Next up in our how you doin’ series is Wisconsin’s week two opponent, the Washington State Cougars. Last week, the Cougs escaped with a victory over FCS Idaho 24-17. Lets take a look at how each unit is doin!
Status Of The Offense
The Cougars offense is mostly a combination of unproven young talent and fresh-faced transfers. Washington State’s QB Cam Ward looked...interesting in his debut for Washington State. He went 25/40 for just over 200 yards and three touchdowns. He’s got legs too and can break down the field on the ground to escape pressure if need be. It’s hard to get a read from this FCS transfer’s first game, but he was an FCS Heisman finalist last season. It’ll be intriguing to see what he brings into Madison this week.
You might notice one of the names in Washington State’s running game. Nakia Watson returns to Madison playing for the opponent instead of suiting up for the Badgers. He’s show potential since making the move and will be eager to show Wisconsin what it’s missing when he returns to Camp Randall Saturday. He had a respectable debut vs Idaho last week rushing for 117 yards on 18 carries with a breakout 24 yards rush as the longest of the night. In the trenches expect the Badgers experienced defensive line to confuse and troll the inexperienced offensive front that the Cougars are working with.
The best asset of this team’s offense is its wide receivers and tight ends. Eight different players caught passes last week. Look for the Cougars to continue to spread the ball around and try to catch the Badgers sleeping in the secondary. De’Zahun Stribling and Donovan Ollie had a big game vs the Vandals last week bringing down 7 catches each. Their tight ends didn’t play much of a role in game 1 but look for Tight End transfer Billy Rivere and freshman Andre Dollar to have a coming-out party of sorts for their team.
Status Of The Defense
I don’t care that last week’s opponent for Washington State was Idaho, their defense swarms to the football. Or at least they seem to put in a commendable effort. Wisconsin should not take this team’s potential to upset lightly. This team’s defense is its strongest asset under defensive-minded coach Jake Dickert. They also have a fair amount of returning starters and solid transfers from the previous year. Let’s take a look at some of the things that stood out when reviewing their win over the Vandals of Idaho.
Firstly, the Cougs recorded seven sacks in the game from seven different players. That screams TEAM DEFENSE! 59 total tackles, 39 of which were solo, and 12 were for a loss of yards. 18 different players got in on the action to find their way to a tackle. The Cougars recorded two interceptions on the day as well.
As far as the run defense is concerned Washington State was able to hold their opponent to a respectable 1.8 yards per carry on 34 rushes. The longest? 16 yards. I’d like to think that Wisconsin has a better run attack than Idaho but the Cougars have shown that they have the potential to shut down big play opportunities on the ground.
Through the air, Washington State gave up over 200 yards, but there were also two interceptions, one of which led to points on the following drive. This bodes well for the Badgers and their new look balanced offense that Bobby Engram wants to implement. However, let’s remember those 7 sacks from 7 different players. The Cougars love to rush and blitz from a wide variety of packages so as long as Wisconsin does its homework they should be able to recognize and shut down anything thrown at them.
This is a team trying to find a new identity with a new coach and lots of new personnel. It’s agreat opportunity for them to come together as a unit to get an upset in Madison. But don’t expect that to happen with Jim Leonard on watch. I expect the defense to hold up strong on their end, and I expect the Wisconsin offense to put up good numbers in a continued balanced attack through the ground and the air.