After sitting on a hornet’s nest of football insanity last Saturday night, our Washington State Cougars head to the Beehive State looking to get right vs the Utah Utes. I don’t know about you, but preparing to write this was the first step into the sports world I took this week. Got caught up on The Rewatchables (great episode on The Shawshank Redemption) and a couple other podcasts that had hit the shelf and were back in the queue because of football. Hopefully this Saturday, WSU gives everybody that football loving feeling again.
The offense is awesome. Max Borghi looks like a highlight tape put at 1.5x speed in the open field, Easop Winston Jr. is a legit Biletnikoff Award contender, and Travell Harris moves like all those annoying tiny slot players that Oregon State or Arizona would use to destroy Cougar teams of yesteryear. They’re a legit problem for defenses. They’re doing it through a mix of efficiency and big plays. If Zack Moss and Tyler Huntley end up out Saturday they could have a lot of opportunities with the ball.
Quick stat hits to whet the appetite:
- WSU is #2 in first down success rate and #1 in second down success rate (success rate means gaining 50% of needed yardage on first down, 70% on second and 100% on third or fourth)
- Anthony Gordon has WSU at 11th in explosive passing rate (he leads the country with 20 completions of 25+ yards)
- WSU is 12th nationally in turning scoring opportunities (when they cross their opponent’s 40) into touchdowns, scoring a TD on 74% of those drives
The below chart looks at a few other stats comparing WSU’s offense to Utah’s defense. The Utes are solid. They’re 30th in success rate and 53rd in limiting touchdowns on scoring opportunities. Where they’re a little vulnerable is in giving up explosive plays. Gordon was asked about Utah potentially playing man coverage this weekend and welcomed the challenge. It might be windy and a bit rainy Saturday, but hopefully the Cougar offense can keep their hot streak alive.
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Ah yes, the Cougar defense. Well, let’s just keep this focused on the Utah offense and hold on for dear life. We need a hero, and Kyle Whittingham’s offense presents many a foil for WSU.
Above, I was praising the WSU offense for their success on early downs. Well, the team right behind them on first down success rate at #3 nationally? That’d be Utah. They’re having a lot of success staying ahead of the chains on first down and putting them in positions to feed Zack Moss. They dip to 67th and 50th on second down and third down success rate, so if Moss is out, WSU’s ability to disrupt any running by Huntley or Devin Brumfield on early downs will be a huge key to getting off the field.
Causing negative plays for the Utes will be tough. They currently rank #2 in havoc rate allowed, but the aforementioned Brumfield was responsible for their lone turnover last week (on first and goal with 16 seconds left in the first half). One area the defense has excelled in 2019 has been limiting touchdowns in the red zone. If they can get out of a jam a couple times only giving up 3 points instead of 7 and give the offense some margin to work with, WSU could be in a good spot for their 3rd win in a row in Salt Lake.
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All of USC’s highlight throws last week were completed on the outside. Rodrick Fisher, Dezmon Patmon, Davontavean Martin and Winston will hopefully be ready to exploit what USC did for another big game. WSU returns 326 yards receiving and all 3 receiving touchdowns from last year’s game. Here’s to a duplication plus a little extra of that performance by the offense, and let’s hope the defense brought some hornet spray — it’s probably going to be a wild one.