Trench Report: Washington State

How did the offensive line perform this past week against the Cougars? Time to dig in and learn about offensive line play in this week's Trench Report.

Washington State Cougars

Week 8 - Saturday, October 29, 2016

Final: 35 - 31 (L)

Total Line Grade: 2.62 (D+)

Golden Sled Award Winner:

Blake Brandel & Dustin Stanton: 2.59

While this only represents the first half, I thought that Blake and Dustin did very well. They did a good job on their doubles, on blocking in space and on maintaining blocks.  I gave some pretty bad grades to players that got a great initial block, but lost their guy.  We saw maybe four runs that went nowhere because someone lost their guy after a great initial push which ended in a play of minimal or no gain.

Dustin and Blake had a pretty good day. Dustin’s block set up the 89 yard run by Ryan Nall and Blake did a great job in pass protection not giving too much ground and keeping his guy away from McMaryion.

I have been critical of the play of Brandel this year and I feel like he really took the biggest step forward this week.  There was one play where he lost his guy, tracked him down upfield and got a great block, again to keep them out of the play. He was the most tenacious I have seen him all year.

Best Play Award Winner:

Dustin Stanton
I mentioned it above, but Dustin’s block on the long run by Nall was the key to the whole play.  Andrews also had a great block at the point of attack, but Dustin was not only able to get into his guy but to turn him out and give Ryan a great lane to run in without having to turn too much or slow down too much.

Now style wise, I would like Dustin’s head to be up and his feet under him, but 89 yards later no one cares about form.  He was in the right place and forced the defender to the side.  Look at Brandel’s position and Andrews as well on 31.  Those are key blocks, but the one by Dustin required him rooting out that backer and he got him back and turned.

Great play!


This was a tale of two halves.  The first half would have graded under 2.5 for the first time all year. That means that the plays would have averaged success and been a passing grade. The second half saw a lot less of that and many more mistakes.  While I praised the play of Brandel, the second half saw them attack his side more and force him to choose and often that led to blocking no one.  The other battle on Harlow’s side was pretty one sided in the second half for Hercules Mata'afa.  The other problem in the second half was that as the Cougars got more pressure and more hits on McMaryion, he got a little more gun shy and forced things a little bit more.

I am not sure why the difference, but usually, this staff and these players come out and perform better in the second half. After watching this game a few times, I feel like Washington State was not respecting the Beavers in the first half and it showed. Had OSU not recovered that fumble and gone down to make it 21-0, the game may have never have been as close as it was. In the second half, Washington State got after the Beavs on defense and it worked. There were some issues on double teams and some flat out physical losses on the line.

This was a close game that the Beavers could have won.  The line still has a lot of work to do, but one of the big things that they need to find is a way to maintain blocks and have fewer free pass plays.  

WSU got to McMaryion and the running back FAR too many times on plays where the end or the outside backer were left alone.  This is not the Mountain West and those ends and linebackers will make the Beavers pay.  

There were multiple plays that were blocked well, with the intent of fooling the defensive end on play action.  Those were sniffed out often and ended up with McMaryion on the turf or taking a shot. I am not sure if it is the way they are called, the defenses they are called against or what counter measures were being made, but Oregon State had -1 yard of offense in most of the 3rd quarter and the only score in the second half was a 2 yard plunge after a muffed punt.  Outside of that the offense did nothing.

I think the line is doing some good things but until they are dominating the line we are asking everyone else on offense to be perfect and for defenses to make mistakes.  That is a tough way to get consistent success.

Season Totals

Minnesota: 2.72 (D -)

Idaho State: 2.73 (D -)

Boise State: N/A

Colorado: 2.69 (D +)

California: 2.46 (C )

Utah: 2.67 (D+ )

Washington: 2.77 (D-)

Washington State: 2.62 (D+)

Grading Criteria:

The trench report gives an overview of the offensive line play during the most recent game. The top performer gets the Golden Sled, a fictitious award that I give with impunity. This award goes to the lineman that scores the best on my grading system. Because I have no idea what they are taught or what the goals of each play are, I base my grades on what they did and the result.  Each player can get between a 1 - 4 grade:

1 - Huge play block.  
This block led directly to a score or a game-changing play. With that in mind, 1s are rare, but if they weren’t rare, then you would be winning championships, year in and out.

2 - Mission accomplished.
This block was solid; the block-ee was not part of the play and the technique looked good. This is a winning-level score. If a lineman averages close to, or better, than 2, they dominated.

3. Mission Barely Accomplished.  
This play was OK, but this block didn’t help, or in some cases, may have hurt the play — or not even been a block.  The closer to 3 a line averages, the less likely they had good game.

4. Fail.
This play led to a terrible turn of events: killed a drive, led to opponent points, or resulted in a penalty. Averages around 4 will most likely lead to losses.

Players should be aiming for below a 2.25 grade.  That is a consistently high grade that tends to avoid terrible plays (4s). Because I don’t give individual grades for technique or start and finish, this is just a general feeling about each play. If I knew what play was called and what the goal of each position was, I would do a more accurate three-part grade.

Team Goals:

2 > : A

2.01 - 2.25: B

2.26 - 2.5: C

2.51 - 3.0: D

3.01 < : F

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