CORVALLIS, Ore. – Amid myriad questions about whether Washington State’s football team has improved from a season ago, there is one department in which it is no longer an arguable subject.
This Cougars team is considerably better at rushing the passer than in 2011.
WSU (2-4, 0-3 Pac-12) recorded its 17th, 18th and 19th quarterback sacks in a 19-6 loss to Oregon State on Saturday, surpassing last year’s season total of 17. And this season is only six games old.
Senior linebacker /defensive end Travis Long, who entered the game ranked in a tie for third nationally with 6.5 sacks, picked up No. 7.5 with a sack of Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion during the first half.
WSU’s pass rush was the primary reason why the Cougars were so successful on defense against the Beavers, holding OSU out of the end zone until the third quarter despite being backed up against their red zone on a number of occasions.
The pressure on Mannion resulted in three interceptions.
“Travis Long, he’s a presence out there and every quarterback in the nation should watch out for him,” said junior safety Deone Bucannon, who intercepted Mannion in the first half.
“It makes DBs’ jobs way easier when quarterbacks focus on a D-linemen-slash- linebacker out there roaming the field, and we’re just back there reading his eyes.”
The effort was also appreciated by WSU’s quarterbacks.
“Our defense played a heck of a game and we didn’t capitalize on any of it,” Connor Halliday said. “With the way our defense played, that should be a win for us 10 out of 10 times.”
“They gave us every opportunity in the world to win the game,” Jeff Tuel said.
WSU started the same offensive line it did last week, but made some changes late in the first half.
Right tackle Wade Jacobson saw his first action since leaving WSU’s loss to Colorado with an undisclosed injury, with the Cougars removing John Fullington and moving Matt Goetz to left guard and Jake Rodgers to right guard.
Later, Rodgers left the game and Fullington went back in at left guard, with Goetz moving back to the right side.
Simone breaks out
If there was one positive for WSU from the offensive side of the ball, it was the reemergence of senior receiver Gino Simone.
The Sammamish, Wash., native caught three passes for 83 yards, just 3 yards shy of his career high for a single game. He caught four passes for 69 yards all of last season.