Cougs' front seven on D was 'Magnificent'

PULLMAN — On this Homecoming night, it wouldn't be a stretch to tab them 'The Magnificent Seven.' Indeed, the Cougars' front seven on defense abused and manhandled the Vandals all four quarters on Saturday night. That constant pressure and dominance in the trenches rendered mute Idaho's run-heavy plan and led to Wazzu's first shutout since 2003 and at Martin Stadium since 1999.

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How does 42-0 sit with ya?

"I thought they did play good up front, which would really include all seven of them…the front and the linebackers," said Mike Leach in the understatement of the night. "They (Idaho) have a lot of diversity to their quarterbacks. They are a lot like us -- they are a team that is steadily improving."

That last part was frankly hard to see. The Washington State defensive front saw to that.

The Cougars did not allow the Vandals to get into any kind of offensive rhythm – throughout the whole game – and it all started with the seven guys in the box. The defensive front stifled the Idaho run. They harassed the Vandal quarterbacks. They wrapped up, created turnovers and just made life generally miserable for Paul Petrino's troops.

Consider this: The Vandals rushed the ball 49 times -- and they only managed to compile 79 total rushing yards.

WSU DEFENSIVE END Xavier Cooper was an absolute monster and despoiled the Idaho offensive line and quarterbacks for virtually the entire 38 minutes that Idaho had the ball.

Cooper racked up 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in the blowout win.

And he's just a sophomore.

"It was a defensive effort," Cooper said. "We always feel like we have the advantage because we play with a chip on our shoulders. I think they gave us a good look, but ultimately I was able to get back there and make plays and so were the other guys on the defensive front in the back field."

The starting Wazzu front seven – defensive ends Cooper and Toni Pole, nose tackle Ioane Gauta, middle linebacker Darryl Monroe, strongside ‘backer Cyrus Coen, WIL Justin Sagote and BUCK Kache Palacio surrendered no quarter, not until the clock read zeroes.

IT SEEMED LIKE an eternity, but Idaho eventually produced red zone opportunity on their final drive – and they had a golden chance to put points on the board in the final minute. It was first-and-goal from the Wazzu 2-yard line.

And four plays later, Idaho was still on the outside looking in.

"That was crazy man," Cooper said with a smile. "That was something special. That really showed what type of football team we are when it comes down to goal-line situations. We really showed up as a defense. That's our personality. We are going to come in here and fight and that showed what personality we have as a defense."

Cooper posted a career high 3.5 tackles-for-loss.

For such a high-scoring affair, the intensity of that fourth-and-one denial produced the ultimate high – it even fired up the guys on offense.

"I almost wanted to get out there and play defense," sophomore WR Gabe Marks said. "They wanted it and they got it done. That was probably one of the biggest plays of the game right there."

AND THE FRONT SEVEN helped produced a stat that stood out – they doubled their numbers in TFLs. Yep, the Cougar D racked up 14 tackles-for-loss on the Vandals for a total of minus-66 yards.

To borrow a line from the classic movie: We deal in lead, friend.

"The d-line creates so much pressure," senior safety Deone Bucannon said. "It makes it easy being a defensive back. When you have people continuously causing pressure to the quarterback, putting them in stressful situations, where they will not make smart throws."

Gauta was an especially important cog, occluding the middle and flustering Idaho QBs all night long.

"We always want to stop the run on the way to the quarterback," Gauta said. "With the d-line, we take pride in that. We got to the quarterbacks a couple of times in this game and I am proud of our front seven and our DBs."

Monroe, also just a sophomore, led the Cougar defense in finishing off his stellar evening with 12 total tackles and a sack.

"Darryl leads the way for that front seven," Bucannon said. "He's a phenomenal leader and we just need to continue to roll."

IT GETS A lot tougher from here on out and the competition jumps up several notches this coming week in No. 5 Stanford. But the Cougar D under defensive coordinator Mike Breske is feeling like they have something special going on. And by feeling that way, they have a much better chance of making it come true.

The Vandals held the ball for 38:06 on Saturday. And in that 38 minutes-plus, the Cougar defenders held Idaho to only 253 hashes of total offense.

The WSU defensive front grinded all game long and controlled the line of scrimmage throughout. For as many times as the Vandals ran the ball, they only averaged 1.6 yards per rush, thanks to the big hosses up front and the linebackers laying the smack down on the run.

"It was definitely a tough game," Cooper said. "They competed. They have some good playmakers, but we wanted to come out and dominate -- and that's what we did and the score tells the truth."


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