WSU Practice: Defense speeds to the occasion

PULLMAN— Drills and special teams defined the customary Sunday night practice for the Cougars. Although the Cougs still utilized its Sunday time in trying to improve, two of WSU's defensive coaches liked what they saw on Saturday night from their personnel, which only allowed one TD the entire game.

Indeed, the rest of Utah’s scoring came on special teams and from a pick-six. Team speed was a big part of the equation and, defensive coordinator Mike Breske said, the Cougs fought through early adversity in the form of a 21-point first quarter deficit by turning in a solid defensive performance.

“It’s part of the game -- that’s why you go to the next play, you go to the next play, and you play four quarters,” Breske said. “We rose together as a unit, we rose together as a team, and it took us four quarters, but we got 'er done.”

The defense played fast on Saturday night against Utah and part of that was seen in the back end with new starter Sulaiman Hameed. The true freshman has supplanted veteran Taylor Taliulu at the free safety position because of his quicks.

“He plays fast, and we want to get all our fast guys on the field,” Breske said of Hameed. “He may not have a great concept of the defense yet because of his age, but the one thing Sulaiman does is play fast.”

Jeremiah Allison has also been a pleasant surprise for the Cougars and their coaching staff this season. Allison has been WSU’s leading tackler in the last two games, but if the coaches had known he was capable of doing that, he might have played earlier. Then again, maybe he just now hit his stride.

“No we did not always know that,” Breske said with a smile. “He’s doing a good job, he’s got a nose for the ball, and he’s finishing his tackles.”

The guys in front of the linebackers and safeties have also continued to improve, but their ceiling remains high and unreached, according to defensive line coach Joe Salave’a.

“We’re barely scratching the surface, believe it or not,” Salave’a said. “That’s a good thing, but we need to build the consistency and continuity.”

The D-line only recorded one sack against Utah, although it could have been two on a play that Utes quarterback Travis Wilson slipped on his own and thus was downed. Nevertheless, the defensive line was able to push Utah’s physical team around on Saturday as the game went on, which allowed the players behind them to succeed and force several incompletions.

And Salave’a said that in games where the sacks column doesn’t show an eye-popping number, the completion-attempt ratio for the quarterback is the notable statistic.

“We were able to affect the pocket and that’s the biggest goal is to find a way to impact and make that quarterback uncomfortable to where he doesn’t have a set window or can go through a progression,” Salave’a said. “If we can get a quarterback to speed up his progression and not go through all of them, I like our chances, but some of those things aren’t going to show up on the stat sheet.”

Wilson was 18-for-38 on the night, (47 percent) and did not throw a touchdown pass.

Salave’a said he would take a team win any day instead of a strong performance on paper, and a team win is exactly what the Cougars earned this weekend.

They will need to maintain their performance for next week when they face a California offense that is averaging 47.5 points per game. They run more of an Air Raid type of offense, Breske said, and although that provides some familiarity, it is still a different offense than what the Cougar defense has faced for the majority of this season.

“They’re playing very, very fast. They’re playing at a high level, scoring a lot of points,” Breske said. “It’s just a different pace than what we’ve seen for the last five weeks because of the philosophy of the offense.”

NOTABLE NOTES

  • Kristoff Williams was absent from practice on Sunday.

  • Ivan McLennan was present and participated in drills, but he was not very active during the team period. Destiny Vaeao was in a similar situation, as he shed the yellow jersey he had been wearing last week and was active in drills but not the team period.

  • Isaac Dotson, Nate DeRider, Nick Begg, Mack Hopkins, Sherman Hutcherson, and Drew Springfield were limited on Sunday night. Mitch Peterson wore a yellow jersey but was a full participant.

  • LB Tana Pritchard was present at practice but he did not participate with either the 1’s or the 2’s on Sunday night.

  • Gabe Marks did not play at the scout quarterback position on Sunday because California does not feature a mobile quarterback or an offense that focuses on the option.

    Primarily taking reps with the 1’s
    OFFENSE
    QB: Connor Halliday
    RB: Jamal Morrow, Gerard Wicks
    X: Vince Mayle
    Y: River Cracraft
    H: Rickey Galvin
    Z: Isiah Myers
    LT: Joe Dahl
    LG: Gunnar Eklund
    C: Riley Sorenson
    RG: Eduardo Middleton
    RT: Cole Madison

      DEFENSE
    E: Darryl Paulo
    NT: Kalafitoni Pole
    T: Xavier Cooper
    BUCK: Kache Palacio
    WILL: Jeremiah Allison
    SAM: Cyrus Coen, Mitchell Peterson
    MIKE: Darryl Monroe
    CB: Daquawn Brown
    CB: Charleston White
    FS: Sulaiman Hameed
    SS: Darius Lemora

      Primarily taking reps with the 2’s
    OFFENSE
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Theron West
    X: Dom Williams
    Y: Robert Lewis
    H: Calvin Green
    Z: Drew Loftus
    LT: B.J. Salmonson
    LG: Cody O’Connell
    C: Sam Flor
    RG: Eduardo Middleton
    RT: Jacob Seydel

      DEFENSE
    E: Lyman Faoliu
    NT: Robert Barber
    T: Daniel Ekuale
    BUCK: Frankie Luvu
    WILL: Dylan Hanser
    SAM: Paris Taylor
    MIKE: Peyton Pelluer
    CB: Patrick Porter
    CB: Marcellus Pippins
    FS: Taylor Taliulu
    SS: Beau Glover


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