NOTEBOOK: For Cougs, the nose knows

THE KEY TO any defense is at the point of attack, and boy did the nose tackles ever show up in the Cougs' 31-28 win over the Huskies. Nose tackles hardly ever get the stats or the glory. But it was impossible to miss their impact on Friday in the Apple Cup victory by Washington State.

Ioane Gauta actually did have some noteworthy statistics – two sacks amongst his four tackles. That's a heckuva stat line for an interior d-lineman. But he was key on a number of other plays that didn't show up in the box score.

It's hard to express just how good an Apple Cup that Gauta turned in. But for those who have the game stored on their DVR, multiple viewings will take care of that.

Toni Pole was credited with only one tackle but he too brought the pressure and forced the Huskies out of their comfort zone – and few will ever forget his one-handed interception and 60 yard return.

Steven Hoffart also lined up at the nose on occasion. On one play in the fourth quarter, Hoffart out-quicked the pulling right guard, bulled into the UW backfield and knocked the ball out of Keith Price's hands on a handoff attempt. The fumble was recovered by linebacker Justin Sagote, who had five tackles on the day.

But a handoff?

How many times have you seen a d-lineman force a fumble on a handoff?

Hoffart took some of the glimmer off the play by standing over Price and crowing about it, pushing WSU back 15 yards on the ensuing penalty, but the Cougs were on a roll and would score on their way to overtime and the win.

One other interesting thing about that forced fumble on third down and three. It came on a series where UW had a first-and-five.

The second-and-one play was a loss and was also (in part) blown up by Hoffart, along with Darryl Monroe (7 tackles), Deone Bucannon (team-high 11 tackles) and oh by the way, Pole was right there as well.

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