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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Cougars question New Mexico’s size after inability to run the ball

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Washington State walked into University Stadium Friday night thinking it would be able to run all over an undersized Lobo defensive line that averages about 240 pounds.

By game’s end, even with a 21-17 win in hand, the Cougars weren’t sure of anything — even letting loose a suspicion that New Mexico’s defenders might not be what they’re listed as in the program.

“I don’t believe those weights anymore. They looked bigger,” said WSU offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller. “We tried to play both running backs. Their scheme was pretty solid, a little different than what we expected.”

But no matter who was in the backfield, first-time starter Chris Bruhn or backup Jerome Harrison in his Cougar debut, there was almost nothing to be had on the ground.

WSU ran for just 31 yards on 31 carries Friday night (though in fairness, quarterback Josh Swogger is credited with – 15 yards because of quarterback sacks.) Even still, however, the Cougars had no choice but to go aerial down the stretch as they continued to get stonewalled.

Cougar coaches and players were complimentary of a Lobo defense that attacked with everything from a 3-4 to a 2-3 look that featured defensive backs attacking the line from bizarre angles. Lobo defenders came especially hard off the edges, often meeting a WSU rusher in the backfield before anything could develop.

The result of it all was also a minimal push on the line, and nothing more than no yards and a cloud of dust on most carries.

“They did a nice job of getting in the gaps,” offensive line coach George Yarno said. “We didn’t give up any penetration, but we didn’t get movement either.

“At times we got four yards, and that’s not bad, that’s not the end of the world.”

In fact, the Cougars never got more than five yards on a run play, despite Bruhn getting a career-high 20 carries. Harrison ran three times, didn’t gain a yard on any one of them, and finished with – 1 yard.

“We didn’t have the run game with us today,” left tackle Calvin Armstrong admitted. “They confused us a little bit.”

But despite the ugly results from Friday night, Armstrong wouldn’t budge an inch when asked if the Cougars were fine with reverting to a pass-happy attack like they had to in Albuquerque.

“No, no, no, no. Nobody on the offensive line, the coaches, is OK with just throwing the ball every time,” he said. “But today just wasn’t a good day for us, whatever the reason may be.”