WSU Vs. UNLV: Grading The '5 Things'

Prior to Saturday's WSU / UNLV game, I listed five things I wanted to see from the Cougars. I really try to pick things that I feel like there's somewhere between a 50 percent and 75 percent chance they happen. If I say things like, "I'm looking for Marquess Wilson to be the best receiver on the field," that's not exactly something worth trying to pay close attention to (at least against UNLV).

Yet, through two games, these guys are making me look like I tried to pick gimmes so that we all can smile and blow sunshine up each other's dark places. By the way, I am not complaining.

With a little help from Brian, who watched the game from the press box, here are my grades.

What I Wrote

25 or more rushes for greater than 4.5 yards per carry from the running backs. As usual, it all starts up front, and putting Marshall Lobbestael into manageable down and distance will be imperative. I have a lot of faith in Lobbestael ... as long as he doesn't have to carry the team. UNLV was pretty awful against Wisconsin's rushing attack, but then again, you know, Wisconsin. That said, UNLV's front four didn't exactly pass the eye test either, and this is a battle I expect WSU to be able to win.

The Grade: A

You might be asking yourself: "How can he give them an 'A' when they rushed the ball 39 times for just 3.6 yards per carry?" Easy. They rushed for 98 yards on 16 carries in the first half for 6.12 yards per carry. They were well on pace blow past my mark before replacing all the starters after a couple of drives in the third quarter. For the second consecutive week, I got the feeling that the Cougs could have run the ball for 200-plus yards if they had wanted to, making Marshall Lobbestael's life easy. Funny story -- I almost set this mark at 30 and 5.0, but I thought that would be getting greedy. I would have made this an A+ if the numbers wouldn't have dropped off so significantly with the second team.

What I Wrote

Lobbestael playing within himself. That little flip to Logwone Mitz as he was being sacked was cute, but that's the kind of crap that when it goes wrong it goes really, really wrong and can lead directly to points for the other team. And trying to make lemonade out of rotten limes is the sort of stuff that got him in trouble in his first go-around as starter. Make the right reads, make the right throws, avoid unnecessary risks. He needs to have no more than one turnover.

The Grade: A+

Here's Brian's exact quote: "Not sure you can play within yourself any more than he did. I counted one scary throw, and it went for a touchdown." That would be the TD to Isiah Barton in the second quarter, in which Lobbestael threw it to Barton's back shoulder while the defender's head was turned with help coming over the top. He was 24-of-32 for 361 yards, five TDs, and nothing even coming close to an interception. It doesn't hurt that the windows were generally huge all day, but he consistently made the right throws. That builds confidence as the competition gets stiffer.

What I Wrote

Control of the defensive line. UNLV was able to run the ball on Wisconsin, often times right into the heart of the Badgers' defense. There was some zone read mixed in (more on that in a second), but more often than not, there was no trickery involved -- the Rebels were just running it straight up into the line, as both Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle averaged greater than four yards per carry. Controlling the running game and forcing sophomore QB Caleb Herring into second- and third-and-long is the best case scenario for WSU.

The Grade: A+

Think I'm starting to get overly generous? Here is all you need to know:

  • UNLV rushing attack vs. Wisconsin: 38 carries, 146 yards, 3.8 average
  • UNLV rushing attack vs. WSU: 34 carries, 98 yards, 2.9 average

What I Wrote

Discipline from the linebackers. Herring was able to gash Wisconsin a handful of times on zone reads. The linebackers played sound against Idaho State, and it's going to be doubly important that they do so against UNLV. They've got the speed to chase Herring down - and punish him, because he's lanky - if they stay home and make sure they're in the right spots.

The Grade: A+

This is getting a little ridiculous, but there's just no other grade. I was genuinely worried about UNLV gashing us with zone reads -- quarterback Caleb Herring can really run. But you'd never know it if you only watched Saturday's game. He carried the ball six times for minus-1 yards. There were two sacks mixed in there, costing him 14 yards, meaning on the other four runs, he gained just 13 yards. Obviously the line deserves some credit for this, but the linebackers were awesome. Also, how about this? Here are your three leading tacklers from Saturday: C.J. Mizell (7), Alex Hoffman-Ellis (6), Sekope Kaufusi (5). I'm getting incredibly excited about these guys, something I'm going to write more about this week.

What I Wrote

Field goals from Furney. I have a sneaking suspicion that this game will be closer - and more high scoring - than most people realize. A missed field goal or two could prove to be the difference, and I'd rather they come from UNLV's kicker (who missed two of his three chances last weekend) than Andrew Furney.

The Grade: INC

He hit his one attempt, a 46-yarder. He had leg to spare on it, too, which is great. But I still want to see what he does when the team's not up by five TDs.

 

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Want more? Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and find more of my writing at Cougar Sports Weekly.

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