A large part of the blame for the 1-2 start can easily go the way of the Washington State defense (I mean, should we be surprised?). Things have been a little bit overshadowed on the defensive side by the in-and-out of the lineup of safety Shalom Luani who apparently will now not be charged for assault. The Cougars line up in a base 3-4 defense, sometimes dropping an extra man down to the line and aren’t afraid to send the blitz to put pressure on the quarterback.
Alex Grinch begins his second season as the Cougars defensive coordinator and secondary coach. Last year, the play of his defense helped him be nominated for the Broyles award, which goes to the nation’s best assistant coach.
Honestly it’s not all that bad of a start for the Washington State defense. Over the first three games, they are giving up an average of 27.3 points per game. This comes on 427 yards per game with 324 of that coming through the air and the additional 103 on the ground. These stats were padded with the six points given up to Idaho as against Eastern Washington and Boise State the defense combined to give up 38 points per game.
The Cougars have at least made some plays on the ball in the early going. After three weeks they have forced three fumbles for two recoveries to go along with their four interceptions. Overall it’s a defense that has been steadily improving since the first week of the season (the game Luani missed). In week one the defense gave up 606 yards, followed that up with 420 yards in week two and then last week gave up 257 yards.
Last year against the Ducks, the defense was absolutely burned on the ground. Behind the 246 yards by Royce Freeman, the Ducks rushed for a total of 410 yards. Obviously the passing game was the major issue for the Ducks last year as Vernon Adams Jr. was hurt and missed this one. Jeff Lockie and Taylor Alie combined to throw 13/24 for 123 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Only four different players recorded a catch in this one (Royce Freeman recorded three). Obviously the Ducks will want to keep the ball on the ground for most of the game, but if they can’t improve the 123 passing yards there is no way of pulling out the victory in Pullman.
Three players to watch:
Peyton Pelleur, #47, junior middle linebacker, 6' 0", 235 lbs.
The Cougars return last season’s returning tackler in Pelleur who last season had 101 total tackles which was good for fifth in the conference. Earning all conference honorable mention last season, he will look to break his way into the conversation for the conference’s best linebacker. He currently leads the Cougars with his 23 tackles, and has also added 2.5 tackles for loss.
Shalom Luani, #23, senior safety, 6' 0", 205 lbs.
Another player who received all conference honorable mention last year, Luani led the way for the Cougars with his four interceptions. As mentioned, the off the field incident has cast a cloud over the start of Luani’s season. However, in just two games he has racked up two interceptions to lead the team.
Hercules Mata’afa #59, sophomore defensive end, 6’ 2”, 225 lbs.
Currently leading the team with his 3.5 tackles for loss and is tied for the team lead with a sack. Was named to the USA-Today All Freshman team last season after his campaign including 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks.
· The Cougars do not release a depth chart