Going into last night's game, the Cougars were giving up a FCS-worst 7.15 yards per carry. Not only is it statistically horrendous, as Nuss and I pointed out, but running backs like Jahvid Best and quarterbacks like Robert Griffin were having a field day with big plays against the Cougar rush D. WSU was giving up nearly 1.3 yards per carry more than the closest competitor in futility - the University of Washington.
Last night, that changed. Maybe it was a rebirth of the 4-3, better linebacker play, or our defensive line actually showing up, but it was a much better evening for our run defense. Even with a healthy Kahlil Bell in the backfield, UCLA only managed 100 yards on 37 attempts. That's an average of 2.7 yards per rushing attempt.
It's also incredibly good news.
The Cougars were headed for the college football graveyard, losing every game in blowout fashion, because all teams had to do were pound the ball up the middle and wait for the big play. Now, I know UCLA still won 28-3, but we were one touchdown away from being in this game most of the way through, and two touchdowns away from having a decent shot at a win. If we had last year's offense on our side, I really believe we win yesterday's game.
Jody Sears and the D-line deserve some credit for a marked improvement over their previous performances this season. The rush defense becomes even more important as we get set to go up against Jacquizz Rodgers and the OSU Beavers this upcoming weekend.
The offense laid an egg, yes. But if we can't keep opponents under 30 points, we won't be competing even if the offense is playing up to potential.
We now have an opponent, OSU, next week that has played to the level of their competition all season. If we can defend the run, we have hope.
And at this point, hope is a whole lot better than nothing.