PULLMAN – Washington State’s offensive line is giving up one sack every 66 pass attempts – one of many numbers that suggests drastic improvement from the unit in 2018.
Tuesday, the Cougars’ offensive line was recognized as one of 10 semifinalists for the Joe Moore Award, representing the most outstanding offensive line units in college football.
Along with WSU, the nine other seminfinalists are Alabama, Arizona State, Clemson, Georgia, Memphis, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin.
The Joe Moore Award will list its selection of finalists on Dec. 4 and announce its 2018 recipient by making a surprise visit to the winner’s campus in late December.
The Cougars have thrown the football 583 times this season, but quarterback Gardner Minshew has been sacked just nine times – seventh-fewest in the country.
Behind his offensive line, comprised of left tackle Andre Dillard, left guard Liam Ryan, center Fred Mauigoa, right guard Josh Watson and right tackle Abraham Lucas, Minshew has led the country’s top passing offense and has thrown an FBS-high 36 touchdown passes.
“I can’t thank them enough,”Minshew said Saturday after a 69-28 win over Arizona. “Just being able to sit back there and letting the receivers, giving them more time to work, I think that was a huge part in letting us be so successful.”
Cougar running backs James Williams and Max Borghi are averaging 4.69 yards per carry this season and have rushed for 17 touchdowns.
The O-line’s feats are impressive when you consider it lost three starters, including All-American left guard Cody O’Connell and All-Pac-12 right tackle Cole Madison, who was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Cougars also had to replace longtime offensive line coach Clay McGuire, who left for Texas Tech in the offseason. McGuire was replaced by Mason Miller, who came to WSU from Nevada nearly 23 years after playing running back for Cougars coach Mike Leach at Valdosta State.
“As far as playing together, I think they’re more synchronized than any other group we’ve had,” Leach said of his O-line in 2018.
According to the Joe Moore Award committee, WSU’s O-line is “one of hardest units to judge because of pass heavy scheme. But they are excellent at what they do [pass protection] even though they aren’t asked to do a whole lot. Pocket holds up really well. Extremely consistent.”
- The Power Five average for “clean pockets” (pass protection opportunities with no pressures allowed by an O-lineman) is 80 percent, but the Cougars are keeping a clean pocket 86 percent of the time – the best rate in the Pac-12 Conference.
The past recipients of the Joe Moore Award include the offensive lines of the University of Alabama (2015), the University of Iowa (2016) and the University of Notre Dame (2017).
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