Cougars had long time to prepare for Arizona game

BOB BAUM (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

If Washington State can't beat Arizona, it won't be for lack of time to prepare.

When the Cougars take the field in Tucson on Saturday, they will be playing for the first time since Halloween night.

Arizona (6-3, 3-3 Pac-12) is coming off a tough 31-26 home loss to UCLA last Saturday night, and the Wildcats are eager for another game.

''My mood was terrible but after 24 hours we have to move on,'' Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. ''The players are more resilient and bounce back quicker than coaches.''

Washington State (4-5, 2-4) has lost three in a row in a decidedly one-sided fashion, 52-24 to Oregon State, 62-38 to Oregon and 55-21 to Arizona State.

''After the loss to Arizona State, everyone is more focused,'' Cougars receiver River Cracraft said. ''We came out flat against Arizona State. It's not something we want to do.''

Washington State hasn't played Arizona since 2010 and hasn't played in Tucson since 2009.

After a promising start that included an upset over USC, the Cougars have been unable to stop anyone and have committed too many turnovers. They still need two victories to be bowl eligible.

After Saturday's game, Washington State has games remaining at home against Utah and at rival Washington. Arizona is home against Oregon next weekend then closes out the season at Arizona State.

In an odd schedule that includes two byes, Washington State has played just one game since Oct. 19.

Here are 5 things to watch when the Cougars face the Wildcats.

RUN VS. PASS: Arizona's offense centers around the nation's No. 2 rusher, Ka'Deem Carey. Washington State's Connor Halliday throws the ball more than anyone else in the Pac-12. Carey is averaging 152.6 yards per game and has rushed for over 100 yards for a school-record 12 consecutive games. He is 249 yards shy of Trung Canidate's career school rushing record. Halliday has thrown for 3,098 yards and is averaging 52.6 passes per game. With B.J. Denker's ability to run and throw, Carey isn't the only Cougar concern. ''If we focus too much on Ka'Deem,'' Washington State linebacker Darryl Monroe said, ''we're going to give their quarterback too much time to operate.'' The Cougars throw, throw and throw some more. Washington State ranks seventh nationally at 365 yards passing per game. The Cougars are on pace to set school records for pass attempts (624 set last season), completions (323 set last season) and passing yards (4,120 set in 1997). WSU has had 10 receivers catch a pass in each of the last seven games.

WSU'S DEFENSE: Or lack of it, would be a better phrase. After surrendering 169 points in their last three games, the Cougars again face an offense that can move the ball up and down the field. Like Oregon and Arizona State - Washington State's last two opponents - Arizona spreads the field in a quick, no-huddle system. ''We'll have our hands full,'' Monroe said. Washington State coach Mike Leach also uses a no-huddle system, but says Arizona's approach is a bit different. ''When they really speed it up, they go a little faster than we do,'' Leach said. ''Then when they slow it down, they go slower. Where ours has always been kind of the same.''

ARIZONA'S MOOD: The Wildcats' loss to UCLA probably ruined any chance they had of winning the Pac-12 South. So a letdown is certainly possible. Rodriguez said he isn't about to let that happen. ''Now we don't control our destiny in the Pac-12 South race but a lot of things can happen,'' Rodriguez said. ''We focus on what's immediate and what's next. We're concentrating on what we have to do against Washington State.''

RICH-ROD VS. LEACH: Rodriguez and Leach have known each other for years, but this is the first time they've faced each other in a game. ''I know him well, good guy,'' Leach said. ''I've known him for a long time. When I first met him, I was at Valdosta State and he was at Glenville State.'' Rodriguez called Leach ''a pioneer in what he's doing with that offense. It would be fun to watch if you didn't have to play him.''

EARLY START: Both teams are accustomed to night games in a Pac-12 schedule dictated by television necessities. Arizona, for example, had an 8 p.m. kickoff against UCLA, a game that didn't end until nearly Sunday morning. By contrast, this one starts at noon MST. That's 11 a.m. Pullman time. ''I guess we'll get up early,'' Leach said.


AP writer Nicholas K. Geranios in Spokane contributed to this report.


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