Though Dwight Tardy’s 1-yard scoring run gave Washington State University its lone touchdown, it was a defensive play that gave the Cougars hope. Oregon State had scored on its first three possessions, doing nothing fancy but still moving methodically down the field. The Beavers were about to tack on another when Xavier Hicks stepped in front of Joe Halahuni and picked off Sean Canfield’s pass at the WSU 9. Not only did Hicks’ interception stunt the Beavers’ momentum, it was only the sixth pick Canfield has thrown this season.
Though they were playing with limited resources, the WSU defensive players played most of the day with discipline. Not only were they controlling their gaps, they were tackling well. Until near the end. With 12:10 left, Jacquizz Rodgers burst up the middle for what looked like another 7- or 8-yard gain. But when Myron Beck closed, he didn’t wrap up. He led with a shoulder, bounced off into Easton Johnson, knocking him loose as well, and Rodgers went 39 yards for his second score. That made it 35-10 OSU and the Cougars were done.
Pat on the back
The loss of two oft-used defensive linemen last week meant WSU was down to three available linemen who had been on the field much at all this season. With no relief in sight, Casey Hamlett, Anthony Laurenzi and Travis Long played nearly every snap. As co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball said, it’s not often the big guys, who get banged around every snap, are able to go that long. With no other option, they did what they had to do.
By this time of the season the only thing that can be fixed might be the injury list. Two more were injured Saturday, with defensive back Brandon Jones possibly out this week with a back problem and receiver Johnny Forzani trying to recover from a mild concussion.
Three unanswered questions
• Can WSU contain Jake Locker? The Cougars didn’t have to worry about Locker last season as the junior quarterback was out with a thumb injury. But for the second time this season the depleted WSU defense will be dealing with a strong, fast quarterback who is capable of making as many big plays with his feet as with his arm. The last time the Cougars faced this problem, Oregon’s Jeremiah Masoli caused them fits.
• Will the Washington crowd cause the Cougars problems? The young team has started slowly on the road almost every time this season. If it happens again Saturday, WSU could be once again out of touch by the end of the first quarter – and without a home crowd to lift it back into it.
• Can the offense score more than one touchdown? The last time it did was against Notre Dame, and that was with a healthy Jeff Tuel. But the Washington defense has been nearly as vulnerable as WSU’s this season (104th nationally in total defense, compared to WSU’s 120th), especially through the air, giving up 255.7 yards per game. If Kevin Lopina can get time, the receivers should be open. Then he has to connect.