Cougars face Utah for homecoming

WSU’s high octane Air-Raid offense meets stout Utah defense Saturday afternoon in conference showdown

Redshirt+junior+running+back+James+Williams+attempts+to+shed+a+tackle+during+the+game+against+Eastern+Washington+on+Sept.+15+at+Martin+Stadium.+Williams+has+totaled+seven+touchdowns+through+four+games+this+season.
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Cougars face Utah for homecoming

Redshirt junior running back James Williams attempts to shed a tackle during the game against Eastern Washington on Sept. 15 at Martin Stadium. Williams has totaled seven touchdowns through four games this season.

Redshirt junior running back James Williams attempts to shed a tackle during the game against Eastern Washington on Sept. 15 at Martin Stadium. Williams has totaled seven touchdowns through four games this season.

OLIVER MCKENNA | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

Redshirt junior running back James Williams attempts to shed a tackle during the game against Eastern Washington on Sept. 15 at Martin Stadium. Williams has totaled seven touchdowns through four games this season.

OLIVER MCKENNA | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

OLIVER MCKENNA | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

Redshirt junior running back James Williams attempts to shed a tackle during the game against Eastern Washington on Sept. 15 at Martin Stadium. Williams has totaled seven touchdowns through four games this season.

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After a tough, controversial first loss of the season to the University of Southern California last week, the Cougars look to get back on track as they host the University of Utah on Saturday.

“They’re strong, they’re physical, they’re well coached,” WSU Head Coach Mike Leach said about his upcoming opponent Utah. “The biggest thing is they do the fundamentals real well, they’re a real fundamental group. They don’t really try to fool you they just come right at you … it doesn’t surprise me a bit that they’re at the top of this conference in defense.”

Graduate transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew II enters the game third in the nation in total passing yards with 1,547 yards through the air this season. Minshew has been prolific, passing for 11 touchdowns with only three interceptions.

The running game has also had its moments this season for the Cougs, with redshirt junior running back James Williams scoring seven total touchdowns through four games.

WSU’s defense had its worst day of the season last week, allowing 354 yards of total offense and 39 points in its first loss this year. Despite its defense forcing four fumbles, the Cougars did not recover a single one of them.

When the Speed D needed to get off the field it did just that, allowing only three conversions on nine attempts.

Unfortunately, penalties ruled the day, as WSU’s defensive backs committed an avalanche of pass interference penalties to extend USC drives. This game was a surprising fall from grace for the Cougs, who were the third ranked total defense in the nation going into that game.

Utah enters this weekend coming off a bye week, preceded by a 21-7 loss against No. 11 University of Washington. In the loss, Utah’s offense took a stumble, accruing only 261 total yards of offense.

Utah junior quarterback Tyler Huntley had better days, passing for only 138 yards with an interception. The Utes also turned the ball over three times, gifting the Huskies a number of scoring opportunities.

The Utes’ defense had a great game overall against the Huskies’ offense, holding Washington to 327 total yards. Senior Jake Browning was held to only 155 yards with a touchdown and an interception, continuing what has been a bad season for the quarterback. Utah did have issues stopping Washington’s rushing attack, as senior running back Myles Gaskin ran for 143 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries.

Utah’s defense has been stout all season, allowing no more than 21 points in three contests.

“I think their safeties in particular are good,” Leach said. “I think the experience kind of unifies them and they play together well.”

WSU (3-1, 0-1) looks to get its first conference win of the season while Utah (2-1, 0-1) looks to do the same. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday at Martin Stadium and will be televised live on Pac-12 Networks.