Last season was a rough one for the Cougars on the defensive side of the ball as they gave up an average of 33 points a game, which ranked 101st in the country. Entering last season with a new coaching staff, defensive coordinator Mike Breske changed the philosophy of the defense.
WSU switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense which means replacing a fourth defensive lineman with a fourth linebacker. Having no experience with this system, entering the 2012 season did hurt the Cougars. What hurt the Cougars the most during the season was their pass defense.
Besides the Apple Cup, where the defense held Keith Price to 194 yards passing, 2 touchdowns and forced one interception, it was a disaster. The Cougar pass defense allowed a total of 3,146 yards and 26 touchdowns. This pass defense did intercept the ball 15 times, but never had a return for a touchdown. The game of football, whether it be college or professional has emerged into a passing league. The Cougars gave up too many big pass plays.
Watching from the stands, opponents’ wide receivers were always wide open. Allowing a division-2 school in the Eastern Washington Eagles to throw for 379 yards is not a good sign. Also allowing Colorado to score 35 points and have their quarterback Jordan Webb throw for 345 yards shows there was a problem with this area of defense. Colorado was one of the worst teams in the country last year and their only win of the season came against the Cougars. Limit Webb to under 3oo yards passing, the Cougars win that ball game.
Deone Bucannon was the Cougars’ best defensive back last year with his 4 interceptions and hard hitting plays, but there were also problems with the junior with his attitude. You want a safety to be aggressive, but Bucannon made a couple of errors with making illegal hits. This almost cost the Cougars the game against UNLV. You can’t make mistakes like that because they’ll hurt your team during the game and in the future.
What also went wrong for the Cougars last season was their red-zone defense; allowing opponents to score 43 times on 56 attempts which resulted in 77 percent. That percentage is very high, but what also catches your eye is the amount of red zone opportunities the Cougars’ opponents had. 56 times is a lot and the Cougars must diminish this next year to have success.
Overall the biggest area of concern for the Cougars last season on the defensive side of the ball was the pass defense and red-zone defense. However a new season is in reach and having one year under their belts, expect a strong showing from Mike Breske’s 3-4 defense starting in August at Auburn.
–Evan Baron (Follow Me On Twitter: @BaselineBaron09)