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Interactive Preview: The Apple Cup

Can Luke Falk and the Cougar offense exploit UW's defensive struggles on 3rd down to send the Huskies home with a loss?

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

At the beginning of this season I was very confident about the Apple Cup, probably the most confident I had been since the naivety of my first Apple Cup.  But, when Connor Halliday went down I was terrified that the last silver lining available for this lost season was now gone.

Well, Luke Falk has given us reasons to believe that the Cougs can be in this game and Crimson-colored glasses be damned, I think WSU has still has a shot to win and to potentially boat race UW on Saturday night.

The reason for that hope is the second week in a row Falk is going up against a defense that struggles to stop teams that pass the ball on 3rd down.  UW is 11th in the Pac-12 in stopping 3rd down conversions via the air (39 percent) and 9th overall (40.21 percent) in stopping opponents on 3rd down.  They are also 10th in the conference in limiting passes of 15+ yards, giving up 6.5 per game, and 10th in INT%, picking off the opposing QB every 46 throws.

The Cougs will need to give Falk time, but if they can I think he has a shot to exploit their young secondary, as they’re missing Marcus Peters, who accounted for 3 of the team’s 10 interceptions on the year.  Protecting the QB will be difficult as UW sacks the QB every 11 throws and can bring pressure from multiple angles with the help of Danny Shelton and Hau’oli Kikaha.

Heading into last week’s game against ASU, the Sun Devils were sacking the QB every 12 throws and got to Falk every 13, sacking him 6 times.  If UW holds to their season average in that department it is going to be tough sledding for the Cougs.

After 4 games Falk is only 376 passing yards behind Cyler Miles’ season total, which I imagine has been somewhat disappointing for UW fans.  His struggles through the air have forced the Huskies to rely on running the ball; they currently rank 3rd in the Pac-12 in yards per game and are averaging 229 yards per game over their last four contests.  Miles has also seen a big improvement over that time frame, his YPA jumped from 6.5 in his first 7 starts to 9.1 in his last four.

The last two senior nights have resulted in great performances from WSU and in two of my favorite victories of the Leach era.  I think this game is going to be full of big plays for both teams and a lot of heartbreak for UW.

Navigating the graphics:

Color legend:
WSU – passing stars are Crimson, running stats are Gray
UW – passing stats are Purple, running stats are Gold