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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Cougars looking to delay bowl bid for Wildcats

Arizona+running+back+Nick+Wilson+%2828%29+gets+tackled+by+Washington+State+players+at+Arizona+Stadium+during+the+Wildcats+42-45+loss+on+Oct.+24%2C+2015.+With+a+win+on+Saturday%2C+the+Wildcats+would+be+bowl-eligible+after+missing+out+on+post-season+the+year+prior.
Rebecca Noble
Arizona running back Nick Wilson (28) gets tackled by Washington State players at Arizona Stadium during the Wildcats’ 42-45 loss on Oct. 24, 2015. With a win on Saturday, the Wildcats would be bowl-eligible after missing out on post-season the year prior.

It’s been a long, long time since the Washington State Cougars could realistically dream of Pasadena. In fact, most don’t remember the Cougs last Rose Bowl appearance, which happened in 2003. Mike Leach has done what many thought was impossible, he has brought elite football back to the Palouse.  

Washington State is one of the nation’s most explosive teams, averaging 359.8 passing yards per game. While it is expected that any signal caller that plays in an Air Raid system will put up eye popping numbers, Luke Falk isn’t a system quarterback. Falk can make every throw required of him, he is far and away the best quarterback Leach has had at Washington State. Unlike other Leach disciples, Falk has an NFL future, his combination of arm talent and accuracy will help him find a spot on a roster.

With Falk filling the air with footballs, it is no surprise that the Cougar receiving corps is one of the most prolific units in the country. Seven Wazzu players have caught at least twenty passes, and four have thirty receptions or more. Leading pass catcher James Williams has recorded 48 receptions this season, not a bad haul from a tailback. 

          RELATED: Arizona beats Cal 45-44 in 2OT thriller

Tavares Martin Jr. lives in the endzone, the junior leads the team in touchdowns with seven. Martin is a speedster that can get behind a defense, look for opposing cornerbacks to receive additional help from the safeties.  

Washington State’s rushing attack is utilized as a change of pace, the Cougars won’t line up and manhandle opposing defenses. Leading rusher Jamal Morrow averages 7.4 yards per carry, but has only carried the ball 56 times this year. Williams is the second leading rusher, averaging 4.7 yards per attempt. Opposing defenses that ignore the tailbacks do so at their own peril, Washington State is a better rushing team than they’ve been in the past.  

Senior tackle Cole Madison leads what is an underrated Cougar offensive line. Madison is joined by tackle Andre Dillard, and guards Cody O’Connell and Robert Valencia. Center Frederick Mauigoa is the man who must identify defensive shifts, he will also have to make sure his shotgun snaps are consistently accurate.  

Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch may not get a ton of publicity, but he is one of the rising stars of the coaching profession. Grinch has taken a unit that was one of the nation’s worst prior to his arrival and shaped it into a formidable group.  

Washington State is ranked seventh in the country in total defense, allowing 274 yards per contest. The Cougs are extremely stingy, opponents average around nineteen points per game. Safety Jalen Thompson leads what is a physical, experienced unit. 

          RELATED: Khalil Tate’s rise has made Arizona football relevant again

Thompson has inherited the mantle of leadership after the Cougars lost linebacker Peyton Pelluer. Pelluer was the Cougs leading tackler last season, he has only participated in three games this year. Thompson leads the team in tackles with 49. 

Fellow safety Robert Taylor is also unafraid to sacrifice his body, he is the team’s third leading tackler. Thompson and Taylor have combined to make five interceptions, proving that they are more than mere run stoppers. 

Khalil Tate must be disciplined in the passing game, these two players have good ball skills. Joining Thompson and Taylor in the secondary are cornerbacks Darrien Molton and Marcellus Pippins. 

Hercules Mata’Afa is a load at defensive end. The junior pass rusher has a team high 13 tackles for loss. Mata’Afa also leads the Cougs in sacks, with 6.5. The 2016 All Pac-12 2nd Team selection isn’t the only disruptor on the defensive front. Tackle Garrett McBroom has 3.5 tackles for loss, he relies on quickness instead of sheer strength.  

Despite not having their leader, the linebacker corps has been a force. Frankie Luvu has thrived in an expanded role, he is second on the team in sacks with 5.5. Lovu lives in the backfield, his 8.5 tackles for loss is second most on the team. Jahad Woods is another player that has taken advantage of additional playing time. Woods is Wazzu’s second leading tackler with 38 stops. 

The Wildcats will look to continue their win streak during their homecoming game against the Cougars Saturday, Oct. 28. Kickoff will be at 6:30 p.m. at Arizona Stadium. 


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