Everyone who has heard of the idea of Washington State playing football this year knows that the Cougars like to put the pigskin up in the air a little bit.
Will we see more of that as the Arizona Wildcats make their first trip to Pullman since 2010? Probably. But don't forget last year, where the Cougs came in to Tucson and ran the ball 27 times.
Rich Rodriguez and a few of the players give their thoughts on that very conundrum and more:
On Washington State's offense
Everybody talks about their offense and their ability to throw it around the field with an experienced quarterback and really good wide outs, so we're expecting that. But they also ran the ball well against us last year so we gotta be prepared for that.
On Washington State's defense
They do a lot of movement, a lot of different blitzes, a lot of different looks that we haven't seen so far this year. So it's going to be important to get ready this week for that.
What makes it difficult to play defense against an offense like WSU?
They'll run it enough just to keep you honest. But they'll throw the ball to any of the guys at any part of the field. They do a really good job of running after the catch, and sometimes their throws are screens, where it's really just an extended run play on the perimeter. So even though it's a pass play, it's really a run play out on the perimeter. And they do a bunch of screens, and if you leave your guys one-on-one, particularly one-on-one soft coverage instead of press coverage, they'll throw a screen out there, get a good block and someone may miss and take it a long way. Their wide receivers are really good and they know what they're doing.
What do the defensive backs focus on most this week?
When you're in zone coverage you've got to have good eye discipline and break on the ball. When you're in man you've got to be prepared for double moves, rub routes, crossing routes. But they get rid of it so quick, you've got to create a push up front and get a little bit of pressure.
How is Connor Halliday more than just a system quarterback?
His physical abilities, his size, his arm strength, and I think beyond that it's his ability to read a coverage and extend a play and be able to scan the whole field. The ability to see the field and get rid of the ball so quickly will translate to the next level because that's what the NFL's become. It's become a shotgun, get rid of the ball quick, spread you from sideline to sideline kind of league.
How is WSU's offensive scheme different from Arizona's?
Well there's similarities, but the biggest difference is probably how we approach the run game. Some of our runs are similar, but a lot are different as well. Where they'll throw the ball to set up the run, we'll run the ball to set up the throw. But they have run it in certain games a lot more. But with an open week, they may play us differently than anyone they've played so far this year.
Do you enjoy playing against teams that throw the ball so much?
I love filling the run, but anytime we face a passing school, it's exciting to have those opportunities to get picks. With a team that throws that much, it's just an opportunity for us to make plays and get interceptions.
Takeaways from last year's game?
They're a good squad. I think their quarterback's improved a lot and that's saying a lot cuz he had a great season last year. They're a good team and you can't come out there and not be giving it your all. We didn't come out with the right energy last year, and especially in their home stadium, we're going to have to come out there firing on all cylinders.
How has Connor Halliday improved?
You can just tell with some of his reads and throws that he's a lot more spot-on this year. He's a great quarterback, but at the same time, that's just another opportunity for us to show what we can do.
On Washington State's receivers:
They have a lot of balanced receivers. Some tall guys, some small, quick guys. All of them can catch the ball. (Halliday) has a lot of targets.
They have a lot of different route formations, but we've been doing a good job breaking down their formations, their hand signals with the quarterback and things like that.
On playing a pass-heavy team:
I enjoy it a lot, get about five, ten, fifteen picks. They throw the ball about 90 times so who wouldn't want to come away with a lot of interceptions. Just a chance to pile up the stat book for everybody.
On Connor Halliday:
He's a real good quarterback. Even last year, he basically did what he wanted to against us as far as throwing the ball and stuff. But I think he has a very strong arm, pretty good guy, pretty good quarterback. But there's nothing we won't be prepared for.