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WSU Vs. Idaho State: Grading The '5 Things'

Prior to Saturday's WSU-Idaho State game, I listed five things I wanted to see from the Cougars. I did it mostly because I presumed WSU would win, and the thought was that how they won would be a lot more important than simply beating an overmatched opponent.

I wanted to see physical dominance. I wanted to see execution. I wanted to see discipline.

And for the first time in a long time, I saw all of that.

Here are my grades on those five things I was looking for.

What I Wrote

Dominance from the lines. I want to see enormous holes for Logwone Mitz and Rickey Galvin to run through. I want to see Jeff Tuel with five seconds to throw without having to move his feet. I want to see Idaho State repeatedly stopped within three yards of the line. I want to see Kevin Yost on his back about 15 times with only a four-man rush. If the lines simply look "meh" against what is a terrible FCS opponent - as they did last year against Montana State - thoughts of "here we go again" will be running through my mind.

The Grade: A+

There is simply no way to describe the performance other than "dominant." The offensive line did provide enormous holes for the running backs to run through, as they posted 8.3 yards per carry. EIGHT-POINT-THREE. It wasn't Jeff Tuel doing the vast majority of the throwing, but I only recall one hit on a quarterback in the pocket, and that was when the Bengals corner blitzed and it appeared Mitz didn't pick him up. Zero sacks. ZERO. As Paul Wulff has pointed out in interviews, it wasn't just the physical dominance, it was the line identifying assignments and correctly executing them all day.

And how about the defensive line? Just 2.9 yards per carry for opposing running backs and three sacks for linemen -- all out of a 30-stack. The lines did not look "meh." This was a good of a performance as could have been hoped for, and I don't mind gushing when it's called for.

What I Wrote:

Linebackers in the right place at the right time. (Looking squarely at you, Alex Hoffman-Ellis!) I find it interesting that my man Vince Grippi wrote a cool piece on the role of speed in the college game that noted the difference between raw speed and "football" speed, then paired it with a story on the speed of Hoffman-Ellis, perhaps the antithesis of "football speed" for the past two years. Too often last season, the linebackers - especially Hoffman-Ellis - got themselves out of position with either slow play recognition or over pursuit. The coaches have been raving about Hoffman-Ellis; I want to see if the improvement is real.

The Grade: A

One play exemplifies it all. Nolan Washington comes off the corner on a blitz. The QB, wisely, tries to throw a hot read. Unfortunately for him, his tight end was not on the same page and failed to break off his route. Fortunately for the Cougars, Hoffman-Ellis anticipated the hot read and dropped right into the spot where the tight end should have been. Pick-six.

The linebackers did their job with aplomb on Saturday.

What I Wrote:

Sound play in the secondary. It's probably a bit much to expect these guys to play shutdown football with their youth, so I'll settle for something a little less daunting: No blown coverages. Perfection is probably asking too much, as well, so let's just say I'll be happy if there are no major blunders. This unit needs to make major strides before heading to San Diego in two weeks.

The Grade: B

This young unit still has some growing to do. When Kevin Yost had time, he was able to find receivers; a blown coverage and a penalty in the secondary were primarily responsible for Idaho State's first touchdown. They're not there yet.

What I Wrote:

Focus from Marquess Wilson. Sacrilege, right? Not really - Wilson developed some dropsies at the end of last season, which we all were willing to chalk it up to fatigue at that time. Fine. He's not fatigued anymore, so I expect the drops to go away.

The Grade: A-

The touchdown was great, but the fact that he nearly dropped it causes me to ding his grade. I know some have suggested perhaps the sun was in his eyes, but why in the world would you try and turn your hands that way to catch a deep ball? Still, he caught it, and that's what matters.

What I Wrote:

A pass rush from Travis Long. I suppose this goes a little bit with the first item, but I want to single out Long here. Last year, Long played the "strong" end, where his primary job was to remain stout against the run. He's been moved to the rush end, something I believe he can do. But I want to see it.

The Grade: A

Long was able to get a sack and execute what was perhaps my favorite play of the entire game -- splitting two offensive linemen to swat a quick slant. Great game from him despite being double teamed on every play.