How do you reward a player who’s performance broke two Washington State records, and single-handedly led your team to victory? As of Monday you give him another start.
That was the decision that was handed down by head coach Paul Wulff as the Cougars prepare for another big time weekend test against Utah.
The decision seemed to be a relatively easy one for coach Wulff. Not allowing himself to be caught up in Conner Halliday’s performance against Arizona State, Wulff stressed the need to be more wide open and multiple on offense during his weekly press conference.
It’s being explosive on offense that ultimately was the main sticking point in giving Conner Halliday his first start.
It was noticeable early against Arizona State that Conner Halliday gave the offense more then a one dimensional look. His ability to move outside when the pocket collapsed, as well as being able stand tall to make plays down field, didn’t go unnoticed.
Even with Halliday at QB, the Cougs will have their hands full against a very physical Utes defense.
Much like Cal, Utah likes to control the line of scrimmage, and looks to get after the QB. Utah is 4th in the conference in sacks per game (2.8), 3rd in the conference in total yards against (335.7), 1st in TD’s allowed (2.3), 1st in points allowed (19.2). Click Here for all your Cougars STATS.
As tough as it will be to score against Utah, they are even harder to drive on.
The Utes rank 3rd in rushing yards allowed (100.8), and are 4th in the conference in passing yards allowed (234.9). Defense is how Utah wins football games. They will continue to do what has continued to make them successful, and their defensive game plan will not change too much against Washington St.
Offensively speaking Utah is fairly one dimensional. They love to run the football. Their offensive line creates multiple holes for guy like John White IV and Reggie Dunn to run through.
White IV is averaging 5.0 YPC, and with 12 TD’s, his production has taken the onus off QB Jon Hays .
All Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham asks of Hays is to be a game manager.
He let’s his surrounding cast carry the bulk of the scoring load while limiting the amount of turnovers. That’s precisely why Utah comes into this game winners of three straight.
They do not make mistakes with the football.
Keys to the game.
Washington State must continue to execute on offense. It’s one thing for Conner Halliday to come off the bench and provide a spark, but it’s another thing to do so from the start.
Halliday has to be able shake off any nervousness he has, and get it out of the way early.
Use possession receivers Isiah Barton or Jared Karstetter on shallow crosses or even take a shot down field to Marquess Wilson to get into a rhythm.
Either way establish that early tempo because Utah knows how to get into a defensive groove early.
On the defensive side of the ball, go ahead and bring guys up to the line of scrimmage.
Utah does not put a heavy emphasis on the passing game. They will try and pound the football as much as they can. Stack seven or even eight deep at the point of impact. Bring safety Casey Locker (team’s best hitter) and Alex Hoffman-Ellis (team’s best tackler) up in the box and allow those two to make plays on the ball.
The Cougars must be the first team to establish their physical presence at the line of scrimmage. If the Cougars can neutralize John White IV, they will be able to dictate what Utah can do offensively.
That is where this game will be won.
News, Notes, and Injuries
LB C.J.Mizell, who missed the ASU game because of a shoulder sprain, will be available on Saturday.
DE Leonard Williams, who suffered a sprained his MCL against ASU, is out for Saturday’s game.
KR Marcus Mason may miss an extended period of time with a high ankle sprain.
LS Zach Koepp will most likely miss Saturday’s game with a concussion.
Utah -6 at Washington State
Kickoff @ 2;30pm
Television: No regional TV
Radio: 770 KTTH
Vegas Line: Utah -6
Steve’s Hopeful Prediction: Washington State wins on a late game TD, 28-24