Choate, now with UW, assesses old Coug team

PULLMAN — WSU quarterback Luke Falk was sacked four times but it could have been more, said UW d-line coach Jeff Choate, if not for Falk's mobility. Choate, a former WSU assistant under Mike Leach, said the Huskies blitzed only three times Saturday night, dropping 7-8 players back in coverage.

Choate also said there were run tendencies the Huskies were able to identify, and the linebackers checked the defense into fronts that allowed the Huskies to defend the run well.

Cougar running backs ran for 42 yards on 10 attempts.

Choate said from a d-line perspective, he was most concerned with WSU's quick passes, something WSU didn't do as much of as in prior games.

“It’s a frustrating game to play on the defensive line because by scheme, Mike (Leach) does such a good job of getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hand, so I do think we kept the pocket dirty and didn’t allow Falk to keep his feet set and he sailed a few balls. And it led to some turnovers for us, so I was pleased with that,” Choate said.

Before he was a defensive line coach with Washington, Choate coached the linebackers at WSU in 2012, Leach's first year in Pullman

“Obviously it took him a couple years to get the offense where he wanted it, but it’s rolling now, and so we kind of knew it was going to be a struggle that (first) year,” Choate said. “Like I told the kids last night when they asked me what it was like, and I said, ‘Well I know one thing. As much drama and turmoil and not enough wins in the program (as) we had in 2012, beating the Dawgs that year wiped it all away, and really was a catalyst for them to go out and recruit.’”

Choate credited players like Jeff Tuel and Travis Long as helping embrace what Leach was trying to accomplish when he first arrived at Washington State.

“Change is hard on everybody, especially on these kids who are recruited by a staff and they’ve bought into that staff, and then somebody new comes in and takes some time to get things going, but it’s Year Three in the program now, so he’s got his guys here and I’m sure things will go the way he wants them to.”

The Huskies changed from Steve Sarkisian to Chris Petersen this season, but Choate says it's helped that Petersen had coaches he had worked with in the past to help instill his message (not to mention a lot of senior starters). Choate worked with Petersen for six seasons back at Boise State, and he said maintaining the continuity from those staff members helped the Huskies achieve the 8-5 record this season.

An obvious issue this season for the Cougs has been the secondary, where WSU has used roughly a dozen players in the two-deeps, many of them first- and second-year freshmen. Marcellus Pippins just a few short weeks ago was redshirting. He started Saturday for the second consecutive week.

The Huskies have a youth movement in their secondary as well, but it was offset with strong pressure from the Huskies’ defensive line, Choate said. That pressure helped force Falk into two interceptions.

Still, Choate said Falk moved well in the pocket and did a good job of making things happen. With the Huskies dropping seven and eight, the Cougar receivers had a tough time getting open quickly enough, and when they were open they again suffered from too many drops.

Although the game was pretty much decided in the third quarter, Choate, having now coached on both sides of the rivalry. noted the electric atmosphere in Martin Stadium -- despite the students still coming back from break and the 19 degree temperature at kickoff.

“It was great energy in the stadium tonight. This is a unique place,” Choate said. “Pullman’s a college town, and these kids are passionate about their school, and the fan base is passionate about their program, and so there’s a lot of good energy. It was a fun environment for us, the hostile environment (is) really the only one we played in this year that was like that. I think that makes it fun for the kids.”

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