Cougar D bends but doesn't break

DEFENSE HAS BEEN little more than a myth most of this season at Washington State. But Paul Wulff has maintained that the youthful unit has made progress, even though the Cougars had allowed an average of 517.5 yards per game through last week. But the Cougs took a whack at those numbers on Saturday against No. 17 Arizona.

While WSU lost its sixth straight game, 24-7, on Saturday against No. 17 Arizona, the Cougars' defense had their best outing of the season. They allowed 352 yards of total offense and just 101 in the second half. Their previous best was 407 yards allowed against Montana State. In Pac-10 play, WSU had not surrendered less than the 556 yards they gave up last week versus Oregon.

It begins with youth.

True freshman safety Deone Bucannon finished with a game-high 16 tackles. His 14 solo tackles tied several players for fifth most in program history. Brian Forde (1985) and Anthony McClanahan (1991) share the record with 21 solo tackles. It was the most tackles in a game by a freshman in program history.

Bucannon has started the last two weeks in place of injured senior Chima Nwachukwu (hamstring).

"It's a big difference when he's on the football field for this team," Wulff said in a postgame radio interview. "His speed and tackling make a difference."

But Bucannon was far from the only difference maker. His counterpart, sophomore Tyree Toomer, arguably played just as well. Toomer finished with seven tackles -- four of which were for loss -- and two sacks.

REDSHIRT FRESHMAN Kaufusi, who was a defensive end less than two weeks ago, started at middle linebacker versus Arizona after true freshman C.J. Mizell was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules. He played weak side linebacker in last week's loss against Oregon.

Kaufusi's most notable play came when he stopped running back Keola Antolin on fourth-and-inches on the first play of the fourth quarter at WSU's 41-yard line.

"He made a big-time play," Wulff said. "Those are things we lacked."

As in past tense. Bucannon said Kaufusi brings some intangibles to the defense as well.

"Sekope is energetic," he said. "It's a pleasure playing with him. He makes big hits and big plays."

As for Mizell, Wulff said his suspension was not a legal issue. He could be seen on the sidelines in street clothes during the game. That doesn't cound like it will be the case next Saturday.

"It was a little bit of a step back," said Wulff, referring to Mizell. "Sometimes there are things that happen that you have to learn from. We're going to need him next week."

ONE COMMON THEME among the defensive playmakers against the Wildcats -- that they came from the 2009 and '10 signing classes that Wulff has touted. And with the exception of senior linebacker Myron Beck, a former walk-on junior college addition in 2008, all are young.

Sophomore defensive end Travis Long, who had just two sacks as a 12-game starter last year, had that many against Arizona. Long now has four sacks and eight tackles-for-loss this year. WSU finished with a season-high six sacks.

He said in a postgame interview that it was important to avoid getting tangled up with the Wildcats' large offensive line. Long credited his two sacks to Arizona leaving him unblocked in favor of a linebacker.

"There were some times where we knew they were going to throw the ball and got some good pressure on the quarterback," Wulff said. "It was good to see."

The Wildcats' offense was far less productive after quarterback Nick Foles suffered a knee injury during the second quarter and was replaced by Matt Scott. But Long said the change made much of a difference and didn't shorten the UA playbook. He said it actually added another element for the Cougars to defend -- as Scott is a much better runner than Foles.

WSU allowed a season-low three yards per carry against Arizona.

"I'm definitely feeling the growth," said Bucannon. "We've come a long way."


  • Junior left tackle David Gonzales suffered a season-ending fractured forearm. Classmate Wade Jacobson moved from left guard to replace Gonzales. Jacobson said in a postgame radio interview that he felt comfortable at tackle because he played that position during spring ball, but it still was difficult because he has not taken a snap at there until now. He struggled at times with holding calls going against him.

  • Senior punter Reid Forrest fumbled a snap that was recovered by Arizona's Ariz Khyri Knowles at WSU's 7 after the opening series of the second half. The miscue resulted in an injury, and a touchdown after running back Nic Grigsby scored on the ensuing play to put the Wildcats up 21-0.

    "He said when he went down to get it, his shoulder subluxed," Wulff said of Forrest. "It resulted in seven points for them, which is tough for us."

  • True freshman cornerback Damante Horton left with a knee injury that could be season-ending. Wulff said after the game that it "doesn't look good."

  • Wulff expects right tackle Micah Hannam (concussion) to return for Saturday's game at Stanford.

  • The Wildcats produced seven sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Defensive end Ricky Elmore had three sacks to lead Arizona.

    "Their defensive line is very good, but at the same time, we've got to be better than that," Wulff said.

  • Arizona versus WSU has been a streaky series. Since the Cougars won a school record four consecutive games against the Wildcats from 2001-04, Arizona has responded with five consecutive victories. That also is a program best.

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