Show me a man who doesn't like Donald Butler and I'll show you either a liar or a bitter Coug.
Washington State Cougars (4-7, 2-6) @ Washington Huskies (6-5, 4-4)
Saturday, 4:30 p.m.; CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
TV: Versus; Radio: 950 KJR; Internet: SEE BELOW
Line: Washington -7.5
Nothing like a little bad blood to go with endless turkey sandwiches and leftover mashed potatoes.
The Apple Cup is upon us again and for the first time in a long time, neither team you’ll be watching on your 50-inch 1080p Black Friday impulse buy is among the worst teams in the nation.
Though the Huskies will be the only Evergreen State representative to go bowling this year, both teams have had bright spots this season and are taking steps toward more positivity in the near future.
But as Washington welcomes quarterback Keith Price back from injury, the Cougars lose redshirt freshman revelation Connor Halliday to a lacerated liver suffered last week against Utah. Halliday was named Pac-12 Player of the Week for his 494-yard, 4 touchdown performance Nov. 12 against Arizona State.
A few Husky personnel notes, per coach Steve Sarkisian: starting left guard Colin Tanigawa was lost for the season last week; Nick Wood will replace him. Jason Glenn appears healthy and will join Nate Fellner at free safety as Will Shamburger recovers from a stinger. True freshman Danny Shelton earned a start at defensive tackle this week alongside Alameda Ta’amu—this move gives the Huskies a little over 660 pounds worth of man in the middle.
Scouting the Cougars:
- For the third time this season and the sixth in four years, senior Marshall Lobbestael will replace an injured Cougar quarterback in the starting lineup. He started in place of oft-injured junior Jeff Tuel to begin the season and threw 15 touchdowns in the first five games. Tuel returned against Stanford but was hurt again in a loss to Oregon State. Lobbestael came on to face California and Arizona State but struggled and was lifted in favor of Halliday. Now, with Halliday’s injury, the senior takes the reins again in hopes of improving on his 2009 Apple Cup disaster (9-of-22, 71 yards in a 30-0 loss). He was a Seattle Times Blue Chip at 4A state runner-up Oak Harbor in 2006. More after the jump!
- Star receiver Marquess Wilson (pronounced like Marquise) is a big reason the Cougars have the No. 9 passing offense in the country. The sophomore from central California needed just 11 games to break the Cougars’ single-season records for receptions (75) and receiving yards (a conference-best 1,280)—in just 18 starts, the 19-year-old’s 2,286 career receiving yards are only 470 fewer than current NFLer Brandon Gibson’s school record. Wilson adeptly uses his 6-foot-3 frame to shield defenders and if “deceptive speed” were a real concept, he’d have it in spades. He’s scored five times from 60 yards or further. In my opinion, Wilson + run blocking = Brian Finneran.
- Another reason for the Cougars passing success, senior slot receiver Isiah Barton, won’t be a factor on Saturday; the team’s second-leading receiver tore his ACL against Utah. Lobbestael will instead lean heavily on 6-foot-4 senior Jared ****ing Karstetter of 2007 Ferris basketball and 2008 Apple Cup fame, who has actually become a pretty good receiver in his own right. Former Skyline star Gino Simone (one of four former Skyline receivers in this game; his brother Jordan Simone and Huskies Kasen Williams and William Chandler are the others), will start in the slot, though redshirt freshman Bobby Ratliff has gotten more burn this season.
- Sigh, Karstetter is also a first-team academic all-conference selection, one of 16 National Football Foundation Scholar-Athletes and an Allstate Good Works Team semifinalist. He’s started 35 straight games. It’s agonizing that such a well-rounded individual could cause me such pain.
- Though the Cougar quarterbacks have put up very impressive passing stats this year, they haven’t done it by Matt Barkleying around in the pocket and finding open receivers at their leisure. No, no, no. Anyone who has watched a Washington State offensive line in the last five years knows that there are exactly three ways in which Lobbestael, Tuel and Halliday have been passing: 1) quickly; 2) while running for their lives; 3) immediately after peeling themselves off the ground. The Cougs line has allowed 30 sacks this year, tied with Indiana, Colorado and Kent State for 103rd in the country. (I guess I’ll do my due diligence by noting that the Huskies are tied with Louisiana-Monroe and Akron for 111th.)
- By that same token, the Wazzu running game is bad. Redshirt freshman Ricky Galvin and junior Carl Winston are the backs of interest, though neither is very interesting. Even if the 30 sacks for minus-173 yards are expunged from the Cougars rushing record, the team is still averaging 4.1 yards per carry. The Huskies average 5.2 yards by the same measure.
- The Cougars allowed Idaho State to pass for 430 yards on Sept. 3. They let Oregon State go for 8.1 yards per play and 44 points. San Diego State racked up 42 points and 500 yards. So not a great unit here. Nearly every player is unremarkable, so I’ll just highlight a couple you should probably maybe know about.
- Will linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis is constantly around the ball. He has 80 tackles this year, giving him 245 over the last three. He led the team with 84 tackles in 2009, which also happened to be his third year of organized football. Huh?
- Free safety Deone Bucannon had 13 solo stops against Arizona State. While that doesn’t reflect well on the rest of the defense, it is pretty impressive. The steady true sophomore has followed up his brilliant 2010 (66 solo tackles) with three picks and four pass deflections this season.
- True sophomore Demante Horton had an interception in four straight games earlier this season, including one returned 76 yards for a touchdown in Eugene. He and fellow corner Nolan Washington have otherwise underwhelmed.
- Defensive end Travis Long (no relation to Cougar great and Outland Trophy winner Rien) leads the team with three sacks and his 11 tackles for loss tie him for fourth in the Pac-12. Hoffman-Ellis is right behind Long with 10 tackles for loss.
- Hard-hitting free safety Casey Locker has gotten killed by silly personal foul penalties over the last two months, mostly stemming from this sort of thing. He had nine solo tackles against Arizona state, earning him a start last week when Bucannon couldn’t go. He plays safety exactly how you’d think Jake Locker’s 5-foot-11, 200-pound first cousin would; that is to say, he plays extremely hard, hits much harder, and can’t cover worth a damn.
- The Cougars may have the worst kickoff unit in all of college football. Andrew Furney’s kickoffs are fielded, on average, at the 11-yard line and are returned to the 35. That average includes four return touchdowns, worst in the country. Only seven other teams have allowed more than one.
- Also, because the Cougars never, ever force punts, ever: they have amassed exactly 46 yards of punt returns. Total.
Three Choppy Sentences of Analysis and Some Numbers:
Do the Cougahs like apples? Well the Huskies got they-ah numbah. How they like them apples?
UW 42 WSU 6
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