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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Matchups to watch

    Arizona offensive line vs. Washington State defensive line

    Skinny: The Wildcats’ line will be charged with protecting either sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama, who has not played since Oct. 7 after suffering his second concussion in a month, or redshirt senior Adam Austin, who has missed the last two games with a sprained left medial collateral ligament.

    The team said it will announce a starter before Saturday’s game. The Cougars enter with a Pacific 10 Conference-high 29 sacks, including 10 by senior defensive end Mkristo Bruce.

    Advantage: Washington State. Arizona’s line has shown improvement of late, as third-string quarterback Kris Heavner got decent time in the pocket to throw against Stanford and Oregon State, even as the Beavers came in with one of the best pass rushes in the Pac-10.

    Still, unless the starting nod goes to Heavner, which is unlikely given his inability to lead the team on scoring drives, the Cougars will be facing someone behind center who hasn’t seen the field in at least three weeks. How long it takes Tuitama or Austin to find a rhythm with their receivers again could be critical.

    Washington State quarterback Alex Brink vs. Arizona pass defense

    Skinny: Linebacker Dane Krogstad tallied his first career interception against Oregon State, nearly returning it for a touchdown, and Arizona ranks eighth in the Pac-10 in opposing pass efficiency. Brink threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns against UCLA on Saturday, completing 28-of-38 pass attempts.

    Advantage: Washington State. Brink has an immensely talented supporting cast, with which he has steadily developed a good relationship over his two-plus seasons as a starter. However, he struggled early in the season and has a habit of mixing good (79 percent pass completion in his last two games) and bad (three interceptions over that span) even in his best performances.

    For all the praise heaped on the secondary this season, the unit has picked off quarterbacks only three times this season. Arizona’s five interceptions are tied for eighth in the Pac-10.

    Washington State wide receiver Jason Hill vs. Arizona cornerback Antoine Cason

    Skinny: Probably the most intriguing one-on-one matchup in this contest. Hill leads the Cougars with 579 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in nine games. Cason leads the Wildcats with two interceptions and is third in tackles with 44. Hill had four receptions for 74 yards and two touchdowns in the teams’ last meeting in 2004.

    Advantage: Arizona. Cason has lifted his game when paired with a prominent receiver. Although he allowed a touchdown to USC wideout Dwayne Jarrett on Sept. 23, Cason held him to only four catches for 36 yards.

    Hill will win this battle if Cason gets hit with too many pass-interference penalties, which have come as referees have taken issue with the junior’s physical coverage. If Cason is able to successfully blanket Hill for a significant portion of the game, Brink has plenty of other passing options to look to though.

    Prediction: Washington State 24, Arizona 13

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