Sometimes, the biggest contributions to a team, be it football, soccer, or even a family, come from the quietest amongst them.
Growing up, in our family, the quietest contributor was somewhat unique. Living in the “country” of Woodinville, varmints wreaked havoc on our lawns and gardens, especially moles. Traps for the animals are illegal so sometimes the best, and only, solution is a natural one.
Joey became part of our family when I was 4 years old. Our babysitter’s cat had a litter of kittens and, unbeknownst to my dad, my mom gave me permission to bring one home. One night, he came home from work and, on the stairs along with our other cat, there we were, admiring our brand new, four-legged addition to the family.
Dad was ... not as impressed. If this cat was going to live here, he was going to be indoor/outdoor. The aforementioned other cat had gotten too old to hunt the moles making dirt mounds in our yard and dad wanted Joey to pick up the slack.
Months later, when he was old enough to go outside, the mole hills started gradually disappearing until there were none at all. Through it all, Joey was a quiet, loving cat who only wanted to be pet and sleep in front of the fire place.
We’ve sung the praises on this website of many, many players on the WSU defense this year. And with good reason! A unit we thought would struggle at times for the Cougs has performed above expectations in nearly every way.
Hercules Mata’afa, Shalom Luani, Marcellus Pippins, Isaac Dotson, Darrien Molton, Nnamdi Oguayo, Dylan Hanser ... all names you’ve heard rightfully called out for their excellent play in 2016.
The quiet, unassuming one though? Peyton Pelluer. Well, as unassuming as someone can be at 6’, 235 pounds of hulking muscle at MIKE linebacker anyway.
Pelluer, at least that I can remember, hasn’t done anything that strikes you as “spectacular” this year. That’s fine, though! Because it means something else very important: he’s doing his job.
Did you know he’s leading the team in tackles? He’s got 64 of those. Bet you didn’t know he’s third on the team in tackles for a loss, either, with 6.5 so far this year. Pelluer does his job and he does it well. Gaps are filled; tackles are seldom, if ever, missed. He does what the MIKE linebacker is meant to do and does it without much fanfare.
What we figured, at the beginning of the season, would be a relatively easy tune up, penultimate game before the Apple Cup is decidedly ... well, not that. The Colorado Buffaloes have a good offense, and as our newest CougCenter staff member extraordinaire Jesse Cassino highlighted incredibly well here, it’s difficult to defend.
Keeping the run-pass option in check is no easy task, especially when, unlike the Arizona Wildcats, you’re facing a team with some honest-to-God offensive threats. Sefo Liufau has been very good at times this season and Phillip Lindsay might be the best running back in the conference no one is talking about. Combined with good receivers, the Buffs pose as balanced of an offensive threat as any WSU will have faced in quite some time.
Discipline against the RPO is the key to stopping it. Get out of sorts and Colorado will chew through yards like I do crab legs at the Peppermill Casino buffet. The WSU defense will need to slow the Buffs offense down quite a bit on Saturday; the offense is facing a defensive test unlike anything they’ve seen since at least October 8th against Stanford. For the first time in a while, the Cougs may be leaning more heavily on their defense to make sure they have the higher point total at the gun than the offense.
It may start up front with the defensive line on Saturday, but the linebackers are the linchpin against the Buffs. Peyton Pelluer will be the man the defense counts on the most to keep Colorado out of the end zone.
Some 13 years after we brought Joey home, something weird happened: a mole hill popped up in the yard. And then another. And another. Joey wasn’t going outside as much and even when he was, his tired, aching joints meant he just wasn’t as quick to hop on the dirt mound when he saw the slight movement of a mole moving to the top.
But one day, just a couple months before he died, my dad was out rearranging the garage when the once dependable mole hunter walked in, one final trophy in his mouth. As he dropped the mole, my dad picked him up, furiously petting him and yelling “ALRIGHT, JOECAT!”.
He went back inside, fell asleep on the floor where the sun shined in through a window, and stayed there for hours. A well deserved nap after one final hunt.
Over a decade of helping and contributing to the family. All of it quietly, unassumingly ... and Lord knows how many belly rubs along the way.
Peyton Pelluer, your most important person against the Colorado Buffaloes.