Twenty-one points were a direct result of the Cougar defense's ability to create turnovers and favorable field position for the offense. If you add in the fourth-and-two stop in the second half, that's 28 of 42 points that can be attributed to Washington State's dominating defensive play against Idaho.
CF.C'S MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK AS A Houston TEXAN IN 2008.
1. The evolution of the BUCK linebacker:
Mike Breske's version of the 3-4 defense allows the hybrid defensive end/linebacker to make plays all over the field. It is vital to have the right athlete at this position who can stand up and drop into coverage or put his hand on the ground to rush.. Kache Palacio had a great night against Idaho doing both. The advantage of using a BUCK linebacker is the multiple looks the defense can present to an offense. If he is standing up, more like a traditional outside linebacker, the quarterback has to account for him in coverage as well as a potential rusher. When his hand is on the ground, like a defensive end, there is a mismatch because of his speed on an offensive tackle. Against Idaho, Coach Breske used Palacio as a defensive end in passing situations and then worked "tackle-end games" to create pressure on the offensive line. A tackle-end game is when the defensive tackle and defensive end cross in front of each other to confuse their offensive counter parts. This allows the Cougars to still drop seven men into coverage while getting heat on the quarterback. The week before, against Southern Utah, Breske opted for more five- man pressures out of a three-down-lineman-front, which put six men in coverage. The Cougar defense will continue to cause problems for teams because of the multiple looks they can present using the BUCK linebacker.
2. The ability to play zone coverage:
In their first four games, the Cougars have played mostly zone coverage with a small amount of man mixed in. Many times, defensive coordinators play zone to hide their players' athletic deficiencies and protect them from getting beat one-on-one. This is not the case with the Washington State defense. Coach Breske is able to call a variety of zone coverage because of the Cougars' overall athleticism, not lack thereof. The linebackers play well in space and do a good job of making throwing windows small for the opposing quarterback. The secondary, as evidenced early in the year, has great range and ball skills. Against Idaho, Breske called mostly Cover 4, a coverage where the corners and safeties each take a deep quarter of the field. Putting four players deep is obviously good against the vertical passing game, but it also puts pressure on the underneath defenders to cover a lot of ground. This is where WSU's athleticism comes into play, because the 3 (sometimes 4, depending on if the BUCK rushes) linebackers are fast enough to rally to all underneath zones. In a pass heavy Pac-12 Conference, the Cougars will fare well because of the ability to mix up coverage.
This starts from the top. Mike Breske is a coach who exudes confidence and that attitude is clearly passed on to his players. The passion that this defense plays with for 60 minutes is obvious. For evidence, you don't have to look any farther than the goal-line-stand that preserved the shutout against Idaho. These players take pride in their craft. The starters were begging to go back in a game that was already over, just to ensure that zero stayed on the scoreboard. That is a powerful statement. Even with a young roster, guys like Deone Bucannon and Darryl Monroe hold everyone around them accountable. This is going to be vital because as the season progresses there are going to be ups and downs. So far it has been mostly positive for the Cougar defense. The key will be how this leadership group handles the adversity when it comes.