Random notes, observations, etc from the USC game

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After watching the USC game a few times, here are some random observations.

One of my strangest habits is taking notes. I'm constantly writing things down. I keep a notebad in my car, scratch paper in my pocket, etc. I have a shelf loaded with notebooks full of random things. On my desk right now, there are three yellow legal tablets and a small notebook. All four are nearly full of who knows what.

There are some benefits to doing this, especially when I do it while watching football games. Now, I can take all of those random tidbits I scribbled down and expand on them into a post. Here's a sampling of what I wrote down this week.

Offense

  • I don't think any player on this roster has taken a bigger jump from last year to this year than Marcus Mason. Early in his career, I didn't think Mason was going to be anything but a fast guy on kick returns. Through two games this year he looks like WSU's best running back. He flashes great vision on running plays, is physical for his size, has done a nice job as a receiver out of the backfield and I came away impressed with his pass protection against USC. Mason was the one to run down the USC defender on the fumble. WSU may not have won that game if he doesn't.
  • Speaking of that sack fumble, it wasn't one breakdown along the offensive line. All five offensive linemen got beat.
  • For my money, Kristoff Williams is WSU's best wide receiver in the open field. You'd think Gabe Marks would be that guy, but Williams has done very well. He's a physical runner, but also shows some good elusiveness and speed. You can see why Paul Wulff raved about him coming out of high school.
  • WSU sent a receiver in motion a few times and I'm excited to see where they go with it. On one occasion Kristoff took a touch pass from Halliday. Another, Halliday threw it to Marks after he broke out into the flat. I think this is a wrinkle Dana Holgorsen and Kliff Kingsbury have used more. Interested to see what WSU does with it.
  • Marks is shifty and quick, but he's gotten a little too cute at times both against USC and Auburn. He needs to have better awareness of where the first-down marker is and get to the sticks. It cost WSU a first down against USC.
  • My biggest concern about the receivers right now is their ability to get off press coverage. USC defenders did a good job of re-routing them off the line, causing issues with spacing once they did get free.
  • WSU looks to be really close to breaking big plays on a lot of occasions. Half-a-step slow, or they just need to hold a block a second longer. Dominique Williams came oh so close to scoring on that late reception, he just needed Bobby Ratliff to get a hand on the defender to slow his angle.

Slant_medium

Defense:

  • The theme of the week on defense was the Cougars weren't planning on doing anything special to slow down Marqise Lee and would instead just run their defense. They weren't kidding. Early in the game, Lee motioned to the slot and who covered him? Outside linebacker Cyrus Coen. No corner shadowing him, no safety coming down to double. Coen just took Lee in man coverage. Ballsy.
  • One of the reasons WSU had success was they did a great job of diagnosing things pre-snap. On several screens, Cougar defenders appeared to know what was coming and blow the play up before it could get started. Destiny Vaeao did a great job of this, sometimes taking two outside blockers out of the play before the ball was even thrown.
  • There are still plenty of things to clean up, especially in run defense. To my untrained eye, it didn't look like Justin Sagote or Tana Pritchard had their best games at WILL linebacker. USC ran to that side a lot and had a fair amount of success. Sagote appeared to be out of position a few times, but did make some nice plays as well.

Special teams:

  • Nice rebound for special teams. Much better on discipline on coverage, which was encouraging.
  • Xavier Cooper absolutely destroys blockers on punt block. I would hate to be one of the players protecting the punter to see the 300-pound Cooper come running full speed at me.
  • WSU was close to blocking a punt a couple times. It would not surprise me at all if they got one this season.With Leon Brooks fair catching most punts, it makes some sense to be more aggressive going for the block.
  • Andrew Furney has proven to be clutch, but I'm still impressed by how cold blooded that guy appears to be. If you watch closely at the end of Williams' big catch, you'll see Furney on the sidelines. He's not jumping up and down with the rest of his teammates. Nope, instead of taking a second to celebrate, Furney is already in business mode. Williams isn't even on the ground yet and Furney is putting on his helmet heading to the practice area.

Furney_s-ready_medium

Random notes:

  • Mike Leach has now won 100 percent of his games against USC and Washington as WSU's head coach.
  • In the fourth quarter USC defensive end Devon Kennard batted a pass at the line of scrimmage. The ball landed a few feet in front of him and was immediately blown dead. Kennard still proceeded to pick the ball up and run some 40 yards towards the endzone. Maybe if he hadn't wasted all that energy he would have been able to tackle Dom Williams.
  • WSU is currently third in the country in pass defense, allowing 76.5 passing yards per game. I think the only appropriate response to that is LOL WUT?
  • I've seen wide receivers with interesting pre-snap habits, but I don't think I've ever seen one essentially dance a gig before the snap. Is that even legal?

Mark-1_medium

Those are my notes for the week, what did you notice?

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