The Daily Evergreen

Keys to the game: San Jose State

Tricks to help lead WSU, already favored to win, to victory

University+of+Wyoming+and+WSU+players+face+off+on+the+line+of+scrimmage+Sept.+19%2C+2015+in+Martin+Stadium.
University of Wyoming and WSU players face off on the line of scrimmage Sept. 19, 2015 in Martin Stadium.

University of Wyoming and WSU players face off on the line of scrimmage Sept. 19, 2015 in Martin Stadium.

JESSICA HARJA | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

JESSICA HARJA | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

University of Wyoming and WSU players face off on the line of scrimmage Sept. 19, 2015 in Martin Stadium.

JACKSON GARDNER, Evergreen assistant sports editor

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The Cougars enter their home opener as a 35.5-point favorite to beat San Jose State University.

That’s a good indication of how this game should go, even if the Cougars don’t cover that colossal spread. However, it isn’t a long shot for them to do it, and if they do, these are my keys to make it happen:

 

The defense needs to keep the Spartans in front of it.

 

A pretty elementary key to the game — limiting big plays on defense. WSU defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys harped on limiting big plays for opposing offenses upon his arrival in Pullman.

So, it is safe to say the Cougars will be making a concerted effort to keep Spartan receivers from getting behind the backs.

The idea here is to allow the underneath routes then rally to the football and extend Spartan drives.

This forces San Jose State to play quality football, something the team has struggled with in 2017 and in week one of this season. But the sub-key is the Cougs need to tackle well. It does no good to allow underneath routes to be completed, then miss tackles.

Just look at WSU’s offense. The entire idea is to opt for underneath routes to guys who can make tacklers miss, then when the defense tries to clamp down go over the top.

The Spartans aren’t trying to do anything different. If WSU lost because the Spartan offense strung together double-digit play drives and went toe-to-toe in a shootout with Leach’s Air Raid attack, all the Cougs could do is go over and shake their opponent’s hand.

 

Be the disciplinarian.

 

Allow me to reiterate: The Cougs are 35.5-point favorites to win this game.

They don’t need to do anything fancy or gimmicky to get a win this week. All they need to do is be disciplined and let their opponent make the mistakes, just like they did against Wyoming.

Last week, the first two drives for the Cougars were given first downs via penalties and both of those drives led to points. In total, Wyoming racked up 109 penalty yards on 13 penalties. That is more of the length of the field that was simply gifted to the Cougs.

Now, WSU had 10 penalties of its own, giving up 75 yards, but San Jose State had issues with shooting itself in the foot last week as well.

The Spartans gave up 125 yards on 13 penalties, eight of which came on defense, giving their opponents 95 yards. Three of those defensive penalties gave their opponent first downs in second-and-long situations.

San Jose State also had two of its four offensive penalties occur in the red zone where one of those penalties stalled out a drive and the Spartans were forced to take three points instead of the touchdown.

 

Turn Spartan trips to the red zone into field goals.

 

This is almost a part two to the first key. If the Spartans get in the red zone, the Cougs need to get off the field only allowing three points. The last thing WSU wants is to get into a shootout with the Spartans.

Red zone defense was the number-one area of the Speed D Claeys wanted to revamp, and he needs to do it tonight. Last weekend the Spartans converted five of their seven trips to the red zone for touchdowns. That’s a pretty impressive number for any offense.

If the Cougars can at least hold the Spartans to a 50 percent touchdown conversion rate in the red zone they should be in pretty good shape. Anything better than 50 percent and this game could be pretty lopsided in favor of the Cougs.

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Keys to the game: San Jose State