Mike Breske is turning the Cougs loose

THE COUGS ARE sending ‘em on defense of late. They didn’t begin this 2014 season that way, and it certainly wasn’t that way during Mike Leach and Mike Breske’s first two seasons at Washington State. But a Cal assistant coach made note of it this week, and offered an eye-opening number on the crimson stop corps.

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle this week, Cal offensive line coach Zach Yenser imparted this observation, presumably after watching game tape of the Cougs’ games this season:

Out of their 3-4 base, the Cougars have rushed at least five players on 70-75 percent of defensive plays.

That is the type of blitzing, pin-your-ears-back-and-bring-it defense Cougar fans have not seen for years.

It’s the kind of aggressive defense Breske has said he always prefers to run but couldn’t at WSU until he felt he had the personnel to make it work. Interestingly, the Cougs have been at their most aggressive 1) since changing three of four starters in the secondary since the start of the season, with S Sulaiman Hameed, S Darius Lemora and CB Charleston White joining CB Daquawn Brown and 2) with Brown the old man of the group as a second-year sophomore. Lemora and White are second-year freshmen and Hameed is a true freshman. (Brown [No. 4] and Hameed [No. 37] are pictured above, farthest to the left.)

THE SACKS STATISTIC is one any fan of defense naturally gravitates toward, it’s one of the most exciting plays in all of football. But it can also be one of the least revealing.

Washington State is t-45th nationally in sacks, with 12 on the season and 2.40 per game.

Yet aside from the Oregon game, where WSU racked up seven of those sacks, WSU is averaging just 1.0 sacks a game.

Still, although the Cougs only sacked Travis Wilson once last week, they harassed him into an 18-38 night for just 165-yards passing and no TDs.

And so sacks can often provide a false narrative – a team can tally a decent number of sacks but if they don’t bring pressure on the other downs, they can make the opposing QB look like a Heisman candidate by the time the game is done.

Conversely, a team can post a relatively modest number of sacks, but a great number of effective and cumulative hurries.

Cal is certainly aware that WSU has been crashing more defensemen into the line of scrimmage. And WSU knows that Cal knows that.

Now it’s a matter of seeing who will best employ, and execute, the winning strategy on Saturday night.

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