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Oregon State Football Opponent Preview: Washington State

Will the Cougars Air-Raid offense continue to roll through Corvallis?

NCAA Football: Utah at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Washington State Cougars

  • 2017-18 Record: 9-4 (6-3 PAC 12)
  • Current Record: 4-1 (1-1 PAC 12)
  • Previous Game Result: Win Vs. Utah (28-24)
  • Head Coach: Mike Leach
  • Total Offense Ranking: 29th in FBS (476.6 YPG)
  • Total Defense Ranking: 9th in FBS (277.0 YPG)

Tale Of The Tape

I once asked my grandmother what visiting Pullman was like. She had been talking about my uncle’s playing days at Oregon State and how hard traveling to some of his games were, specifically mentioning Washington State. Her response? “It’s not quite the End of the World, but you can see it from there.”

Yet somehow, the Cougars have managed to create a consistently good football program in what is likely the most isolated region in the PAC 12, and possibly in the country. A big part of that is Head Coach Mike Leach. Say what you will about his behavior and personality, but the man can flat-out coach and he deserves major props for bringing the once hapless Cougars back to prominence.

The Cougars have usually been known for their Air-Raid offense under Mike Leach, and while that certainly hasn’t changed, it’s been their defense that has opponents terrified of the Cougars. After former defensive coordinator Alex Grinch left the program, you would’ve been forgiven if you expected the Cougar defense, which had made major strides forward under Grinch, would slump back to it’s standard Swiss-cheese defense. Instead, the Cougar defense has transformed into one of the most dominate defense in football, the new Legion of Boom if you will. With an offense that can air it out on anyone at will, and a defense that would make Ray Lewis blush, the Cougars are certainly a team that most teams should fear.


Player To Watch

Gardner Minshew (Quarterback, Sr.)

Utah v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

The good news for PAC 12 teams is that Gardner Minshew is a Senior and won’t be available next year. The bad news for PAC 12 teams is that Minshew is available this year, and is probably the best QB Mike Leach has had at Washington State. Minshew, a transfer from East Carolina, had originally intended to transfer to Alabama before being persuaded to attend Washington State. After the tragic death of the backup QB Tyler Hilinski in the offseason, Minshew won the starting job, and hasn’t looked back. Minshew has completed 67.8% of his passes for 1,992 yards, 14 TD’s and only 4 INT’s....IN 5 GAMES!! While Oregon State has had...noticeable issues with run defense, their pass defense isn’t exactly worthy of praise either, ranking 88th in the country in pass defense, allowing 240 yards per game through the air. If previous results are anything to go by, than expect Gardner Minshew to have a career day on Saturday.


Biggest Question Mark

Will the Cougars bother to run the football?

Utah v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

Running the ball isn’t exactly something the Cougars like to do. In their previous game against the Utah Utes, Washington State ran the ball a total of 10 times for 13 yards. I put enough food on my plate during the pregame tailgate party to stretch longer than 13 yards! Clearly, the Cougars prefer to throw the ball. However, the Beavers have made it a point that they will not tackle an opposing running back without asking him for permission first. In 2 straight games, Oregon State has given up almost 600 yards to 2 different running backs (J.J. Taylor of Arizona and Eno Benjamin of Arizona State) With these contrasting stat lines, it will be interesting to see what offensive game-plan Mike Leach decides to go with.


History With Oregon State

Washington State currently leads the overall series with the Beavers with 52 wins, 47 losses and 3 ties. The first meeting between the two schools came in 1903 and resulted in a 6-0 Oregon State win in Corvallis.


Schedule

Oregon State will remain in Corvallis for a bye week before facing California at Reser on October 20th. Washington State also will take the following week off. The Cougars will return to action in a home match-up with the #18 Oregon Ducks before going back out on the road to face #14 Stanford.