There is a cliché in football that says “If your safety is your leading tackler, you lost the game”. Saturday is a perfect example of that. The Cougs’ four leading tacklers were Taliulu, Deone Bucannon, and Damonte Horton. In fact, the secondary recorded 29 solo tackles to the linebackers 17, the line (actually Xavier Cooper) recorded 3. That’s right, three solo tackles by the entire defensive line. That being said, with the exception of 9:20, the defense played quite well.
Cliche’s aside, WSU’s secondary is the strongest aspect of the defense. Led by Bucannon, these guys have been the reason that the Cougs have stayed in games, for the most part. Going against the most pass happy offense in the country (amazing considering WSU’s pass/run ratio), this gang had their mental and physical endurance tested, and they did their part.
The mark of a defense does not necessary lie in their stats. The 28 points scored following the botched punt (there was no way that was a called fake, but Leach has the class to let that dog lie), do not lie solely at the feet of the defense. Let us not kid ourselves, they were on the field when the goal line was passed, but they were not given a chance to rejuvenate.
In a 13:01 span between the third and fourth quarter Oregon State possessed the ball for 11:03. This span put 35 points for the bad guys in only 263 yards. A small bit of math. Five scoring drives with an average starting field position of their own 47 yard line. Most glaringly, the WSU committed five turnovers during this stretch in 2:02. Average drive of 0:24. The Cougs do not possess the depth to be able to roll subs in and out and expect top rate results.
Against a prolific passing offense, the Cougs D made their case and played well, minus just over 13 minutes. That is Okay. It shows that primarily one possession (one player, because the replacement is not a step up), needs to get back to normal, and the ship will be righted.
Given a chance to recuperate between defensive stands will give the D a chance to shine.
That said, Oregon will be going QUICK. It will be more important for the WSU mental endurance to shine this Saturday. Time on the field will not be an issue (as long as the O keeps their side of the bargain.) My wish for the D this week: Canny planning and resolute execution. Given the proper keys, the Ducks are beatable. The quack attack is undisciplined and impulsive. The Cougs need to play smart and wrap up.
This weekend is an opportunity that should be relished, not the time to turn your back. Burn the bridges on the way to Eugene boys, cause you will be leaving it all out on the Turf of Autzen. The Crimson faithful will be with you behind you, whatever may come.