toe-to-toe with the running backs coach that recruited him to Washington State and later affirmed to reporters that the game against Jim Mastro “was personal” for him. This next Pac-12 North duel might be as well. Stanford, as most in the know will recall, was the other Pac-12 school in hot pursuit of Borghi when he was a coveted three-star running back prospect in Arvada, Colorado. Since he was a child, Borghi had long aspired to play college football on “The Farm,” and spent plenty of time waffling between the Cougars and Cardinal in the later stages of the recruiting process. He surprisingly chose WSU and has been a sensation in his first seven games wearing crimson and gray, with seven touchdowns and 341 all-purpose yards.
When WSU has the ball …
Every game Gardner Minshew plays will be a litmus test for the fifth-year senior, but NFL scouts will be tuned in to this one to see how the WSU quarterback fares against a defense that best resembles those he’d be seeing at the next level. Expect Minshew and the Cougars to move the ball through the air as fluidly as they have all season – until they get to the 20-yard line. Stanford’s pass defense is 11th best in the Pac-12, allowing 252.1 yards per game, but the Cardinal seem to come alive in the red zone. Stanford’s red-zone defense is fourth-best in the Pac-12 and tied for 21st nationally. Opponents have thrown for just four TDs in that area this season and have scored only nine touchdowns in total. For the first time this year, the Cougars might look to kicker Blake Mazza to bail them out. The redshirt freshman is 5 of 8 on field goals and he’s had two kicks blocked.
When Stanford has the ball …
Even if Bryce Love is full-go – there hasn’t been an update on the senior running back since David Shaw declared him “day to day” earlier this week – don’t expect Stanford to go away from what’s worked all season. JJ Arcega-Whiteside, at 6-foot-3, is one of three physically imposing targets for Stanford in the passing game and could be a tough cover for a WSU secondary that again could be without senior corner Sean Harper Jr., who’d have the best length to match up with Arcega-Whiteside (37 receptions, 632 yards, nine TDs). Quarterback K.J. Costello’s other options are 6-5 tight end Kaden Smith (27 receptions, 382 yards) and 6-2 receiver Trenton Irwin (34 receptions, 363 yards). The mismatches start with Arcega-Whiteside, but don’t necessarily end with him.
Did you know?
By beating Oregon 34-20 last Saturday in Pullman, seventh-year WSU coach Mike Leach recorded his 44th win at the Cougars’ helm, tying him on the school’s all-time list with Jim Walden, who needed nine seasons to reach the same mark. A win over Stanford would give Leach sole possession of third place. He’d presumably have to stay around at least another five years to challenge Mike Price, who won 83 games in 14 season with the Cougars. Babe Hollingberry is the all-time leader, with 93 wins in 15 years from 1926-42.
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