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

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 8, 2019

Don’t take your eyes off …

Tay Martin’s junior season has been inconsistent, but Washington State’s prolific offense could reach another level if the “X” receiver finds some consistency in the final third of the regular season. Against Oregon, Martin flashed his athleticism when he turned a short catch into a 48-yard gain, setting up Anthony Gordon’s go-ahead touchdown to Brandon Arconado. The rangy Martin finished with two receptions for 59 yards – easily his most productive game since the conference opener against UCLA. In the three games prior to Oregon, the Houma, Louisiana, native had caught four passes for minus-2 yards. The Cougars are getting enough production from the other three receiver positions, and they still rank in the top five nationally in total offense. But against strong defensive teams like Cal – and Washington in four weeks – it’s helpful when all four WRs are playing at full speed. Which version of Martin WSU gets in Berkeley could determine how many points the Cougars put on the board against the Bears.

When WSU has the ball …

The Cougars have encountered two of the conference’s top-three pass defenses, with mixed results against Utah and Oregon. Against Cal, they’ll face the other one. The Bears haven’t allowed a passing touchdown in four of their games this season and they’ve only given up seven on the year. Mississippi was the only team to throw for more than 300 yards against Cal, while the Bears have held four other opponents to less than 200. On the other hand, Tim DeRuyter’s defense hasn’t faced a top-30 passing offense in the country yet, let alone the one that leads the nation at 436.4 yards per game and 34 touchdowns. While Cal’s pass defense is elite, the Bears’ run defense would only be considered pedestrian. They’re giving up 160 yards per game on the ground and 180 in conference games only. Three Pac-12 opponents have rolled up at least 190 rushing yards against Cal – Utah erupted for 231 in a 35-0 win two weeks ago. WSU’s Max Borghi only had six rushing attempts against the Bears in 2018. That number could double – or triple – on Saturday.

When Cal has the ball …

Eleven Pac-12 teams are scoring at least 20 points per game. The other is Cal, which has averaged just 17.4 and 12.2 in conference play. The Golden Bears were at least competent – but by no means above average – on offense with Chase Garbers at quarterback, but their offense hit new lows when the starter left the Arizona State game with a long-term injury. In the three games Garbers hasn’t played, the Bears have combined to throw for just 388 yards and only three touchdowns. It’s not surprising Cal’s rushing attack has also regressed, perhaps because the Bears have become more predictable without Garbers in the mix. In the past three games, Cal’s put the ball on the ground 94 times, but the Bears have rushed for just 196 yards – an average of 2.1 yards per carry – and only one touchdown. Cal offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin’s offense doesn’t appear to be threatening in any facet, which should be a sight for WSU’s sore eyes.

Did you know?

It’s an exclusive club of quarterbacks who have thrown for more than 5,000 yards in a single season. So exclusive that only 11 players have done it. Of those, just four accomplished the feat while playing in a major conference. All four played in the same conference, the Big 12, and not just that, played for the same school. You probably don’t need too many guesses to figure out which Texas school that was. Four Texas Tech QBs have crossed the 5,000-yard barrier, three of those (B.J. Symons, Graham Harrell, Kliff Kingsbury) while playing for Mike Leach. Anthony Gordon could become the fourth Leach QB and first Pac-12 QB to reach 5,000 yards in a season. The WSU QB, averaging 423 yards per game, would only need to average 408 per game the rest of the regular season to reach 5,000. With a bowl game, that number would drop to 322.

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