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Gameday Q&A with Coug Center: Five questions about Washington State

Big thanks to Jeff Nusser for answering our questions about the Pirates of Pullman

William Mancebo

Stanford's pass rush has been spectacular this season, even getting significant pressure against Everett Golson and the Irish while rushing only 3 what is the Cougars' plan to handle the Stanford pass rush?

They won't do anything special -- they really can't without fundamentally altering their passing attack, and the Cougars certainly are never going to do that. About the only help the five linemen will get is from a running back staying in to block; other than that, they'll block it straight up and try to mitigate any potential problems by getting the ball out of Connor Halliday's hand quickly.

This all will some as no surprise to you all, as the Cardinal nearly murdered him on the field last year in Seattle. The offensive line handled Utah very well, really the closest thing to Stanford we've faced in terms of a pass rush, but I think everyone recognizes this is something pretty different tonight.

The Cougars just fired Special Teams Coordinator Eric Russell - how bad have the Cougs been on Special Teams this year? And how big of an impact will Special Teams haveon Friday's game?

Horrible. WSU gave up a punt return for a touchdown two weeks again, gave up two kickoff returns for touchdown last week, and the kicker missed a 19-yard field goal that presumably would have won the game with less than 20 seconds to go. (Although, who can say for sure given that WSU would have had to kick the ball off!) I think everyone understood that the move needed to be made for accountability purposes, but I also think most people realize this isn't necessarily a magical cure for all the problems. I don't have to tell you how explosive Ty Montgomery is in the return game, so how WSU handles that will be interesting.

Likewise, a coaching change isn't going to fix bad talent at placekicker. That situation -- in which a pair of kickers have made just 6-of-11 field goals -- likely will dictate that Mike Leach will go for it on fourth down if WSU is in Stanford territory. And who knows what he'll do if the game is tight late and the Cougs need three points.

Washington State has struggled on defense this season, yet Stanford has struggled on offense what will the Cougars have to do on defense to keep Stanford out of the end zone?

The defense really has only truly struggled in two games -- the season opener against Rutgers and last week against Cal. It's not like they were up to the Stanford standard in the other games, but they certainly were good enough to help the team win, particularly against Utah, where they allowed just one offensive touchdown. The improvement came when defensive coordinator Mike Breske replaced a number of upperclassmen who had won jobs in camp with younger, more physically gifted individuals -- in particular, three freshmen in the secondary. This worked out OK against run-oriented teams, but Cal is far from that, and the Golden Bears took extreme advantage of their inexperience.

Stanford's style plays into WSU's strength, which is its front seven. The line and linebackers have been excellent against the run with the exception of giving up about one explosive rush per game. If the Cougs can hold the run game in check tonight, it will come down to whether Kevin Hogan can hit what likely will be a few big play opportunities over the top.

Washington State is averaging almost 40 points a game can they continue this trend against Stanford?

I think we'd all be pretty stunned if they put up 40 on Stanford.

Given their record of 2-4 and very difficult upcoming schedule, is this a must-win game for the Cougs?

Well, math would dictate this is pretty important, yes.