Ken Wilson: Pippins for six was oh-so-close

SPOKANE — Ken Wilson, Washington State’s inside linebackers coach, felt like a marked man last Saturday at Cal as the guy in charge of getting signals relayed to the Cougar defense.

“It’s a lot like an old-fashioned baseball game,” Wilson told the Spokane Cougar Club luncheon Monday. “Everyone is busy trying to steal the other team’s signals. I started to walk over and get a drink of water and I looked over to the Cal sideline. There were 10 guys following me!”

During Saturday’s game at Cal, a disappointing 34-28 loss, there was one-too-many Bears following Wilson. Just before halftime, on a kick-off that ended in front of the Cougars sideline, Wilson took a helmet to the head, opening a gash on his cheek that ultimately required medical attention.

“I was hit and I was trying to get the signal in for the defense and I could feel something running down my face,” Wilson said. “I didn’t know how bad I was hurt, just that I had blood on my hand when I touched my cheek. Fortunately it was halftime and I was able to just run into the lockerroom.”

Fortunately, too, he didn’t inadvertently signal in some bizarre defensive package while assessing the damage to his face.

During the video highlights portion of his presentation, Wilson started with the offense and showed a scramble drill the Cougars ran successfully in the first half in Berkeley, with quarterback Luke Falk stepping up when Cal’s three-man rush got penetration. Receiver Robert Lewis made a spinning adjustment to find open space for a short completion.

He also highlighted running back Gerard Wicks’ bulldozing, 7-yard touchdown run – singling out tackle Joe Dahl’s block, dropping inside and driving the Cal middle linebacker backwards into the end zone to lead the play.

And he highlighted a pair of quality throws to Cougar receivers on fade routes. The first to Gabe Marks for a touchdown, the second to Dom Williams along the sidelines.

Defensively, the highlight reel started with Marcellus Pippins’ interception on the third snap of the game.

“He did a nice job faking coverage and dropping into the dead zone and making the interception,” Wilson praised.

Then, when the angle on the play changed to an end zone view, he added a helpful critique.

“From this angle you can see that there was a lot of open space for (Pippins) right up the sideline and he had Jeremiah Allison in front of him to block,” Wilson analyzed. “We talked to Marcellus after this play and explained that he didn’t have to turn back inside after he made that catch. He had a touchdown sitting in front of him straight ahead.”

And since no proud assistant can resist showcasing his own players, Wilson highlighted several plays by Peyton Pelluer and Allison – the latter a straight ahead blitz that buried Cal quarterback Jared Goff.

Pelleur’s game Saturday was outstanding.

“He graded out at 83 percent,” Wilson said. “Coach Grinch and I had finished grading out the film before our Sunday coaches meeting and it was sitting on my desk. I went out to go make some copies of something and when I came back I heard a voice in my office. It was Peyton.”

Pelluer began to apologize for his play Saturday, pointing to several plays he should have made.

“He’d already watched the film and he was critiquing himself,” Wilson said. “I just told him that I would do a better job of coaching him this week and helping him be prepared.

“There are always going to be bigger, stronger, faster players out there. But Peyton Pelluer is the kind of kid who just gets it done. He’s not just a great player. He’s a great human being.”

When it came time for questions, it was inevitable that the 3rd-and-36 that Cal converted was brought up.

“They had 79 yards rushing in the game and they got 42 of it on that one play,” Wilson said. “I’m not going to make excuses to you; we just didn’t make the play.

“Now, in our own defense, we did a good job of shaking that play off and we held them to a three-and-out after that long run.”

Overall, the coach said, there’s a lesson to be learned.

“We have to do a better job of taking a punch from a team and getting right back to our game plan,” he said. “You’ll get (defensive coordinator) Alex Grinch up here and you’re going to really like him. He’s done a great job lighting a fire under our defense and he’s done a great job with the secondary.”


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