WSU-UCLA RECAP: The Defense

The defense was manhandled by the UCLA offensive line. The running backs had holes to run through all day and once they hit the second level, they looked to punish the Cougs. The lack of discipline and inability to clog the running lanes left the WSU defense grasping at air for much of the day, leading to a record-breaking performance from the UCLA backs.

  • The defense, as expected, couldn't stop the run yet again. UCLA threw a wrinkle in early by passing the ball, exploiting the soft coverage WSU was giving them, but went back to the same pistol offense we expected for the majority of the game. 437 yards later, the Cougs left the field looking battered and bruised. Again, something has to give with the run defense and tackling.
  • How do they fix it? Well, I don't really know that there's a way. Chris Ball can't scheme to hide the deficiencies up the middle, nor can he completely hide the glaring problems at linebacker. Can they change out the linebackers? Not really. C.J. Mizell, while talented, continues to look lost at the MIK spot. Jamal Atofau got time at SAM -- due to Myron Beck being disciplined for missing a meeting -- but made some head-shaking mistakes. Unlike the offense, the defense can't simply flip a switch and make it work overnight. This is a slow process.
  • Believe it or not, the tackling was a bit better against UCLA. It was marginally better, but better nonetheless. However, that doesn't mean it's time to celebrate. The Cougar defense still spent plenty of time swinging and missing at Bruin ballcarriers. The biggest problem, again, was the defense being out of position. The front four had trouble clogging the lanes and the backers weren't in the right spots to make plays. The end result was 7.6 yards per carry for UCLA.
  • Travis Long made a ridiculous play on fourth down (pictured above). In a heavy set, Richard Brehaut dropped back to pass on fourth and one. Long was having none of it. In one motion he hurdled a cut-block from a UCLA running back and stripped Brehaut in one fluid motion. Welcome back, Travis.
  • Time of possession on its own really isn't a useful stat. However, on a day like yesterday, with the temperature touching 90 degrees, a 35-25 minute disparity makes a difference. By the fourth quarter, the defense was completely dead and UCLA knew it. The Bruins attempted one pass in the fourth quarter, a quick hitch that went for four yards. One pass, 12 runs, 167 yards on the ground. When a defense that's already poor against the run gets worn down, it's a recipe for disaster.
  • How do they combat fatigue on defense, especially on the defensive line? By rotating in fresh bodies, which they did quite a bit yesterday. The problem with that is the lack of capable bodies on the line. Take, for instance, Sekope Kaufusi. I love Kaufusi and what he brings as a stand-up end. However, with the ball at the one yard line and UCLA in a jumbo set, there's no reason for Kaufusi to be in there. In the first half, he was completely taken out of the play from the start, leaving a gaping hole for one of the Bruin backs to run through.
  • That back-breaking 73-yard run by Derrick Coleman in the fourth quarter came with Brandon Rankin on the bench. With Rankin out, there was a huge hole in the middle, allowing Coleman to hit the second-level and race downfield. Again, dead-tired defense.
  • We won the turnover battle!
  • The 2010 Cougar defense now has a soundtrack, thanks to BigWood yesterday. Typically, a defense would be known by a mean, hard rock anthem. Think "Welcome to the Jungle" or "Enter Sandman". Instead, the Cougar defense should be watched with the Benny Hill theme song. It just fits so perfectly. I went back and watched the Stanley Havili run from last week with Benny Hill playing in the background. Instead of being frustrated and angry, I left the experience laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. Try it out sometime.
  • The WSU defense takes on Oregon next week. I'm not looking forward to it.
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