The win over Boise State was both "a test and a testament" for the Cougars' defense, which forced three turnovers and scored two defensive touchdowns

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PULLMAN – With 5:44 remaining in the fourth quarter of Washington State’s eventual 47-44 triple-overtime win over Boise State on Saturday, as the Cougars mobbed linebacker Peyton Pelluer at the end of his 36-yard interception return for a touchdown, the official stat sheet told a strange story.

Down 31-24 against the Broncos, 20th-ranked WSU’s Speed D defense had scored more touchdowns (two) than its usually-explosive offense (one) had managed to that point.

That unusual statistic was the best representation of the way the game went for the Cougars Saturday night.

“I thought our defense played well early. They had a little of a hollow spot in the third quarter, but I thought they did a good job getting turnovers,” WSU coach Mike Leach said.

WSU’s defense finished with four turnovers, four sacks, eight tackles for loss and – crucially — two touchdowns in a single game for the first time in Grinch’s three seasons as defensive coordinator.

Through two games in 2017, WSU already has five turnovers – more than halfway to the eight turnovers the defense managed in 2014, the last year of the pre-Grinch era.

The win over the Broncos was one of the most complete defensive performances the Cougars have had in years.

Or in Pelluer’s words, Saturday’s win was “both a testament and a test” for the Cougars’ “Speed D” defense, which has made significant improvements in each of its three seasons under Grinch.

“There was an incredible amount of adversity, and it’s our job as a defense to get the ball back to the offense and keep the opponent, any opponent, from scoring,” Pelluer said. “We all knew what we had to do to come out with the win, and we just kept plugging away and believing in the process and leaning on each other.”

With the offense playing poorly through most the first three quarters, it was WSU’s defense that delivered stadium-rattling hits and huge, momentum changing plays every time the Cougars looked as if they were sunk.

And there were many such moments to note.

Moment 1: First quarter – WSU’s offense is marching downfield, having gone 59 yards in 10 plays. Luke Falk drops back and tries to thread the ball between two defenders to Tavares Martin at the goal line. But the ball is picked off by Boise State’s Tyler Horton.

Speed D response: On second-and-4, from the Broncos 20, Hercules Mata’afa and Frankie Luvu shoot up the middle and sack Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien for the strip. Safety Robert Taylor scoots for a 7-yard touchdown return.

Moment 2: WSU’s offense goes three-and-out, after a one-yard gain.

Speed D response: Luvu stunts, darts through the line and drills Rypien to the turf for a sack and loss of six yards. Rypien left the game after this play and would not return.

Moment 3: Third quarter, score tied 10-10, Boise State has pushed downfield 62 yards to the WSU 5, and is looking to score.

Speed D response: Broncos backup quarterback Montell Cozart dumps off to Alex Mattison, but Mattison is tackled by cornerback Marcellus Pippins, who knocks the ball out. Luvu – who was everywhere on Saturday – recovers at the 3.

Moment 4: Fourth quarter, 8:00 left – Boise State is up 31-17 and WSU is running out of time.

Speed D response: Cozart’s awkward-looking shovel pass is intercepted by linebacker Peyton Pelluer who scores his first career touchdown on a 36-yard return.

Moment 5: Overtime Period 1 – Boise State has the ball first. It’s third-and-9 from WSU’s 12.

Speed D response: Derek Moore hits Cozart, who slips. The quarterback sees Mata’afa barreling in to finish the job and hurriedly throws the ball away. Broncos settle for a field goal.

The Cougars’ D would force a second field goal in the third overtime period that proved to be the difference as the Cougars’ offense finally managed to close out the win with a touchdown from Tyler Hilinski to Jamal Morrow.

“Momentum, turnovers, big plays, Hercules, the whole defense, Frankie (Luvu) just like crushing hits on the quarterback, that was just giving us momentum in the whole game,” said Hilinski, who replaced injured starting quarterback Luke Falk in the fourth quarter and led WSU to the victory. “We definitely didn’t play well in the first half, and most of the second half. But they gave us a chance to come back and win. And shoot, it was a team win.”

Every single defensive starter found his way onto the stat sheet, Mata’afa finished with three tackles-for-loss, Luvu had a team-leading 2.5 sacks, and Isaac Dotson had a career-high 10 tackles, Pelluer had a game-high 14 tackles and his pick-six.

In the secondary, Darrien Molton led the team with five solo stops, while safeties Jalen Thompson and Robert Taylor each had eight tackles, with Thompson recording one tackle for loss, and Taylor scoring his second career defensive touchdown.

“We encountered adversity and came back and stared it in the face and took it,” Luvu said.


Links to our WSU 47, BSU 44 (3OT) coverage: 

 How No. 20 WSU rallied to beat Boise State 47-44 in 3OT

In 3OT win vs. Boise State, WSU’s special teams comes through in big moments

Mike Leach says offense played timid in first half of WSU’s 3OT win vs. Boise State

River Cracraft returns to WSU for Boise State game, says he’s fully healed, ready for NFL shot