PULLMAN – Want proof of how thoroughly Washington controlled the line of scrimmage in Friday’s 45-17 thrashing of Washington State?
Here’s one piece of evidence: Hercules Mata’afa, the Cougars’ stud defensive end, scarcely made an impact.
The 252-pound sophomore finished with three tackles and shared a tackle for loss with Ngala Tapa during a forgettable afternoon at Martin Stadium for the WSU defensive front.
The 109th Apple Cup wasn’t enjoyable for the Cougars’ offensive line, either.
“He got me on a few plays,” UW left tackle Trey Adams said of Mata’afa. “That guy is pretty strong and he can get off the ball. Their whole D-line and how they move so much is pretty effective, but I felt like we locked it down it pretty well.”
Pretty well? Consider this:
The Cougars never got to Huskies quarterback Jake Browning – final team totals: zero sacks, two tackles for loss – and Washington’s running backs snaked their way to 4.8 yards per carry and 164 yards against a WSU defense that ranked first in the Pac-12 against the run.
“We didn’t have too many negative plays,” UW coach Chris Petersen said, “which this team is really good about blowing up the run game and creating negative plays.”
The Huskies were just as dominant in the trenches when the Cougars had the ball – particularly in critical situations in the red zone. WSU traveled inside the 20 on six drives, and it managed two touchdowns and a field goal.
Most notable were Washington’s two goal-line stops, the first that continued the Cougars’ frustration in the first half and the second – late in the third quarter – that all but sealed WSU’s fate.
UW’s initial stand came in the second quarter after Jamal Morrow’s 64-yard punt return to the UW 6-yard line. The Cougars were called for a false start, then attempted four straight runs. They got to the 2, and on fourth down Gerard Wicks was taken down inches short of the goal line.
“We love that type of stuff as a defense,” safety Budda Baker said.
Late in the third quarter, the Cougars had a chance to get back in the game, or at least make things interesting. After starting the second half with a touchdown drive to cut UW’s lead to 35-17, the Cougs forced a three-and-out before Luke Falk and Gabe Marks started connecting down the field.
WSU marched all the way to the 1 on a James Williams run, but Wicks again was stoned.
“That’s a hard run offense to stop when they only need a yard or 2 yards,” Petersen said. “They make those splits and they’ve got some big guys up there and so it was awesome to see. That’s really when you want to see that D-line take over because it’s a hard team for the D-line to take over just in terms of pass protection techniques, how much they throw it.
“A lot of times it doesn’t turn into a physical game, but now they’ve had a few of them turn into that. It was good to see.”
The Cougars made a concerted effort to run the ball but finished with a mere 65 yards on 24 carries (2.4 yards per run).
Just another indicator of the Huskies’ overpowering day at the line of scrimmage.
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.