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Sports >  WSU football

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

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 18, 2020

Don’t take your eyes off …

Washington State fans were put on an emotional roller coaster before the supposed kickoff against California last Saturday, learning 2 hours prior to the game that junior Max Borghi was warming up with the team at Martin Stadium, only to learn they’d have to wait another week to see the junior’s 2020 debut when the game was canceled. It’s unclear how the Cougars would’ve used Borghi and head coach Nick Rolovich wasn’t willing to share that intel during a call with reporters earlier this week, saying, “That’s top-secret classified information that I’m not prepared to reveal on a Zoom. Too many security breach possibilities.” Either way, it seems that Borghi will still get a one-game season and Saturday’s game could be the first, and last, preview of what WSU’s backfield may look like in 2021, if both he and Deon McIntosh decide to return.

When Washington State has the ball …

Even if the Cougars have a healthy Borghi and a rested McIntosh in their backfield, now probably isn’t the time to pound the rock. Utah’s rushing defense is the best in the conference and it isn’t particularly close, with the Utes allowing just 106 yards per game – a number that also ranks 13th nationally. WSU is next best in the Pac-12 at 132 yards per game. While the Utes have been somewhat opportunistic in defending against the pass, with two players at two interceptions apiece, they’re also allowing the fourth-most passing yards in the conference, at 251.3 per game. With the run-and-shoot offense, the Cougars’ run-pass splits have been balanced this year – relative to years past, at least – with 111 passing plays and 84 rushing plays. For WSU to score against Utah, it may have more success reverting to the run-pass splits used in Mike Leach’s Air Raid, or something comparable.

When Utah has the ball …

Jake Bentley’s first season as a starting quarterback in the Pac-12 has been inconsistent at best. The South Carolina transfer threw two touchdowns and four interceptions in his first two games, against Washington and USC, and was sacked five times in those games. Bentley’s play has improved against lesser defenses, however, and in games against Oregon State and Colorado, the senior signal-caller was 38-of-69 passing with three touchdowns, one interception and just one sack. Bentley threw for just 315 yards against the Trojans and Huskies, but 414 against the Beavers and Buffaloes. Of the three QBs WSU has faced, Bentley probably has the best mobility, gaining 146 yards in four games. The Cougars have to worry about his scrambling ability, but their top priority will be mitigating the damage done by Ty Jordan, who’s rushed for 443 yards in four games and over 300 in the last two.

Did you know?

It’s been 91 years since WSU has played a regular-season football game later than Dec. 19. In 1929, the Cougars played two of them, finishing Babe Hollingbery’s fourth season at the school with a two-game road swing in Hawaii. On Dec. 25, WSU played an Oahu-based team called the Honolulu Townies, winning 12-0. It appears the Cougars spent the week on the island because they closed out the season on Jan. 1, 1930, with a game at the University of Hawaii. WSU won that game 28-7, to finish 10-2.

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