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The most important person vs. Colorado: Jamal Morrow

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The rain and wind will be driving in Pullman Saturday night. The Air Raid might just have to turn into the Ground Raid, and WSU will need their best back to carry the load.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Oregon Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

-Langston Hughes

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I flew down to Oakland last Friday up beat and confident. The Cougs were 6-0, fresh off a comfortable win over the Oregon Ducks in Eugene and facing a Cal Golden Bears team that had looked, at best, better than expected but still in full rebuild mode. My flight landed early, which meant we could get to the bars a little sooner, finding one that serve a good, cheap burger and fries that came with a beer of your choice for $14. I had the sneaking suspicion that the good times would roll on and something very, very good was about to happen.

Three and a half hours later, that something to the tune of a 37-3 dismantling was finished.

Its been nearly a week but I’ll stand by what I said last Friday: that was the worst game I’ve ever watched WSU play in person. Combine the ranking, the performance the previous four weeks, Cal’s issues, and an apathetic crowd, it all added up to a recipe for what should’ve been an easy, dominating win. So much for that.

After four excellent weeks, Luke Falk looked decidedly human. The defense that had been dominant for half a season looked gassed; desperately in need of a break. As Jeff wrote earlier this week, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

Coming home to face a decent but struggling Colorado Buffaloes team should be just what the doctor ordered for an ailing team: get the Air Raid back in order again, throwing it all over the yard after getting an extra day to rest this week.

Well ... about that.

Drenching rains and howling winds tend to make passing the football difficult (revelatory, I know) so your ground attack is what’s key to getting points on the board. The Buffs have Phillip Lindsay, arguably amongst the premier running backs in the nation, to help them on offense when scoring through the air might be impossible.

The good news for WSU? They’ve got their best running back since the days of Jerome Harrison. They’ve got Jamal Morrow.

While Colorado’s offense has remained roughly as good as the 2016 version with Sefo Liufau, their defense, without eight starters and defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, is decidedly worse. Against the rush, their S&P+ is 77th best in the country, contributing to a substantially worse rating overall at 86th (compared to 32nd and 12th overall respectively last year).

Not only is the defense having a hard time stopping the run, they can’t get to the quarterback either: they’ve tallied just ten sacks on the year and only one in their last four games. Suffice to say, the Buffs are a very, very different team on defense this year than they were when the teams met in Boulder last year.

The formula, then, if the rain is going to dump in prodigious amounts, is to keep the ball on the ground. Quietly, Jamal Morrow’s career numbers have been climbing the career charts at WSU and he now ranks among the school’s best in all-purpose yards.

For all the hype James Williams received before the season, perhaps the back we should’ve been focusing on was the airplane cheeseburger loving Morrow. He has broken off long, back breaking runs against ranked teams, and made room in a defense where there was none. He can carry the ball or has been a reliable (sometimes to a fault) check down for Luke Falk to pick up some yards when they were desperately needed.

It’s not just Morrow, the aforementioned Williams and the rarely seen Gerard Wicks will be needed Saturday in a way they haven’t been so far this year. But Morrow’s performance so far this season proves he’s a guy they can lean on; one they’ll desperately to get back on the winning side of things.

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The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.

-Dolly Parton

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Jamal Morrow, the most important player against the Colorado Buffaloes.