Once again, it's Football Friday. Break out the crimson and gray gear. Optimism is peaking for another Washington State Pac-10 game, so let's get to it.
With the 2008 schedule winding down for Coach Paul Wulff and the Cougs, they travel to Tempe, AZ this week to take on former WSU Coach Dennis Erickson and the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Fans for both teams share frustration over how things have played out for their teams this year.
Coming off an impressive coaching debut last season, Coach Erickson's Sun Devils were picked by many to challenge for a PAC-10 crown this year. That isn't the way things have gone for ASU.
Instead of improving on the performance of 2007, ASU has stumbled and already fallen to opponents six times.
Injuries have wiped out the effectiveness of the Sun Devil offense.
It didn't seem possible that the top quarterback in the Pac-10, senior Rudy Carpenter, could be hurried, hit and sacked more than last year. That couldn't happen. Or could it?
Carpenter has continued to be a human tackling dummy for opponents all year. As good as he is, even Carpenter can't run an offense under the siege leveled by the defenses he's faced.
Please don't mention injuries around Coach Wulff. Among the records being established by the Cougs this season, they're leading the nation in players lost or limited by injuries.
For Cougar fans, expect the offense to play better again this week. That's no slight toward the ASU defense, it's commentary on continued progress during a good week of practice in Pullman. Kevin Lopina will have additional pages from the play book to try against a very speedy Sun Devil secondary. JT Levenseller looked very sharp all week.
The biggest improvement for the Cougs should be the play of the offensive line. It's going to take their best effort to slow down the aggressive play of the ASU defensive front.
This game will be a yardstick to measure what progress the Cougs have made. Sun Devil Stadium will be packed to the rafters with wild fans screaming loud enough to be heard for miles and miles. That will present a real challenge for the two young Cougar quarterbacks, Lopina and Levenseller.
How will they react under the pressure?
Unless you travel to Tempe and have a ticket for the game, you won't see the game this week. Given the records of both teams, it's understandable why the game won't be televised.
What to expect?
Arizona State is coming off a second half victory over the hapless UW Huskies. Amassing the second longest losing streak in the Pac-10, the Sun Devils are feeling pretty good about themselves after securing their third win of the season. But the last game ASU played in front of the home town crowd was a disaster. Oregon dominated the Sun Devils.
Washington State is coming off their best offensive performance in two months. They put up 28 points on a very good Arizona defense last Saturday in Martin Stadium. That was due in part to opening up the playbook slightly for Lopina. He'll get even more variety in plays to run against ASU.
Though Levenseller needs to get in at least one series in the first half this week, it will actually be good news if he doesn't. He won't see much action if the game is close.
Yes, Coach Wulff and the Cougs are hungry for a victory. Of course that begs the question...
Can Washington State begin their turnaround this week?
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