Preview: Washington State at Nevada

After a stumble in Seattle to open the season, Washington State looks to change its fortune in Reno.

But luck will have little to do with whether the Cougars can beat Nevada in a nationally televised game Friday.

It will rely more on whether Washington State’s defense plays better than a week ago. After Thursday’s 41-38 loss to Rutgers, coach Mike Leach was critical of the defensive line’s play after allowing the Scarlet Knights to rush for 215 yards, including 173 yards from running back Paul James.

“I don’t think we ever established the line of scrimmage on defense,” Leach said.

While Rutgers gained many of its yards by running straight ahead, Nevada offers a different threat with an experienced dual-threat quarterback. Cody Fajardo threw for 303 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score to lead Nevada to a 28-19 win over Southern Utah.

Here are a few of his highlights from that game:

The only FBS player with over 7,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards, Fajardo finished Saturday’s game with 371 yards, giving him 9,968 total career yards. He completed 30 of 41 passes and ran for 68 yards in Nevada’s “pistol” offense.

Washington State will hope its offense rediscovers the unstoppable groove it was for the middle half of Thursday’s game and not the faltering performance in the first and fourth quarters. During one stretch, Connor Halliday completed 16 of 17 passes en route to 532 yards and five touchdowns. Vince Mayle had 12 catches for 124 yards. Isiah Myers had six catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore River Cracraft made eight catches for 83 yards and a touchdown.


Washington State at Nevada

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mackey Stadium, Reno, Nev.

TV, radio: ESPN, KKPZ AM-1330

Records: WSU (0-1), Nevada (1-0)

Key to game: Washington State will probably score more than a handful of points. The key is whether the Cougars defense can keep Nevada in check. Last week, a unheralded Rutgers offense scored 41 points because WSU’s defensive front lost the trench battle and its linebackers missed too many tackles. Better performances by both those units in necessary for a WSU win.

Local angle: WSU kicker Erik Powell, a Seton Catholic graduate, made his first start on Thursday. The Redshirt freshman made all five of his extra points, plus a 22-yard field goal. He missed a 50-yarder that hit the upright on the final play of the first half. Click here to more about Powell.

Quotable: “Guys go into a game and they talk themselves up so much to a point where they can’t perform. They can’t do that. … That was something those guys were really hard on because they feel like the underperformed for the rest of the group.” — WSU defensive line coach Joe Salave’a on his group’s reaction to a subpar one-sack performance against Rutgers.

Prediction: Washington State 35-27

Micah Rice

Micah Rice

Columbian Sports Editor Micah Rice is the author of Tailgate Talk: College football from a Clark County perspective.

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