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Washington State Cougars Preview: Offense

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Let's take a look at the Bruins next opponent, the Washington State Cougars.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

After squeaking by the Colorado Buffaloes at home 35-31, the Bruins crushed the Oregon State Beavers on the road 41-0. If you include a big win against UC Berkeley 40-24, you might just see a pattern if you squint. If the pattern holds, this means we will be in a tight match-up against the Cougs.

The Cougars are bowl eligible at 6-3 and looking very dangerous taking down Arizona State (well, with an extra down gifted to them by the refs!) and Oregon in Eugene and only losing to Stanford by two points. I'm sure they see this as an opportunity to catch UCLA looking ahead to South division rivals Utah and Southern Cal.

Let's learn about the Washington State "Air Raid" offense run by their mastermind head coach, and known pirate, Mike Leach.

Statistics

Last time UCLA played WSU was in 2012 and both Mora and Leach were in their first year as head coaches. The result was a UCLA win, 44-36, though the Bruins allowed over 520 total yards of offense. In 2015, the Cougar offense is quite prolific coming in at #15 in the country and producing 499.7 yards per game which is just a tad better than UCLA's offense (respectively, #18 and 491.7). They will test UCLA's steadily improving defense which ranks #67 in the country allowing 397.7 yards per game (though it improved from #82 in the country).

Leach's offense is labeled as "pass happy" for good reason since the running game is a complete afterthought. The statistics bear this out. The Cougs offense only manage about 80 yards on the ground per game while they average 417 through the air. Meanwhile, UCLA's defense allows nearly 200 yards per game on the ground and through the air. Clearly, this is good news for UCLA fans since it minimizes the weaknesses of the defense (running game) while pitting their strength (passing) against the strength of the Wazzu offense.

Players

Redshirt Sophmore Luke Falk is the starting quarterback for Washington State and has really impressive numbers: 33 touchdowns to only 7 interceptions, 70% completion percentage, with 415 yards per game. True Freshman Josh Rosen, for comparison, has only 18 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, 62% completion percentage, and 285 yards per game. So expect Falk to get his yards and a few scores, though I hope that UCLA's front seven can create enough pressure to force Falk into some bad decisions/throws. I'm really looking forward to seeing the scheme Coach Bradley will go with. After Falk, the back-up QB is Redshirt Freshman Payton Bender who has only attempted 6 passes, and completing 2, in his young career in two games of action. Should Falk get injured there would be a big drop-off in experience at the QB position.

The running backs are lead by bruiser R.So. Gerard Wicks (6' 224 lbs.) who has 77 carries on the year (that's under 9 carries through 9 games) averages 46 yards per game. Keith Harrington (R.Fr., 5' 8" 180 lbs.) and Jamal Morrow (R.So., 5' 9" 190 lbs.) have about 30 carries each through 9 games for about 25 yards a game. Luke Falk has 66 carries and I've seen him run it effectively though I can't find the stat without sacks (as it's negative).

Not surprisingly there's a long list of wide receivers who contribute in this offense. Gabe Marks (R.Jr., 6' 190 lbs.) with 11 touchdowns and 865 yards leads the way with 69 catches though Dom Williams (R.Sr., 6' 2" 200 lbs.) with 54 catches for 779 yards and 8 touchdowns is not far behind. River Cracraft (6' 200 lbs.), Robert Lewis (5' 9" 170 lbs.), and Kyrin Priester (6' 1" 190 lbs.) all make additional solid contributions. Also, expect all three running backs Harrington, Morrow, and Wicks to catch plenty of passes their way (together they average about 28 catches and 22 yards per game). The only listed tight end on the roster is R.Fr. Nick Begg (6' 5" 237 lbs.) but he has yet to make a catch this season, so I doubt he'll be a big factor to look out for.

I couldn't find too much info on the Washington State offensive line, so I'll just list the projected starters from the beginning of the year. From left to right: Joe Dahl (R.Sr., 6' 5" 310 lbs.), Gunnar Eklund (R.Sr. 6' 7" 305 lbs.), Riley Sorenson (Jr. 6' 4" 319 lbs.), Eduardo Middleton (R.Jr. 6' 5" 310 lbs.), and Cole Madison (R.So. 6' 5" 303 lbs.). Beefy.

Final Thoughts

Both offenses are very good though WSU earns its yards through the air while UCLA is more balanced with talented running backs and receivers (and, uh, I guess TE Duarte *wink*). The UCLA secondary will need to slow down WSU QB Falk and his plethora of options at WR though they handled a similar offense in UC Berkeley easily.

I have a feeling this is going to be a nail biter.

Thanks for reading BN's preview of the Washinton State offense! If there are any Cougar fans reading, help me out and let me know if there's anything I missed :-)

Go Bruins!