The (Eugene) Register-Guard

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No. 11 Washington St. at Oregon

When: 5 p.m. Saturday TV: Fox

Line: Cougars by 2½

EUGENE — Joe Salave’a is not surprised by Washington State’s undefeated start.

“That thing was four or five years in the making,” he said.

Salave’a was part of that process as Washington State’s defensive line coach for the past five years before leaving for the same job at Oregon, which hosts the 11th-ranked Cougars on Saturday.

“We’ve got our own team goals and aspirations to try and get accomplished, so we’re consumed about that every opportunity we get,” Salave’a said. “That isn’t going to change. A little bit more familiarity with the guys there (at Washington State), but other than that, this is our football team’s opportunity.”

Salave’a’s unit will go up against a Cougars offensive line made up of three seniors, one junior and a sophomore.

“Those guys we got to work with, you know those guys pretty good,” Salave’a said. “But coaches don’t play. Players play.”

Oregon coach Willie Taggart joked he would he would like to suit up Salave’a, an all-Pac-12 defensive tackle for Arizona in the mid-1990s who went on to play eight years in the NFL.

“He can’t do that, so we’ll have to rely on our defensive line and rely on him doing a good job coaching our guys up this week and having them ready to play,” Taggart said. “He can tell us about personnel, but it comes down to our guys executing what we do.”

Washington State junior lineman Hercules Mata’afa was Salave’a’s last all-Pac-12 player with the Cougars, earning second-team honors last season.

“It will be exciting to go against our old coach and good to see him as well,” said Mata’afa, who said he still texts with Salave’a but not about football. “We’re excited for this game like all the others and ready to get after it.”

Mata’afa, a 6-foot-2, 252-pound tackle from Lahaina, Hawaii, leads the conference with 10 tackles for loss and 4½ sacks.

“You have to engage him in conversation because Herc won’t say but one or two words, but that’s common in the personality of kids coming off the island (Hawaii),” Salave’a said. “When it comes time to strap it up and go, you can count on him being there, so we have our work cut out.”

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