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UW Knows Cougars’ Defense is No Joke

Alex Grinch may be gone, but Tracy Claeys has taken what Grinch did with Washington State’s defense during the 2017 season and continued the trend.

In 2016, Washington State was giving up over 400 yards and 26 points per game. By 2017 was over, Grinch had helped drop the yardage by nearly 80 yards and the point total by a half-point.

The Cougars are on track to give up slightly more yardage, but more than three points less per game. So while the Air Raid basks in all the accolades and everyone in Pullman dons their Minshew mustaches with pride, the defense has definitely pulled their weight in helping Washington State get to their 10-1 record.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of different details but from big picture it looks pretty similar,” Washington Offensive Line Coach Scott Huff said Tuesday when talking about the Washington State defense and what challenges the UW offense will face in the 111th Apple Cup, set to kick off at 5 pm this Friday in Pullman.

“It’s what we talked a lot about last year around that time, how unique their defense was. It’s a pain in the butt, to be quite honest with you. All the pre-snap movement, and then the post-snap movement. They do a great job of playing hard and getting on edges and they’re relentless. It’s a challenging, different defense. There’s nothing during the course of the year that really prepares you for it. It’s kind of nerve-wracking. It’s not one of those defenses where you walk in and go, hey I know exactly these guys are going to line up. It’s really difficult.”

How were the Huskies able to handle what Grinch threw at them last year? UW beat WSU 41-14, as Myles Gaskin ran for 192 yards and scored four touchdowns on the day.

“We got off to a good start,” Huff said, noting how the Huskies led WSU at the half 24-0. “Myles Gaskin was running really hard, we took care of the football, guys up front did a pretty good job. Our tight ends did a pretty good job of just creating some lanes and it was just one of those nights where it was pretty special for us. I’m sure they are correcting some of the things they didn’t like about last year. They have a different defensive coordinator, a new defensive coordinator but a similar defense and I’m sure they’ve picked up on our tendencies. By no means do I think we’re just going to run the ball in the same places we did last year and have the same results. That would be insane to think that.”

What is going in Washington’s favor right now is that they are in good offensive health. Gaskin appears to be fully back from the shoulder injury that cost him a couple games. Sophomore tight end Hunter Bryant is back and has a couple of games under his belt. And the UW offensive line got left tackle Jared Hilbers back for the last two games after missing the California game and preseason All-American Trey Adams got in for a couple of series against Oregon State.

“It just feels like football season, to be quite honest with you,” Huff said when asked if the offensive line is as healthy as it’s been all year.
“I don’t know what that means exactly, but certain guys are beat up and it’s the end of November. Everybody’s got aches and pains and it’s what it’s supposed to be like.

“I guess if you’re looking and saying who is available? Yeah, we’re a little bit healthier than we’ve been but these guys have taken a lot of reps and it’s a man sport. We’re right where we need to be.”

And they’ll need all their firepower to counter a Washington State defense hell-bent on showing they can impact an Apple Cup just as much as the Air Raid could.

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