So far, so good, as the WSU rose up last week against Idaho State to meet every challenge I set before them in my inaugural "5 Things I Want To See" column. The lowest grade I could bring myself to hand out on any of the five was a B, something I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to do at any point in the last three years if I could magically go back in time and evaluate a "5 Things" column that would have been written but doesn't really exist.
However, as part of a skeptical fan base that has been given a modicum of hope too many times only to have it crushed, I continue take a wait-and-see posture. Last week was great, and exactly what I wanted to see, but ...
Now I need to see more.
Like last week, I will celebrate a win no matter how it comes, but I need to see signs that this team will indeed be able to compete with conference foes. Show me this is real against an opponent that you should be able to beat by a couple of touchdowns without too much difficulty.
Help me believe, fellas. Showing* me these five things tomorrow will help.
Incidentally, I use the words "see" and "show" loosely, since I won't actually see any of it with my eyeballs. Here's to hoping for another nice package of highlights from the athletic department!
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
Those are mine. What are yours?
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