Aug 31, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Tre Mason (21) is tackled by Washington State Cougars safety Deone Bucannon (20) at Jordan Hare Stadium. The Tigers defeated the Cougars 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
Last weeks game against the Auburn Tigers really raised the hopes of some Cougar fans. The Cougars came up a mere touchdown shy of the win but turned the ball over in some key moments, ultimately costing them dearly. There were, however, many more positives than negatives in their game. In order for the Cougs to upset the #25 USC Trojans this weekend, a few key things need to happen.
Connor Halliday threw 3 interceptions against Auburn, including a costly one with just under 5 minutes left on the clock as the Cougs were driving to tie the game up. USC had 4 interceptions against Hawaii last weekend and has the capability to repeat against the Cougars this weekend. If the Cougs want to win, Halliday and the rest of the offense must keep the turnovers to a minimum.
The Cougars came out and stunned many people with their running game last week. Last season, the Cougs ran for an average of 29.1 yards per game but were able to put up a solid 120 yards in their first showdown against Auburn. If the Cougars want a shot at beating USC, their ground game has to be huge. Running the ball will keep USC on their heels and allow Halliday to open up his game and throw the ball deep while also knowing their ground game will help him out if needed.
Washington State accomplished a lot of positive things in their game last week. Even though the game resulted in a loss, the Cougs were victorious in a lot of ways. Beating USC for the first time in over a decade, 2002, would start the conference games off to a great start. It has been even longer since they beat them at the Colosseum, back in 2000. The young players on the team will also need to keep up the good work they have been showing so far this season. Their fresh talent was a big key to last week’s game and I believe they will still be a big part in this coming game.
Halliday threw for 344 yards and connected with 10 different receivers last week. His versatility will be a necessity if the Cougs want to pick up the win against USC. That being said, Halliday threw three interceptions (granted one of which was after hitting the receiver the ball popping up and getting intercepted) in the game and will have to keep that down. Halliday slowed down a lot last from last year and didn’t force as many passes as he has in the past, which I believe really helped the team make the game a close one.
The offensive line had a great game last week, allowing just two sacks. The line will need to keep up their hard work and not allow the Trojan defense to penetrate and get to Halliday. Last year, the Cougs allowed an average of over 5 sacks per game, so minimizing that will be a huge accomplishment for them. The line will also play a huge part in the success of their running game.