PULLMAN – Though the causation is probably only mild, the correlation is undeniable: The Washington State football team’s ascension over the last month has coincided perfectly with its increased ability to put opposing quarterbacks on their backsides.
The Cougars only mustered a pair of sacks over their first three games, and went 1-2 in those contests. But WSU managed six sacks over its next three games and went undefeated during that stretch. Even though the WSU pass rushers never got home in last weekend’s win over UCLA, they routinely forced quarterback Mike Fafaul to bail out of the pocket and hurried him into a pair of interceptions.
While WSU still ranks last in the Pac-12 in total sacks, they will finish at least a couple spots higher if they can continue to manufacture pressure at their October rate.
Interestingly, WSU’s newfound pass rush is not directly because of a newly dominant player. Hercules Mata’afa has played well in recent weeks and leads the team with three sacks.
But hurting hurlers has been a group effort for the Cougars, and the players credit improved communication for the recent success.
“When I’m lined up and I’ve got either Daniel (Ekuale) or Garrett (McBroom) there, I know that they come off the ball differently, I know they do different moves,” rush linebacker Dylan Hanser said. “So I can set that up, as far as what I’m going to do.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.