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November 25, 2011

Apple Cup scouting report

Matchup: Washington State (4-7 overall, 2-6 Pac-12) at Washington (6-5, 4-4)

Kickoff: 4:30 p.m., Pacific time, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.

TV, radio: Versus television will broadcast the game to a national audience; Ted Robinson, Glenn Parker and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila will provide the commentary. KJR 950-AM and 102.9 FM will broadcast the game regionally. Bob Rondeau provides play-by-play, Damon Huard the color commentary and sideline reporting from Elise Woodward.

Coaches: Steve Sarkisian, Washington (third year); Paul Wulff, Washington State (fourth year).

Series: The Washington-Washington State series started in 1900, but the Apple Cup trophy was first awarded in 1962. In their 103-year history, the Huskies lead the Cougars 66-31-6, and have won the Apple Cup 34 times. Washington is also 37-15-5 in games against Washington State played in Seattle and has won nine of the past 13 games in the series. Last season, Washington beat Washington State 35-38 on a 27-yard pass on a fade route by NFL first-round pick Jake Locker to receiver Jermaine Kearse with 44 seconds remaining. The last time the Cougars won against the Huskies was in 2008 in double overtime in Pullman.

About the Cougars: In his fourth year, Paul Wulff has been slowly building up the Cougars. The current 4-7 record is the most wins Washington State has posted since Bill Doba's last season at Pullman in 2007. And the offense is geared in the right direction, averaging close to 31 points per game.

The Cougars did lose their starting quarterback, freshman Connor Halliday, last week in the loss against Utah. But senior quarterback Marshall Lobbestael has shown effectiveness at times throughout the season. He has thrown for 2,240 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions, and has completed 60 percent of his passes. However, in the last four games he's played in, Lobbestael has thrown for 606 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

Joining him in the backfield is the junior power back Carl Winston and a more balanced freshman running back Rickey Galvin. Winston leads the team with 117 carries for 422 yards but Galvin, the top tailback on the depth chart, leads the team in rushing yards with 506 yards on 106 carries. Against Utah, Galvin lead all Cougar backs in rushing with 69 yards on 12 carries but Winston led all running backs in their upset of Arizona State. Regardless, much of the burden will be left on Lobbestael; the Cougars are 107th in the nation in rushing, averaging 108 yards per game.

But Washington State's strength lies with the passing attack. The Cougars are ninth in the nation in passing, averaging 320 yards per game. Sophomore wide receiver Marquess Wilson leads the Pac-12 in receiving with 1,280 yards. Twice this season, he's surpassed 200 yards; his 223-yard effort two weeks ago was instrumental in the upset of Arizona State.
With a 6-4, 183-pound frame, he has the potential to be an NFL third- or fourth-round draft pick in the coming years. Senior Isiah Barton, second on the team with 638 yards, is out with a torn ACL, and therefore, senior Jared Karstetter, third on the team with 618 yards, to pick up the slack.

Even though this offense is able to put up points on the board, the defense has struggled at times. Both the pass defense and rush defense is in the middle of the pack and the scoring defense eighth in the Pac-12. Keep an eye out on senior linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis, who leads this team with 80 total tackles and is second with 10.0 tackles for loss. Sophomore cornerback Damante Horton leads the team with four interceptions. Also, sophomore safety Casey Locker, first cousin of former Washington and current NFL quarterback Jake Locker, is known for hard hits, which sometimes may lead to helmet-to-helmet collisions in his case.

About the Huskies: Washington has lost its past three games, only won once in the last five games and is coming off an emotional loss on the road to Oregon State. Freshman quarterback Nick Montana started for an injured Keith Price; he was 11 for 21, throwing for 79 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. For most of the day, he couldn't get the offense moving, even with turnovers working in their favor regarding field position.

Price is ready to start the Apple Cup. He's thrown for 2,334 yards, 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, completing 67 percent of his passes. But in the past five games he's played, in which the Huskies have gone 1-4, Price has simmered down from his hot start, throwing for 808 yards five touchdowns and seven interceptions. However, this offense should be bolstered by Price's return as it opens up the playbook for Sarkisian and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.

The same can be said for junior tailback Chris Polk in the last three games. He only ran for over 100 yards once, last week at Oregon State - but it took him 25 carries. For the season, he has 1,241 yards rushing, 288 yards receiving and 13 total touchdowns.

Including Polk, Price has a lot of receiving weapons. The Huskies boast one of the deepest group of talented receivers in the nation. Freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, one of the top collegiate tight ends in the nation, was Montana's favorite target last Saturday. He had six catches for 40 yards and a touchdown. Senior Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguliar will be playing in their last regular season game as Huskies. Aguliar leads the team with 508 receiving yards. Last year, Kearse was a second team all-Pac-10 selection, but his numbers have dipped a bit this year; he's caught 37 passes for 439 yards. Freshman Kasen Williams is an X-factor for the Huskies, adding speed and a reliable target in the middle of the field. He has 334 yards on 28 receptions.

The main reason why Washington has lost five games this season is because of a thin defense. They've allowed 430 yards of offense, 10th in the Pac-12. The pass defense is second to last in the conference, allowing 278 yards. Causes of this can be attributed to injuries and the youth replacing those positions, including freshman linebacker Jamaal Kearse, freshman defensive end Josh Shirley and hard-hitting sophomore cornerback Greg Ducre. In the end, the fate of how this defense responds is based on the activity of senior linebacker Cort Dennison, junior cornerback Desmond Trufant, and sophomore safety Sean Parker.

What to expect: Anything can happen. It's a rivalry game. Although the Cougars finished 2-10 last year, the game went down to the wire in Pullman. Don't be surprised if you see a lot of hard hits by the Huskies' Ducre and the Cougars' Locker, bulldozing runs by Polk, long passes by Lobbestael and great catches by Washington's Williams and Washington State's Wilson.

Even if the odds have the Huskies by nine, expect the unexpected.

UDubNation.com pick: Washington, 35-31.


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