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Washington State Cougars pt 2

Record 1-3 (0-1)
Last Game: Portland State W 48-9
Pacific 10 Conference

, Washington

On TV: FSN / OSN / CSN NW @ 3:15 p.m. Pacific

Part 2 of 2: Washington State on Defense

You just don’t expect to see a Pac-10 team with these kinds of numbers. WSU ranks 97th among 119 Bowl Subdivision teams for total defense at 418 yards a game. And their opponents almost always turn those yards into points. At 39.8 points a game, the Cougs are 114th among FBS teams – a number skewed last week when WSU only surrendered 9 points to Portland State.

The only thing keeping Washington State from being dead last in defense in the Pac-10 is the fact that Washington opened the season against Oregon, BYU and Oklahoma.

I forced myself to sit through most of WSU’s game against Portland State. Only my passion for watching college football - versus doing anything else a responsible father/husband should be doing - got me through it.

What I saw was no surprise. Let’s preface: as terrible as Portland State is on defense, they can throw the ball around a little on offense. At times they did just that against the WSU starters. Even against an over-matched Vikings offense, the Cougs defenders looked slow, were sometimes uncertain of their assignments and in no way resembled some of the better WSU defenses of the recent past.

None of those traits are likely to work in their favor against Oregon, regardless of who lines up under center.

Gone are the days of Will Derting, Marcus Trufant and Jason David.

Some bright spots for the Washington State defense last week: They grabbed a couple of interceptions, the first coming on PSU’s first play from scrimmage. The Cougs defense did what a Pac-10 team should do against Portland State – kept them out of the end zone until the game was well out of reach.

It’s tough to pin down the key players for WSU on defense. Injuries and catastrophic performances have led to a lot of changes over four games. Free Safety Xavier Hicks Jr. (#26, 6-0, 196 lbs., Jr., CA) was probably the most active Coug player last Saturday. He recorded 7 tackles, broke up a pass and generally looked the part of a Pac-10 defender.

Washington State’s key linebackers proved they could play in coverage – good thing since Portland State only ran the ball 11 times. Greg Trent (#52, 5-11, 230 lbs., Sr., TX) and Hallston Higgins (#53, 5-11, 211 lbs., So., TX) each had interceptions to go along with the three tackles they each recorded. Trent, by the way, is a four-year starter and this season became the 17th Coug ever to record 250 tackles. Probably not noteworthy, but evidently WSU has cornered the market on 5-11 linebackers from Texas.

Other Coug defenders to watch for? I intend to enjoy watching for the guys bouncing off LaGarrette Blount, getting knocked down by Max Unger or trying to catch Jaison Williams from behind.

Yesterday’s poll results don’t lie. Many of us may have our heads down this week following the Boise State game, but the majority of us expect the Ducks to drill WSU pretty good.


A few Washington State game tidbits:

● Wazzu cornerback Romeo Pellum is the nephew of Oregon linebackers coach Don Pellum.

● Darron Thomas leads Ducks quarterbacks with three TD passes. And of this morning he also leads Duck QBs in involvement in not-so-brilliant activities off the field. Let’s hope that doesn’t continue.

Oregon ranks eighth in the Pac-10 for turnover margin…4 lost fumbles, 7 interceptions.

Washington State and Oregon have split the last four games in Pullman.