The Washington State Cougars squared off against the SMU Mustangs last year in Pullman, turning a barrage of late interceptions into a last-second overtime win. The Cougs should be familiar with SMU and the June Jones offense this time around, but SMU has added a new wrinkle this year.
CougCenter’s Craig Powers previewed the Mustangs this week and noted they’ve been running the ball more.
As for the running game, June Jones has put more of an emphasis on it since arriving at SMU. Last year, senior Shawnbrey McNeal carried the ball 238 times. His replacement, sophomore Zach Line, isn’t getting the same amount of carries, but has been very effective through two games. He has carried the ball 28 times for a 6.93 average and three touchdowns. Overall, SMU has had great success on the ground, averaging 5.56 yards per run as a team.
Jones usually employs short routes and an aerial assault to beat-down opponents. This year, he’s been using the running game much more in his run-and-shoot offense, changing the theory behind his offense significantly.
The Cougs need to be prepared for the short passing routes SMU runs and the newfound running game in order to make this a game. Tackling — a weak-point for WSU thus far — must be an emphasis for WSU Saturday. If SMU receivers get into space, it could be a long day for the Cougars.
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