As Cougs move on from ASU loss, defensive issues crystallize

Oct. 29—PULLMAN — Approximately a month ago, Washington State was undefeated and had captured the attention of the college football world. Head coach Jake Dickert reflected on his initial days as a head coach, which were two years ago when he took over as interim head coach following the firing of Nick Rolovich due to noncompliance with the state’s vaccine mandate. While Dickert continued to oversee the defense that season, he eventually had to hire a defensive coordinator. And now, with another defensive coordinator in place, Dickert is contemplating whether he should reassert his influence on the defense.

The struggling Washington State defense has been unable to find solutions. In their recent loss to Arizona State, the Cougars allowed 38 points, marking the third consecutive game in which they conceded that many points or more. Surprisingly, a hobbled Arizona State team, with a predominantly ground-based offense, scored more points in that one game than in their entire season, including their sole victory over FCS Southern Utah.

The defensive underperformance has prevented Washington State’s top defensive players, RJ Stone Jr. and Brennan Jackson, from showcasing their talents. Stone and Jackson excel at rushing the passer, but opposing teams have successfully prevented them from making an impact by double-teaming them. As a result, the Cougars have been unable to generate sacks.

In addition to the edge rushers’ struggles, the Cougars have also struggled with tackling, missing 12 tackles in their most recent loss to Arizona State. This is a pressing issue for Washington State, as it is difficult to address without the ability to practice live-tackling due to injuries and limited simulation opportunities.

Another issue plaguing Washington State is their inability to create turnovers. Their last takeaway occurred 14 quarters ago, making it challenging for the team to regain momentum. These problems are interconnected, as the Cougars’ inefficiency in stopping the run allows opponents to focus on the ground game, limiting the opportunities for Stone and Jackson to pressure the quarterback and generate turnovers.

To address these challenges, Washington State must start by improving their run defense, which currently ranks last in the Pac-12 according to Pro Football Focus. The upcoming game against Stanford presents an opportunity for the Cougars to rectify these issues and regain their confidence.

Despite their promising start to the season, Washington State now finds themselves uncertain about their prospects against Stanford. The team acknowledges the need to make significant improvements on the defensive side of the ball.

“We need to be more proactive in stopping the run and forcing opponents to pass,” said Dickert. “Our performance on third downs was subpar, and I take responsibility for that.”

The onus is now on Dickert to make the necessary changes and guide the Washington State defense back to success.


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