There aren’t too many things that are more demoralizing for a team than to blow a big lead and lose a ballgame. And the situation becomes doubly tough when you have to come back the next week and play a capable opponent.
That is the situation the Washington State Cougars have facing them, except they didn’t just lose a big lead; they lost one of the biggest leads ever.
This is a real test of what kind of psyche they have, as they play another Pac-12 game this Saturday against the Utah Utes, who are ranked 19th in both major polls. They will tee it up and kick it off at 10 PM ET at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.
Wazzu led last Saturday’s game by THIRTY-TWO points in the third quarter against UCLA, which looked out-manned and out-classed. And then it became a comedy of errors, with WSU making mistakes in all three phases of the game, including special teams, where they allowed a couple of touchdowns. UCLA chopped down that lead in a hurry, and came away with a seemingly-miraculous 67-63 win.
In the process, the Cougars made UCLA’s largely inept quarterback, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, look like a Heisman Trophy candidate as he passed for 507 yards. There are no excuses, and WSU head coach Mike Leach didn’t make any. In fact, he knew it was important for him not to overreact to the whole thing, so he didn’t.
But now his team has to react, and do it positively. Utah is also coming off a rather disappointing loss, as they allowed USC’s third-string quarterback, Matt Fink, throw for 351 yards in a 30-23 defeat. So we obviously know where they have to defend better. And we know exactly what Washington State does best.
In the NCAA football betting odds posted on this game, Utah is the favorite:
Utah Utes -6 (-102)
Washington State Cougars +6 (-108)
Over 56.5 points (-105)
Under 56.5 points (-105)
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It is almost inconceivable that a quarterback could throw NINE touchdown passes and still lose a game. But that is what happened to WSU senior Anthony Gordon. Perhaps it’s worthwhile to take a look at Gordon’s numbers on the season. Through the first four games, he is completing just under 75% of his passes for 1894 yards and 21 touchdowns. He tossed two interceptions against UCLA, but you really can’t hang the loss on him. The Cougars committed a total of six turnovers and had those costly lapses in the kicking game. He’s got gaudy numbers, but that’s the way it is in this kind of offense.
“Tough loss but we’re using it as fuel to our fire this week and we’re looking to execute a much cleaner game against Utah this week,” says Gordon.
On the other side, Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley, who suffered a foot injury against USC, is fully confident that he is going to be able to play. The prognosis for star senior running back Zack Moss, who played only one full quarter against the Trojans, then went out with a shoulder injury. Utah ran for 247 yards anyway.
What the Utes are looking for is some redemption on defense, but will they get it? They pride themselves on being able to put a lot of pressure on the passer, and Wazzu’s “Air Raid” offensive scheme is designed to get rid of the ball quickly enough to negate any pass rush. In last year’s contest, a 28-24 Washington State win, Utah registered only two QB sacks against 56 pass attempts, and gave up 445 passing yards to Gardner Minshew.
For a game like this, WSU might just have the guy with the ideal temperament in Leach. His team, with its precision approach, has covered 13 of its last 18 as a road dog. We feel compelled to take the points with a team that will keep firing away.
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