Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said the defensive backfield's performance against EWU was the worst they've had since he arrived at WSU.
Washington State defensive coordinator Alex Grinch told reporters in Pullman after Sunday night’s practice that the defensive backfield’s outing against Eastern Washington was probably “our worst day since I’ve been here.”
“I’m responsible for the defensive backs, and responsible for the defense, so I’ve got to do a better job,” Grinch said in a Spokesman-Review video.
Tape breakdown of the Cougars’ 45-42 defeat to EWU yielded some answers to the question of why WSU was so thoroughly outdone by EWU’s offense, which rolled for 606 offensive yards and scored six touchdowns.
“The frustrating part is that the bulk of it was balls completed in front of us that we didn’t make plays on, and (of) double concern is that we didn’t make the tackle,” Grinch said. “You see a little bit of tentativeness from some of the younger guys. How do you erase that? There’s no magic answer for that. Reps.”
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Cornerback Treshon Broughton, and safeties Robert Taylor and Jalen Thompson all made their first career starts last Saturday, while Hunter Dale also saw his first significant action on defense when he entered the game at free safety in the second half after Taylor was ejected for targeting.
Thompson, specifically, was exposed when EWU’s Cooper Kupp blew past him in the second quarter on his way to a 75-yard touchdown reception.
Grinch reiterated his belief in the true freshman strong safety, however, saying “He’ll be a tremendous football player at Washington State and we’re thrilled to have him. … Unfortunately, it’s never going to go quite how he planned, or how we planned. And certainly, that was one play in a football game of many that we didn’t perform up to expectations.”
Grinch said it’s hard to tell whether Taylor’s ejection had any significant effect on the defense because they weren’t playing particularly well before his ejection to begin with.
“I thought we were tentative on some of the underneath throws,” Grinch said. “We tried to trap the ball underneath. To trap the ball underneath is to assume you’re making tackles after the catch. Again, we didn’t do that.”
So how do the Cougars fix the mistakes on defense and start over to game plan against Mountain West Freshman Player of the Year quarterback Brett Rypien and the Boise State offense this weekend?
Refocus on the fundamentals, Grinch said, adding that he wants to see his players communicate better and be more aggressive at the snap.
The lack of communication, specifically, played a part in the Cougars’ troubles against EWU.
Linebacker Isaac Dotson said there were some instances in which the defense lined up before every player had heard the play call, but added that this does happen to some extent in every game.
It’s a matter of “guys getting eyes to the sideline and getting calls and getting them to each other,” Dotson said. “There was just a lack of certainty. We need to make sure everyone is on the same page at the same time.”
Dotson said the defense needs to relay calls to each other “more quickly and more dramatically” and “make it a bigger deal to get the calls out.”
“Every loss is a learning experience and you’ve got to make those corrections and execute this week,” Dotson said.
Senior Shalom Luani’s return to the lineup at free safety will also help WSU on defense. Luani was held out of the season opener as a disciplinary measure.
How the offensive line graded out
Offensive line coach Clay McGuire told reporters after Sunday’s practice that left guard Cody O’Connell played the best of all the five offensive linemen against EWU.
“I thought he went out there, played fast and was excited to be playing and didn’t play tight,” McGuire said.
McGuire said the false start penalties from center Riley Sorenson and tackles Andre Dillard and Cole Madison was due to a “complete lack of focus.”
“It’s something, quite honestly, that we haven’t had a problem with. We didn’t expect to have those problems, but obviously we did,” McGuire said. “It’s a focus issue going into this week, and we’ll get that taken care of.”
Former Cougs make it onto NFL practice squads
After getting cut over the weekend as NFL teams compiled their 53-man rosters, several former WSU players have found homes on NFL practice squads.
Former linebacker Kache Palacio was signed to the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad, wide receiver Dom Williams was signed to the San Diego Chargers’ practice squad, and receiver Vince Mayle was signed to the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad.