WSU-USC RECAP: Overview And Defense

The Cougs unveiled a new look on offense this season and for half the game, it appeared to be working. After a nice, sustained drive down the field, WSU found itself ahead by a touchdown with all the momentum in the world. One minute -- and two USC touchdowns -- later, the momentum was all gone.

The game was a blowout in the end, but there were plenty of positives that deserve attention. Deone Bucannon made some youthful mistakes, but also showed why coaches were high on him again today. Jeff Tuel ran the no-huddle well, made some good throws, but also made some costly mistakes. The offense finally got moving early, but sputtered down the stretch.

Consistency was the buzzword after the game. Both the offense and defense need to play more consistent football to be competitive. All the solid tackling from last week's game was gone on the defensive end. They did force three first half turnovers, but big plays killed the defense. On the offensive end, mistakes stalled promising drives. Penalties, drops and interceptions killed the Cougs and opened the door for USC. This team simply isn't good enough to overcome multiple errors.

After the jump, the defense takes center stage!

  • We know tackling was terrible. The real question is why was it terrible. Travis Long stated the obvious and said the defense was over-pursuing the play. This, of course, led to the Cougs being burned on the cutback and having to reach for tackles. USC has players that are too big and strong to arm tackle, so you can see where the problem lies. Being too aggressive in pursuit has dogged the defense in the first four games and is something that desperately needs to be cleaned up.
  • The defensive line was terrible, right? Well, not quite. On the surface it seemed like they were manhandled by the experienced USC line. After the game, Wulff shook that off a bit and explained the theory behind the defense today. In an effort to confuse the USC line, the defensive line was trying a bunch of stunts, twists and slants. There is not another center in the NCAA that I'd want making line calls than Chris O'Dowd. While trying to confuse the offense is nice in theory, it's hard to throw off the senior leader of the USC line. The other problem with stunts and twists: The defense becomes susceptible to power running. We all saw the results
  • In addition to some of the movement up front, Long explained the effect of some of the blitz packages on the play of the defensive line. With the SAM and WIL backs crashing on blitzes, the defensive line had to change their gap control. Long lamented it was tough to shed blocks while trying to switch gap control, a problem that was apparent for most of the game. So while they did get manhandled at times, the problem was a bit deeper than just being outclassed.
  • Something was off with Brandon Rankin today. He came off the field a few times for extended periods with what seemed like nicks and bumps. He seemed a bit hobbled late in the first half and just wasn't his usual self. USC has a great offensive line, but Rankin was just non-existent today. How non-existent, you ask? He only had one tackle on the day.
  • The linebackers are a serious problem with this team right now. They lost contain when it was their responsibility more times than I could count, made the wrong reads and just flat couldn't tackle anything. Over the first four games, the backers have, for the most part, been off their game. We're at the point where we can't chalk it up to learning the scheme anymore.
  • Chima Nwachukwu lasted all of two series before being yanked in favor of Deone Bucannon. Paul Wulff said Nwachukwu wasn't injured and that they wanted Bucannon on the field. I do wonder if that long touchdown run would've happen had Bucannon started instead. He made mistakes -- including biting on a double-move twice for touchdowns -- but he also played a heck of a game. The freshman was flying around the field, shedding blocks and being a physical force in the defensive backfield. At this point, I'd rather he starts and learns on the fly.
  • 1st quarter time of possession: WSU - 13:25, USC - 1:35. Good news: We let the defense rest. Bad news: 14 USC points. Time of possession is useless on its own.
  • USC never punted today. In the second half they had back-to-back drives of 93 and 98 yards that were the death blow. This defense absolutely has to find ways to get off the field. On a 3rd and 13, WSU came out in the stack, with three down linemen. Matt Barkley made the easy check to a draw and gashed the defense for the first down. Little things like that illustrate it's not all a talent deficiency, but that scheme has a lot to do with the shortcomings at times.
  • The secondary was put on an island quite a bit today. At the safety spots, true freshman Deone Bucannon and redshirt freshman Tyree Toomer shouldered the load. The corners were redshirt freshmen Nolan Washington and Daniel Simmons. The backups were true freshman Damante Horton and redshirt freshman Anthony Carpenter. These guys are young. They're making mistakes because they haven't seen many of the looks and plays USC gives in their career. What they do have is talent, and that talent shines bright many times. It may be rough to watch them now, but these kids have the potential to be a great nucleus for the defense.
  • Toomer and Bucannon led the team in tackles with eight each. It's never good when the safeties are the leading tacklers, but seeing these two fly around was a good sign. In addition to leading the team, all eight of Bucannon's tackles were solo including at least one touchdown saving stop downfield where he blew threw a blocker and dropped the running back all in one motion.
  • Another stat I found interesting: The MIK, WIL and SAM linebackers that had the most reps only had seven tackles combined.
Yes the defense did get torched to the tune of 613 yards of total offense. There were missed tackles, missed assignments and players out of position all over the place. The mistakes were youthful ones and were some of the growing pains that any young defense will go through. The good news is that they aren't problems that can't be fixed. A little more discipline, some better pursuit and squaring up on tackles are small things that will make a world of difference for WSU.

We know they can do it -- and they did at SMU -- it's just a matter of doing it with consistency.
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