Top offenses clash when Cougars host Wildcats

Top offenses clash when Cougars host Wildcats

Published Oct. 24, 2014 4:02 p.m. ET

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) There's fast and then there's Arizona vs. Washington State fast.

The teams with the two best offenses in the Pac-12 like to play quickly and they put up big numbers offensively while doing it.

The big question when No. 15 Arizona (5-1, 2-1) visits Washington State (2-5, 1-3) on Saturday may be whether the Cougars can even slow the Wildcats down.

Washington State defensive lineman Destiny Vaeao said a key to the game will be slowing down Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon, the No. 9 passer in the nation in total yards.


''Their quarterback is mobile,'' Vaeao said. ''You have to run a lot. We've got to get there and hunt him down.''

Washington State, meanwhile, leads the nation in passing behind senior quarterback Connor Halliday and a bevy of talented receivers.

''He is obviously a very talented guy and can make a lot of throws, but their wide receiver crew is really good,'' Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. ''All of the guys are valuable options whether it is four or five wide outs because the ball may go to any of them at any time.''

Arizona safety Jared Tevis said facing a school that throws 60 to 70 times a game is an opportunity to get interceptions.

''Connor Halliday's throwing seems a lot more on point this year, but at the same time this will only give us an opportunity to show everyone what we're capable of,'' Tevis said.

Washington State coach Mike Leach said his team has played extremely hard against a difficult schedule of opponents in the first half of the season. ''We're a work in progress and steadily improving,'' Leach said.

The Cougars have lost close ones and need to win more of those games, running back Jamal Morrow said.

''We proved in Utah that we can win close games,'' Morrow said. ''We need to do it on a consistent basis.''

Washington State won in Tucson last season, a key victory as the Cougars went to a bowl game for the first time in a decade. This is Arizona's first visit to Pullman since 2010, and the Wildcats have a three-game winning streak at Martin Stadium.

Thing to watch when Arizona visits Washington State on Saturday:

OFFENSIVE POWERS: The Cougars lead the nation in passing with 490 yards per game behind Halliday, who broke the all-time single-game record by throwing for 734 yards against California two weeks ago. The Wildcats are fourth nationally with 557 yards of offense per game. They split up the workload a little more evenly, throwing for 357 yards and rushing for 200 yards a game.

CARDIAC CATS: Arizona has played five straight games that were decided by a touchdown or less. ''I don't remember a stretch of my career that we've had five straight games that have literally gone down to the fourth quarter,'' Rodriguez said. ''It's not easy on some of us older coaches.''

NO MORE REST: With two early byes, the Wildcats finish the season with six straight games. ''We've known the schedule for a while now, so hopefully our guys will take care of their bodies for the next six weeks and we can stay lucky,'' Rodriguez said.

HALLIDAY: Halliday is the nation's passing leader, having thrown for 3,344 yards and 28 touchdowns already. He owns three of the top six passing performances in the FBS this season. Halliday needs 139 yards to break Alex Brink's career record of 10,913 yards passing at Washington State.

WEALTH OF TALENT: Washington State has three receivers who already have at least 50 catches and more than 600 yards this season: Vince Mayle (57 catches, 781 yards), River Cracraft (57, 676) and Isiah Myers (53, 627). Each of the three also has seven touchdown catches.