While Washington State’s offense is ranked sixth in the country, putting up 19 touchdowns in three games, their defense isn’t quite as good. Coming in at 51st, the Cougars allow an average of 346 yards per game. However, this is more than the UCLA Bruins have gained in any of their first three games.
The Washington State Cougars rank even lower in first down defense, ranking 77th in the country and allowing their opponents to gain 61 total first downs. While these stats are literally just on paper and what materializes on the field is an entirely different story, the Bruins may have an opening here for some success.
Here is the defense Washington State brings to the table.
The Cougars run their defense with three men up front and senior Misiona Aiolupotea-Pei will be in the middle at nose tackle. He will be flanked by redshirt senior Nnamdi Oguayo and junior Will Rodgers III. All three of these players have recorded at least one tackle for loss this season. With the way the UCLA offensive line has been collapsing, quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is going to find the pocket closing in around him once again. Redshirt senior Karson Block will also be in the mix, as he has seen action in all three games.
The Washington State linebackers have been tackling machines to start the 2019 season. Redshirt junior Jahad Woods is leading the WSU linebacking corps with 24 tackles including 15 solo tackles and nine assists. Woods was named to Preseason All-Pac-12 Conference Second Team and was given the All-Pac-12 Conference honorable mention nod in 2018. Last year, he was second on the team with 82 tackles and led the team with four forced fumbles.
Adding to Woods’ success has been redshirt juniors Justus Rogers and Skyler Thomas. Rogers has made 15 tackles including one for a loss while Thomas has made 13. That gives the Cougar starters a total of 52 tackles in three games. These guys mean business and are going to further complicate the headache of protecting DTR.
DTR’s passing woes are going to be further exploited by secondary standouts Marcus Strong and Bryce Beekman. Beekman, a redshirt junior, has 12 unassisted tackles and senior Strong has added 10 of his own.
Redshirt junior Daniel Isom played his freshman year at Northern Illinois and spent last season at Iowa Western Community College. Isom is in his first year with Washington State, but has fit in nicely with the secondary so far, recording eight tackles in three games.
This secondary is definitely going to give UCLA receivers some trouble, as if the passing game wasn’t weak enough already. DTR is going to have to be spot on and cannot continue to underthrow passes or overthrow into the hands of a waiting defender.
While Washington State is a 19-point favorite, this game can quickly get out of hand considering UCLA’s past performances in Pullman. The stadium is going to be packed and the crowd is going to be riled up. While Martin Stadium isn’t as big as the Rose Bowl, UCLA is going to feel the heat from the opposing team. This defense will manhandle the Bruins if the same team that we saw last weekend takes the field.