Oct 19, 2013; Eugene, OR, USA; Washington State Cougars safety Taylor Taliulu (30) tackles Oregon Ducks running back Byron Marshall (9) in the first half at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
The defensive backs for Washington State had themselves a fantastic first month of the season. Picks, defelections, sure tackles, taking two back to the house and just overall big plays had us thinking that maybe we had a shot for big things. Over the past month however, it’s been a totally different story.
The first culprit is the better offenses that the Cougs have faced. Not that they didn’t face a couple of potent offenses early, but of course special teams and one big play is what did in WSU at Auburn and USC has been hot and cold offensively all season. Stanford, Oregon State and Oregon are not a stretch that any team in the country wants to face with even a great defensive backfield.
Honestly, WSU’s defensive backfield is slightly above average and could really use a decline in offensive production on the other side of the football. It doesn’t get much easier, but the next four are definitely a step down from the previous four (maybe sans Cal).
Rally, Rally, Rally
The second culprit is tackling, which has fallen way off. I mean WAY off. Weeks 1-4 were an ode to tackling drills everywhere, but between the three teams I mentioned and Cal, the Cougars have kinda sucked lately when it comes to bringing down an opponent. Only Deone Bucannon and Damante Horton have been solid from down to down over the past month.
What this could boil down to is rallying to the football. The Cougs have been pretty sloppy in 1-on-1 situations, but when they rally to the ball, that’s when they are terrific. That could be said for most teams, but the Cougs started off as good as anybody in the nation when it came to that. The fact that they haven’t recently can probably be contributed to the 8 games in 8 weeks deal. After two bye’s in three weeks, that shouldn’t be an issue again.
Wait, What Did You See?
Culprit number three is “bad eyes” as Mike Leach and defensive coordinator/d-backs coach Mike Breske like to call it. There are four different (basic) sets of reads the DB’s need to make on any given play. Initial coverage (call from the sideline or sometimes formation dictates), pre play (includes motioning wrs/rbs and formation keys), in-play execution of coverage (route coverage and technique execution) and ball-in-the-air play.
All of it is supposed to mesh into covering the proper routes and ultimately making a play on the football, but if you don’t have all four guys on the same page and reading the way they are supposed to at the same time, that’s when big plays happen. It could be as simple as Washington reading switch on a cross-wheel combo and Taliuli reading to stay with the man.
The Cougs need to get back on the same page in the final stretch to give themselves a chance at success defensively.