The OSU offensive line will have their hands full this weekend as they face a physical and aggressive defensive line. The Cougars have a good blend of veterans and youngsters, but the mix has led to sporadic play. The line could not contain New Mexico's DonTrell Moore and got thrashed against Oregon, but played well against Stanford and Arizona. Left end Mkristo Bruce (6-6, 240), one of two former high school quarterbacks on the line, tops the linemen with 26 tackles, a co-team high seven for loss, and a team high 3.5 sacks. The sophomore has also recovered two fumbles.
Left tackle Steve Cook (6-3, 290) has been in the system the longest, but is largely overshadowed by Bruce. The senior has eight tackles, including two for loss. A trio of players man the right tackle position.
Freshman Aaron Johnson (6-6, 303) freshman gets the starting node, but sophomore Odell Howard (6-3, 287) and freshman Ropati Pitoitua (6-8 269) regularly rotate into the lineup. Johnson has 13 tackles, 4.5 for loss, and one blocked kick while Howard and Pitoitu each have 12 stops and 2.5 sacks.
Right end Adam Braidwood (6-5, 264) rounds out the line with 20 tackles and one sack.
Hold onto the ball when engaging the Washington State linebackers. As a group they have forced six fumbles and recovered four. Strong side linebacker Scott Davis (5-11, 233) has been one of the surprises o f the season as he leads the team in tackles with 49 while also leading the conference in forced fumbles and fumble recoveries with three each. The junior also has added a co-team high seven tackles for loss.
Middle linebacker Will Derting (6-0, 233) is one of the better athletes on the team as he has a nose for the ball and packs plenty of power in his hits. Through six games the junior has 47 tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles and three pass breakups. Look for Derting to try and bait Anderson into making poor throws.
Weak side linebacker Pat Bennett (6-1, 224) rounds out the starting linebacking crew as he has added 19 tackles and one forced fumble. Sophomore Steve Dildine (6-2, 218) sees plenty of time behind Bennett as he has grabbed 16 stops and recovered one fumble.
Left cornerback Karl Paymah (6-0, 200) has 21 starts under his belt and his experience is showing as he leads the team with six pass break ups. The senior also has 16 tackles and one interception. Right cornerback Alex Teems (5-11, 176) mans the other side of the field and leads the team with two picks. He is fourth on the squad with 34 stops, one sack and four pass breakups
Strong safety Jeremy Bohannon (5-11, 203) is one of the two seniors that man the safety positions for the Cougars. Bohannon has a good nose for the ball and is in on many tackles. The senior has 33 tackles, 3.5 for loss, one interception and two pass breakups.
Free safety Hamza Abdullah (6-2, 211) has 34 games under his belt and picked up his first interception against Stanford last week. The senior has turned up his play the past two weeks as he grabbed 14 tackles and caused two fumbles against Oregon. Abdullah has is third on the team in tackles with 36 while adding one interception and four pass breakups. Redshirt freshman Husain Abduallah (6-0, 188) serves in the same capacity as Beaver Lamar Herron as Abdullah sees playing time when either safety needs a breather.
Notes on the defense:
- In 19 games as the head coach at WSU, Bill Doba's Cougars have held their opponents without a TD in the first half nine times.
- Stanford converted just three of 14 third downs against WSU.
- The Cougars have received 11 opponent fumbles.
- Washington state has won 16 of its last 18 regular season games when the defense or special teams units score.
- WSU has not allowed a first quarter touchdown in 14 of its last 19 games