We sent Spokesman-Review beat writer Jacob Thorpe (who now works where I used to work) five questions about Washington State. He answered them.
1. Connor Halliday threw 17 interceptions in WSU’s first eight games, but only two in the last three games. What’s changed?
“The offensive line has been playing much better the last few games, and Halliday seems much more comfortable in the pocket. He’s even starting to buy time with his feet, as was the case against Utah when he scrambled to the left before throwing to his right to find running back Marcus Mason for a touchdown. The Cougars have also started to run the ball more effectively, preventing defense ends from simply sprinting into the backfield to pressure Halliday.”
2. What impression do you get from WSU coaches about the progression of the Cougars’ offensive line? How close are they to what they expected?
“WSU’s coaches have made a point of praising the offensive line after the past two games, and it’s easy to see why. Utah entered last week’s game with more sacks than any other team in the country, but couldn’t add to that total at all despite 62 passing attempts by the Cougars. Performances like that are likely better than anyone expected, but hey, they’ll take it.”
3. The pass defense was tremendous through four games, but now ranks 111th in the country. What have been some of the shortcomings there?
“The simple answer is that the Cougars started playing better quarterbacks. WSU racked up interceptions and had a lot of success early against teams like Southern Utah and Idaho, and against inexperienced quarterbacks such as Auburn’s Nick Marshall and USC’s Cody Kessler. But while WSU’s passing stats may have been padded early, they’ve experienced the opposite lately, going up against quarterbacks such as Kevin Hogan, Marcus Mariota and Taylor Kelly, while also giving up big yardage to prolific passers such as Cal’s Jared Goff and Oregon State’s Sean Mannion.”
4. What do you see as the most important matchup in this game?
“Whether or not the Cougars can slow down UW’s Bishop Sankey will likely determine the result of the game. WSU had success against Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, the conference’s other star running back. However, the Cougars have given up 182 yards per game on the ground. If the Cougars can slow Sankey early then the defense will be able to settle in. If not, the former WSU recruit could run roughshod on WSU.”
5. If you could choose from WSU’s various bowl possibilities, what would be your personal pick? And what percentage of my security deposit do you plan to receive back after you move out of my old apartment?
“Personally I’d love to see them in either the Heart of Dallas Bowl or the Pinstripe Bowl for no other reasons except that Dallas and New York City seem like fun places to spend the holidays on the road. As far as your deposit … I don’t know, were all the hooks in the bathroom broken when you got there or is that a recent development?”