'Zona poses unique Xs and Os for Coug defense

LANCE BROADUS

ARIZONA HASN'T DISPLAYED an overly complex passing attack this season, utilizing about 8-11 pass patterns -- over and over -- said Bill Doba on Monday. But it's also an effective offense, he noted, putting up 27 points against Cal after falling in an early hole. As with any offense, a defensive gameplan for success is identifiable. But does Washington State's personnel fit well that scheme?

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"If you have enough talent to lock up man to man and can jump in their faces, I think you could probably slow them down quite a bit," said Doba. "But they have excellent receivers and kids than can run well."

And therein lies the rub.

Although there has been improvement in the secondary each week, the Washington State corners aren't to the point where they are ready to consistently play man and then the defense can pin it's ears back and play aggressively. The Cougs are, said Doba, more of a zone team at this point in the '07 season.

But the bottom line is that Washington State will have to do a better job on defense, particularly in applying pressure, if they are to come out of the desert with a win Saturday night. Whether that means ends Lance Broadus, Matt Mullennix and Kevin Kooyman, or by other means, is the question.

AN ARGUMENT can be fashioned that Washington State has not gotten adequate pressure on any of the quarterbacks they've faced this year, regardless of four sacks logged against San Diego State.

It won't get any easier against the Wildcats.

"They're in that spread offense, they're going to throw little hitches, and there's always somebody coming over the middle and over the center for a release...Tuitama, he gets rid of the ball very quickly, he does not want to run it. I'd almost prefer he does...he's very difficult to sack.

"We watched teams come after him with five man pressures, six man pressures, and he gets rid of the ball very quickly," said Doba.

Doba said the Cougs may mix things up, looking to find the right balance between getting some heat on Willie Tuitama, and dropping back into coverage. It could mean more nickel packages. Or dime. The Cougs could peel off a defensive end into the flat. Or they could add an extra linebacker to clog up the lanes.

The approach will depend on the personnel the Cougs have, and the battle plan will be crafted and finalized over the next 24 hours.

IN THIS ARTICLE last week on CF.C, Jim Walden was bearish on the Cougs chances at USC but said by working to perfect their base defense in Los Angeles, it might be the difference between winning and losing against a team like Arizona.

In looking at the schedule after Arizona, the combined record of the next four teams is 15-1. Typically, a coach will say every game is a must win, and also that any loss can also ultimately be overcome. But Doba agreed Monday with the prevailing sentiment surrounding the tilt with Arizona -- this game, at Tucson, is vital to the Cougs' season.

Arizona's offense is similar in some respects to USC, said Doba. Tuitama hasn't run it a whole lot out of the spread, and he gets rid of the ball quickly.

Defensively, it might be a pick your poison approach. More success against Arizona, or less trouble might be more accurate if you look at the UA-Cal game, Doba said, has been seen by rushing three and dropping into coverage. But that approach also comes with it's own set of problems. And Cal had a difficult time against UA despite giving them several different looks and pressures.

One thing is apparent. Washington State will not go into the the Arizona game unmotivated, said Doba.

"I reminded the team of this: In 2003, we went to the Holiday Bowl, we beat No. 5 Texas, we finished ninth in the nation," he said. "I asked them, do you remember what the score was of the game in the Coliseum that year? It was 43-16. Pretty close to what it was this year.

"So it's just one game, season's not over, we still have a long ways to go. So get your chins up off your chests and get ready to go play Arizona."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Doba on Gary Rogers: "He's got a tremendous gun. He works hard at it, and he's got good mobility. With time, he looks like he should the heir apparent. But it'll be open in the spring for competition. (Kevin) Lopina is here, Cole Morgan is still here. It will be a very competitive thing. And Marshall Lobbestael is still here, And we'll have (J.T.) Levenseller here in the spring so there will be five of them. But he should be the heir apparent." When a reporter joked his money would be on J.T. because of WSU offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller, Doba didn't miss a beat. "I hope he's smarter than his old man," Doba quipped.

  • Darryl Blunt looks to be the starting punter but Doba said he'll wait and see how they do in practice. Reid Forrest replaced Blunt at USC and averaged 39.4 yards on five kicks.

  • Against USC, Washington State prepared for the run and opened with a extra linebacker. USC came out throwing to the outside. Doba countered on the second drive by moving a linebacker and strong safety outside and said the Cougs had started to slow it down. But that opened up the the tight end, who went on to a big day. "(The Cougar players) just played a team that was better then they were," said Doba.

  • Washington State looks to have come though the USC game in good shape injury-wise. Defensive tackle Matt Eichelberger (knee sprain) was injured in practice leading up to 'SC and is not expected to be ready to return for at least a couple more weeks.

  • Doba on defensive captains Greg Trent and Husain Abdullah: "They're both playing well and they're both doing a nice job of leadership. Greg will make a mistake now and then but gosh almighty, in my figuring I think he had eight tackles and four assists when i broke the thing down. He made some great plays, and the some simple, common mistakes. And then on Husain, if he comes in on the other side it's an interception instead of a touchdown and then the second time, same route, he did come in on the proper side and made the play...he's starting to get the feel for that free safety position even more than he did a year ago. He's a good, solid kid. He came into my office this morning just to sit down and talk. I really enjoy him as a person, number one, and then as a player, too."

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