Cougars' Achilles right up the middle

THERE WAS NO real mystery to it. Not in the Oregon State running game. And not in the Beaver passing game. There was one thing they did offensively, over and over again.

Attack the middle of the Cougar defense.

Time after time Saturday in Seattle, OSU ran the ball up the gut -- and dared Wazzu to stop it.

Of Oregon State's first 11 plays from scrimmage, five were runs up the middle. On one occasion, WSU stuffed it. On the other four, OSU ripped off huge chunks of yardage.

As the game went along, the Beavers mixed in some rushes to the left and right, but for the most part, they continued running straight ahead.

And when they passed, it was the middle of the field they tended to attacked as well.

On an 11-play drive in the second quarter, Oregon State ran or passed to the middle of the WSU defense five times on their way to the end zone.

To start the third quarter, OSU ran or passed to the middle of the field five more times, this time in eight plays, on a TD scoring drive.

Washington State never stopped it, not with any consistency. Middle linebacker C.J. Mizell had six solo tackles and was in on two others but he still seemed invisible out there. So did safety Deone Bucannon (three solo, two assists). Alex Hoffman-Ellis had a burst at the start of the third quarter and finished with five solo stops and three assists but he too faded from view. Among the back seven, the only guy who stood out was Sekope Kaufusi, who led the Cougs in tackling (seven solo, two assists). And one guy out of seven isn't going to win you many games.

Closing down the middle, and rededicating themselves to the fundamentals is paramount for the Cougar players this week and from here on out. So is showing and maintaining their swagger. This defense is better than what they showed on Saturday against Oregon State.

But they have to prove it, each and every Saturday, from here on out.

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