SALT LAKE CITY - Don't look now, but Utah is still in the hunt for a Pac-12 South Division title.
The Utes (6-4) are peaking at just the right time, and with last week's win over UCLA, the Utes are bowl-eligible for the ninth consecutive season. Since a trip to the Liberty Bowl in 2003 under then head coach Urban Meyer, the Utes haven't been out of the postseason -a remarkable feat that has continued through all seven of Kyle Whittingham's seasons at the helm.
The series is knotted at 5-5 and Utah leads 3-1 in Pullman. The most memorable game was the 1992 Copper Bowl in Tucson, Ariz., when the Drew Bledsoe-led Cougars held on for a 31-28 victory after taking a 21-0 first-quarter lead. Utah, playing in its first bowl game in 28 years, missed a chance to tie the game with 3:19 remaining when Chris Yergensen's 20-yard field goal attempt went wide left.Game 11 Notes
- Utah (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) plays Washington State (4-6, 2-5 Pac-12)
- Date: Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011
- Time: 2:00 p.m. PT (3 MT)
- Site: Martin Stadium (32,248/FieldTurf) Pullman, Wash.
- TV: KJZZ, Fox College Sports Atlantic
- Radio: ESPN700, SIRIUS 139/XM 195
- Series Record: Tied 5-5
- Last Meeting: 2000 (WSU 38-21)
- Kickoff Weather: Cloudy and cold, temps in the upper 20s
The Utes are led by running back John White IV, who needs just 13 yards to surpass Darrell Mack for third best in single season rushing yards up on the hill. When White does well, so does the U. Utah is 6-0 when White rushes for more than 100 yards.
Utah will have its hands full as they travel to Pullman, Wash. to take on a freshman quarterback that has things turned around for Washington State. The Cougars (4-6) need to win their remaining two games to become bowl-eligible, something that they haven't done since 2003.
Here is an inside look at Washington State and some of the key players to watch on Saturday.
Established: March 28, 1890
Conference: Pac-12 North
Location: Pullman, Washington
Mascot: Butch T. Cougar
Colors: Crimson and Gray
Season to date
My oh my, how quickly things can change. For Washington State, a surprising performance by a freshman quarterback may have saved the season, and possibly Paul Wulff's job as head coach.
Washington State opened the season 3-1, but its wins came against Idaho State, Colorado, and UNLV. Not exactly tough competition. The Cougars dropped their next five games, and when quarterback Jeff Tuel bruised his calf in against Oregon State, things really weren't looking good.
WSU turned to Marshall Lobbestael, but games against Oregon and Cal were too much for the senior QB. Then, against ASU, the Cougars inserted freshman Connor Halliday on their 2nd series, and after Halliday's dominating Pac-12 player of the week performance against the Sun Devils, the Cougars are just two wins away from becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2003.
Record: (4-6, 2-5 Pac-12)
Biggest win: Arizona State
Worst loss: Oregon State
This is Paul Wulff's fourth season at the helm in Pullman, and things exactly haven't gone as well as anyone could have hoped.
Through his first three seasons, the Cougars won a total of two conference games. Yes, you heard me right. Two wins, 25 losses in Pac-12 play.
But in 2011, WSU has matched that, winning games against newcomer Colorado and shocking Arizona State last week. The excitement surrounding freshman quarterback Connor Halliday seems to have taken Wulff off the hot seat, at least for now. If WSU can win one of their final two games, they will have also matched their win total from the previous three seasons combined (5).
All eyes will be on Washington State freshman quarterback Connor Halliday, who set a Pac-12 freshman record with 494 passing yards and four touchdowns in a 37-27 win over Arizona State.
"[The Pac-12] is full of great quarterbacks," Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said. "[Halliday] appears to be in the same role, and he's just a redshirt freshman. We've got to be prepared."
The Cougars have been extremely efficient at moving the football, ranking 9th in the country in passing offense while converting 43% of the time on third down.
Receiver Marquess Wilson became the school's all-time single-season receiving leader with 1,197 yards after making eight catches for 223 yards and three touchdowns last week.
While Washington State's offensive success comes through the air, running backs Carl Winston and Rickey Galvin split the carries for the Cougars. The duo has combined for 937 yards and nine touchdowns.
Utah comes in with the ninth best rushing defense in the country, so don't expect Washington State to run the ball very often. Halliday hasn't thrown an interception all season, but he'll face a tougher challenge against the Utes. Utah is ranked second in passing efficiency defense and leads the Pac-12 with 14 interceptions.
While Washington State gave up 411 yards to the Sun Devils last week, the defense played with an intensity and excitement that hadn't been seen yet all season, coming up with big stops late in the game to seal the win.
Utah's strength is obviously its running attack, which plays into Washington State's favor. The Cougars are better at stopping the run (63rd in the country) than the pass (94).
The game plan for WSU is simple - put 9, 10 or even 11 guys in the box and try to stop John White IV.
Defensive end Travis Long, who will be making his 35th consecutive start against Utah, leads WSU in tackles for loss and sacks.
Placekicker Andrew Furney is 12-14 on field goal attempts, with a long of 51 yards, while Dan Wagner is averaging 40.7 yards per punt.