So where did that Cougar d-line come from?

FOR A UNIT that has shouldered a lot of criticism from media and fans this season, the Washington State d-line was suddenly nails against Oregon State on the road. Any number of arguments can be made as to why the Cougs up front on defense all of the sudden looked like world beaters out there, but one stands above all else.


One game certainly does not a trend make. But the Cougs' produced a consistent, high- performance rotation at both defensive tackle and defensive end on Saturday. And it's been a while since that could be said.

Against Oregon State, there were DTs Anthony Laurenzi, Bernard Wolfgramm and Brandon Rankin. Out on the edge, it was Travis Long, Kevin Kooyman and Casey Hamlett.

After several re-viewings of the game, every single one of those six players turned in multiple, standout plays. And for a unit that had struggled mightily all season against the run, it was a stunning turnaround and performance.

And for a Cougar squad desperately needing to wall it off up front on D in the here and now, the result in Corvallis felt like manna from heaven to a thirsty Cougar Nation. How good was it?

TAKE THE PLAY the Cougs went to one of their nickel packages in the second quarter, and rushed only three – Kooyman, Laurenzi and Rankin. Rankin still got the sack, the Cougs' third of the first half, and Kooyman wasn't far behind him. Laurenzi? He got penetration and then made a great read, recognizing the middle screen playcall. Instead of continuing upfield, he quickly drifted back and got in the way.

Arguably, Beaver QB Ryan Katz might have, just barely, been able to flick the ball to Halahuni an instant before Rankin arrived -- and Halahuni had blockers in front. But Katz couldn't do it, not with Laurenzi now parked in his way. That's d-line execution. And a sack that comes after only rushing three, well that makes for a very happy film room -- for any coaching staff.

THE COUGS LOGGED five sacks all told, and it would have been six had they not accepted an OSU penalty. The guy who got the ball rolling was Hamlett, who reached out and grabbed the first two quarterback takedowns.

A 6-3, 250 pound walk-on transfer from Western Washington, Hamlett started eight games last year for Washington State. But he has never looked like he did on Saturday.

Time after time, using slo-mo on the DVR, Hamlett was consistently fast, very fast, off the ball. Against heralded left tackle Michael Philipp, all 307 pounds of him, Hamlett drove him backwards as if he were on skates, on more than one occasion.

But the Cougar d-line's success was apparent far beyond their own sack and tackle numbers.

LAURENZI MADE SOME huge plays, ones that don't show up in the box score, such as the inside push that cut off Jacquizz Rodgers. It allowed his teammates to swarm the OSU running back for a loss of two yards. And Long was the key reason why a trio of Cougars – Deone Bucannon, Alex Hoffman-Ellis and Aire Justin – were able to slam into Quizz in the first quarter and stop him short on fourth and less than a yard.

Indeed, every Cougar d-lineman took extended turns in the spotlight, every one had a starring role. Neither Rankin nor Hamlett started, but Hamlett played the majority of the game and gave OSU fits. And while Wolfgramm and Laurenzi were the mainstays on the inside, Rankin made great use of his time and had a positive impact on virtually every snap.

No Cougar defenseman had an abundance of turns on Saturday -- Wazzu limited Oregon State to a paltry 48 plays total on offense. The challenge now is to prepare these next three weeks and retain any and all momentum heading into the Apple Cup.

A little bit of depth. A little bit of rotation. A large amount of difference.

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