It’s that time of year again! Apple Cup is this Saturday, and our Washington Huskies will be traveling across the state to Pullman to take on the Washington State Cougars in what always seems to be a competitive matchup, no matter the teams’ records going in. Since it’s a rivalry week, I chose to do something special and have a friendly Q&A with my friend who goes to WSU, Neil Roberts (link to his blog page, check it out!). Here are the questions I asked him (in bold) followed by his responses.
1) What does quarterback Luke Falk bring to the table that Connor Halliday didn’t?
Falk has already shown that he is more mobile than Halliday ever was. There were a couple of plays against Oregon State where the offensive line was unable to deal with the pressure, and Falk escaped from the pocket to extend the play; in fact, on Washington State’s final touchdown drive, he converted on a third down by moving to his right, realizing that the coverage was to tight, and scrambled for the first down. Washington has two and a half games of tape to look at examine and analyze when it comes to Falk’s mobility; but it provides an added wrinkle for the Cougar offense.
This is Falk’s second year with the team – he is a redshirt freshmen. As a result, he was able to develop in the system at his own pace, and behind a significantly more talented offensive line. He hasn’t had to deal with the gawd awful offensive lines that Halliday did; as a result Falk hasn’t learned to be scared of the pocket immediately after the snap, so he stays in the pocket longer.
2) What can we expect from WSU’s defense in a rivalry game like the Apple Cup?
The rivalry game, and senior night, are probably going to give the players extra motivation on the practice field and in film study. But the biggest defensive factor in the Apple Cup is going to be the health of the secondary.
The Cougar defense has struggled with health in its young secondary, and that’s been a big reason Washington State has been forced to play the experienced (but not nearly as athletically gifted, or sound on the basics). As a result, Coug fans have seen junior Taylor Taliulu and redshirt senior Mitchell Peterson (granted, Peterson had a fairly solid game against Arizona State) more than they would have liked. WSU’s secondary health has left the defense in a state of flux, and impacted its ability to effectively execute its scheme on the field.
When the secondary has been healthy, it’s done a pretty good job of preventing receivers from getting wide open. The improved downfield coverage has forced opposing quarterbacks to hold onto the ball longer, which gives the front seven time to generate pressure and hit the quarterback. It was a healthy secondary that forced Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota to hold onto the ball, and give the Washington State front seven time to pick apart the Ducks’ makeshift offensive line.
3) How will the Cougars combat UW’s pass rush ability?
Washington State just needs to run its offense, and Falk needs to make the correct reads, for the Cougars to combat the Washington pass rush. The Air Raid is designed around getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hand quickly. Sometimes that means a halfback/bubble screen, and sometimes that means running four verticals when it is clear that the safeties will be blitzing around the edges of the pocket. But for the most part, WSU is going to have to execute its offense.
As for what the offensive line will actually do, it really comes down to what the Washington defensive front shows. The center serves as the offensive line’s decision maker, and helps to make protection adjustments prior to the snap – the quarterback will also make protection adjustments. But the interesting thing to watch for, will be how the Husky’s new defensive coordinator adapts to the wide offensive line splits (space in between the offensive linemen) that Washington State uses. That’s what will determine how effective the Washington pass rush is.
It should be another fun matchup between these state rivals. Both teams will be ready to play and it should be a competitive game. Follow us on Twitter (@EmeraldFandom) for live updates during the game!
Here are details for the game:
Date: Saturday November 29th
Place: Pullman, WA
Broadcast: Fox Sports 1