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Boring wins beat exciting losses

Do not be shocked when you see the Cougars line up with their quarterback under center during their coming games (something they only did once last year). Washington State will be employing some offensive tweaks this season. Although these tweaks may remove some of the viewer-friendly offensive numbers Cougar fans have grown accustomed to since the arrival of head coach Mike Leach, hopefully it will result in a few more wins. Watching the Cougars score 59 points in one game last season was certainly a thrill; but allowing the opponent to score 60 in the same game served as the perfect way to burst Leach’s offensive inflated balloon.

One of Leach’s strengths as a coach is his ability to mold his team into what will be most conducive to the conference his squad is playing in. He has been able to get the most out of the talent he is given; this is also the leading argument of why his offense has so much firepower, while his defense is continually trampled under foot. He did not purposely construct a defensive that could not stop a kitten herd from charging down the field, that is the lot he is given – the recruits he was able to get. To counter it, he fashioned a high-risk high-reward offense, built to put up offensive numbers that could keep pace with the Cougars opposition. Unfortunately, during Leach’s tenure at WSU, his record-breaking offense has not been as good as his defense has been bad.

To help remedy this, WSU brought in defensive coordinator Alex Grinch this last offseason. Grinch offers a fresh look at how to stem the hemorrhaging of points over the last couple years. Grinch cannot do it all, though; he will need to be able to rely heavily on upperclassman for on field leadership.

That defensive leadership will primarily come in the form of senior defensive lineman Destiny Vaeao. At 6-4, 298 pounds, Vaeao is the only returning starter on the defensive line after Xavier Cooper and Toni Pole left. Going into his senior season, Vaeao seems in perfect position to become an elite defensive player and leading force in Grinch’s new scheme. Look for him to capitalize on last year’s numbers—14 tackles and a pair of sacks.

Leach is also hoping for big things from sophomore Quarterback Luke Falk. While senior quarterback Connor Holiday led the nation in passing yards last season and ended his career with the 4th most in PAC-12 history, most of those did not result from him throwing the ball more than 20 yards down the field. His passing numbers relied heavily on quantity, not quality. With Falk, the Cougar offense has more accuracy and strength on downfield throws; this will force opposing defenses to respect deeper passes and not bring safeties up and stacking the box.

What the Cougars need the most, and what will hopefully be the result of their most recent changes, is wins where expected, something they struggled with last year. If they can win the “easy” ones, and maybe squeak out a few of the close ones, the Cougars should find themselves in a bowl game come January.

Photo Credit: wsufootballblog.com

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