ROPATI PITOITUA and FEVAEA'I AHMU
FOR THE DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR and head man of the Cougs, Tuesday and Wednesday will be busy days this practice week. Bill Doba said Monday the staff will take a look at making some changes up front on the defensive line -- maybe. He also opined, in a wide ranging discussion, on the offensive line, running game, all things defense, special teams, injuries plus a whole lot more.
The Cougs might do away with the jumbo d-front as their base.
If they do, the Cougar Nation could still expect to see it at times against a good running team or in certain situations. But any changes are also somewhat dependant on getting back personnel on the injury list.
"I'm not sure if we can keep Ropati Pitoitua (at d-end), he might be more valuable inside. We're going to take a good look at that this week...It really depends on if we can get (Lance) Broadus back," said Doba.
And on the continued progress of Mike Graise and Kevin Kooyman, Doba added, while also mentioning a fresh Fevaea'i Ahmu rotating in liberally might be more valuable as well.
Broadus (shoulder) is listed as doubtful for San Diego State but will likely get some full contact work starting on Tuesday to see if he's ready. Doba said he considers him doubtful for SDSU and probable for Idaho.
DEFENSIVELY, DOBA SAID the Cougs struggled overall and particularly in pass defense.
"I think we have to work on the underneath coverage. There were a few plays where people were just wide open and you can't have that...I thought they did hold up well against the run, don't get me wrong. We just gave that kid too much time to throw the football. You've just got to get more heat on him and the best way to do that is to get those guys outside coming off the edge," said Doba.
That the defense didn't perform better caught Doba off guard based on what he had seen in fall camp. Assignment errors, good scheming by Wisconsin and some freelancing all contributed to a poor defensive outing where the Cougs surrendered nearly 500 yards of offense.
"Originally I said if we can get them to pass, I think we can get pressure on them. Well, we got them to pass. Be careful what you wish for. Maybe (I was) not as much surprised as disappointed," said Doba.
"Part of the problem was a couple guys were trying to freelance and get to the quarterback, which is a natural thing, but they were opening up big passing lanes. The quarterback could see right down the middle, or off to the right side, or into the curl zone. The bigger guys have got to stay in that rush lane, get their hands up and make him throw through a picket fence."
IF THERE ARE positives to be found in the defense's play on Saturday, the biggest is probably that Doba said the problems are decidedly not an issue of talent.
"The mistakes that we made were more execution. On the zone pressures, you have to hit the inside of the shoulder of the tackle. And they ran into the guard. Little things like that we need to get corrected. The good news is we can correct those things and get better," said Doba.
"Those things are all correctable. We've got a good nucleus, we've got good defensive personnel. We'll get those things turned around and get going."
OFFENSIVELY, DOBA WAS cautiously optimistic, saying he was surprised by the running game's success and singled out Dwight Tardy and Chris Ivory for praise. But he also pointed out Wisconsin, at times, showed a three man front and nickel package and was set up to stop the pass.
Right tackle Micah Hannam was awarded the Cougar Claw in his first start.
"Micah Hannam, the offensive staff thought, did a great job," said Doba. And of course the three mainstays in the middle, (C Kenny Alfred, LG Bobby Byrd, RG Dan Rowlands) they've got to stay healthy...they graded out pretty well I thought. (Vaughn Lesuma) obviously he made a few mistakes early. I noticed coach (George) Yarno was talking to him -- right in his ear -- and he got a few things straightened out. But overall, he did a nice job."
THE SPECIAL TEAMS did not have a banner day at Wisconsin. But Doba said he was still encouraged by what he saw.
"Our coverage on punts was good. Our coverage on kickoffs...we can get a little better on that. Kickoff return we had a couple of missed assignments. Overall, the kicking game I thought was okay -- it wasn't as good as I hoped it would be -- but I think it's still an improvement over a year ago," said Doba.
Doba said he 'really likes' the new punt formation and if executed properly, it gives you four gunners. The first punt attempt, however, was blocked. Will the Cougs stay with the new formation against San Diego State?
"I'll tell you Saturday," Doba quipped.
THE COUGS, perhaps surprisingly given the physical nature of Wisconsin, came out of the game quite healthy. Chima Nwachukwu has a left quad strain but the corner ran and lifted yesterday and the injury doesn't appear anything serious.
Cornerback Markus Dawes prior to Wisconsin had injuries to both shoulders and remains out indefinitely.
"It looks like he'll have a difficult time coming back," said Doba.
LB Ken Dunn was the only Cougar who had an IV at halftime after cramping up on a warm afternoon in Wisconsin. "Overall, I thought our conditioning was okay -- I thought we were tired in the fourth quarter and that's because we had (76) plays on defense. And that's our fault...Our third down conversion rate was pitiful," said Doba.
On the secondary, Doba said "I think they'll do nothing but improve as the year goes on."