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The most important person vs. Arizona State: Riley Sorenson

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ASU’s motus operandi on defense is to blitz, blitz and blitz some more. It will be on Riley Sorenson and his cohorts on the offensive line to give Luke Falk enough time to pick a terrible passing defense apart.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes we need gentle reminders of things. Be they the chore you forgot or the bill that needs paying, most of the time those reminders are needed to just steer us back on track from time to time.

Other times though, they’re needed to give us some perspective. Last week, just days before my wife and I were set to leave for Las Vegas, some water backed up into our basement. Not a tremendous amount but still something worth calling a plumber about. What I thought would be a couple hundred dollars to unclog our main sewer line of debris turned into a practically disintegrated section of pipe that needed to be replaced at a cost of thousands of dollars.

We were, to say the least, upset. We would have to borrow money from family to get it fixed and the fact that it came up right before a much looked forward to trip was making it worse.

But some wise words from my wife helped calm me down: “Everything will be alright. It’s getting taken care of and we’re incredibly lucky to have such great family and problems that can be fixed this easily.”

She has been right, often, and that’s not just a stereotype. But she truly hit the nail on the head this time.

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What Riley Sorenson has gone through in the last 10 months is more than I hope any single person would have to endure in a lifetime. He lost his father after the team’s win in the Sun Bowl, his mother just a few months later and was then diagnosed with testicular cancer. None of us had any idea about his diagnosis when this picture was taken four months ago.

To call The Wizard resilient would arguably be the biggest understatement you can make. It’s what makes him the exact kind of guy you want as the lynch pin at a position in football where your job is to take repeated beatings from guys whose mentality rivals that of wild boars. Calm, cool, collected ... but still able to move guys off the line with extreme prejudice when need be. That’s what you want from your offensive linemen and it’s what you get from Riley Sorenson.

As it is in most every offensive system in football, it’s the center’s job in the Air Raid to make sure his linemen’s assignments are set and they have everything blocked properly. That’s critical for any team in the country but in an offense as pass happy as Washington State, keeping the quarterback upright is even more important. The raw numbers for how many sacks the Cougs give up will never be impressive but their sacks per drop back rate (a much better metric to measure the line’s success by) has been consistently good to really good over the past couple of years and only getting better.

Sorenson, now in his third season as WSU’s center, is arguably the biggest part of that success. Sure, other guys like Cody O’Connell and Cole Madison are getting more accolades, but it’s important to not discount how important it is to have a center you can depend on for multiple years of eligibility. It’s a rare thing to find anywhere, let alone in a place as hard to recruit to as Washington State.

This week, the Cougs will be leaning heavily on their fourth year player. The Arizona State Sun Devils blitz a lot. A ton. Basically all the damn time. The Sun Devils rely on getting to the quarterback because their pass defense is ... well, crappy, to put it delicately. Dead last in the NCAA in yards per game by over half a football field and, as a whole, their defense is almost in the same position in terms of points per game. If you’re doing the math at home, that’s not good.

So the game in Tempe provides a good opportunity for Luke Falk to finally do this year what we’ve yet to see from him: throw the ball all over the gotdang yard for 500 yards of offense in a win. In order to do that though, it’ll be on Riley Sorenson and the other four men along the offensive line to keep Falk off his back, something they did a good job of in the game against ASU last year.

For whatever reason over the years, Washington State hasn’t been able to win in Tempe. In fact, the last time they won in the Phoenix-metro area, I’d barely gotten into my teenage years and *NSYNC was just months from breaking up. Depending on who you ask in Las Vegas, the Cougs currently sit as a 6.5 to 8 point favorite against the Sun Devils. WSU is expected to get off the long running schneid in Tempe this weekend but it will take some exceptional play from the offensive line and especially their Wizard to get that done.

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After got home from Vegas, I ran a load of laundry, something that had previously led to the aforementioned back ups. Despite the fix that had been done the week prior, I was still nervous that when I walked back down into the basement an hour or so later, there would be water on my concrete.

Down the stairs and nothing but dry concrete and clean clothes.

My wife was right: sometimes your problems need to be kept in perspective. Compared to what others have endured ... they’re nothing.

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Riley Sorenson, your most important player against Arizona State.