All 52 games of Peyton Pelluer’s Washington State career, as told by the longest-tenured player in Cougar football history
Fri., Nov. 23, 2018
Washington State Cougars linebacker Peyton Pelluer (47) is mobbed by fans after defeating Oregon during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, October 20, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. WSU won the game 34-20. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
PULLMAN – “How’s your memory?”
That’s the first question I pose to Peyton Pelluer when we meet in a team room inside the Cougars Football Complex Monday afternoon. Pelluer chuckles first, then gives me an answer along the lines of “we’ll see.” It doesn’t matter now, because the sixth-year Washington State linebacker has already agreed to do something no Cougar player before him – and perhaps nobody after him – will probably have the chance to do.
The son of a WSU linebacker, the grandson of a Cougar defensive end and the great grandson of an ex-Wazzu flanker, Pelluer had a groundbreaking moment two days before our meet-up. He became the first player in Washington State history – that’s 124 years and more letterwinners than I care to add up (but well over 2,000) – to play in at least 52 career games. Pelluer tied former teammates Daniel Ekuale and Gabe Marks in a game at Colorado, then secured the school record last Saturday in Pullman against Arizona.
And maybe it still hasn’t processed.
“It’s kind of just mind-blowing, to be honest with you,” he said. “And the fact that, who the heck’s going to beat this record?”
Both fortune and misfortune have allowed this to happen for Pelluer, who additionally is seventh all-time in tackles (325) and ninth in tackles-for-loss (32).
I point out anyone who breaks his record in the future probably has to match the linebacker in postseason appearances, which will extend his football life by a minimum of four games when the current 2018 season is over.
“And break a foot,” the linebacker adds, laughing at his own expense. Pelluer’s year-ending injury in 2017 allowed him to apply for a medical redshirt and return this season. The freak accident inadvertently added three more games to his career total.
Pelluer and I pull up desk chairs to a ping pong table in the back of the team room. I have a paper print out of Pelluer’s career game-by-game log, so he takes my media guide for reference.
And off we go…
Pelluer’s exercise is to go down the list and tell me about every game he’s played in. All 52. And despite a few brief interruptions from quarterback Gardner Minshew, coach Mike Leach and a few others, we manage to complete the task in just under an hour.
It’s well worth it for me – an enlightening and anecdotal look into the career of the longest-tenured player in Washington State history. And hopefully it isn’t too tedious for Pelluer, who’s five days from playing the most significant game of his career: a fourth meeting with the Washington Huskies in the Apple Cup.
Nevertheless, here it is: all 52 games of Peyton Pelluer’s storied WSU career, as told by Peyton Pelluer.
Aug. 28 – A 41-38 loss vs. Rutgers (in Seattle)
“That was my first start at personal protector (a special teams position), so I probably only got like six snaps. But I think first play, I almost blew a protection, so that was good. Got chewed out for that, but made my first tackle which was cool.”
Sept. 5 – A 24-13 loss at Nevada
“Got in on kickoff, totally whiffed, could’ve made a tackle, didn’t. And then we lost and Leach probably had one of the most angry rants I’ve ever heard.”
Minshew walks into the room after fulfilling one of his many pre-Apple Cup media obligations, “Are you going through every game you’ve ever played?” the Heisman candidate asks Pelluer, who became one of Minshew’s closest companions when the QB arrived in the summer. Pelluer nods his head, Minshew walks out and on we go…
Sept. 13 – A 59-21 win vs. Portland State
“That was actually the first game I got linebacker snaps. Got some linebacker reps in the second half because we were kicking ass. I don’t really remember anything.”
Sept. 20 – A 38-31 loss vs. Oregon
“I got in on linebacker and the only thing I remember about it is (Marcus) Mariota scrambled every time. I remember I was always on his (NFL)Draft highlights just like in the background, running for my life. That was awesome.”
Sept. 27 – A 28-27 win at Utah
“That was just a cool game in general. We were not supposed to win, but we ended up obviously winning and got some linebacker reps, too. They had a punt return on us.”
Oct. 4 – A 60-59 loss vs. Cal
“That was just a heartbreaker. Didn’t play much, got a couple reps.”
Oct. 10 – A 34-17 loss at Stanford
“Stanford is really where I took over, I played basically that whole game which was super fun. It was down there and I kind of just low-key balled out.”
Oct. 24 – A 59-37 loss at Arizona
“I think I had my first TFL.”
Nov. 1 – A 44-17 loss to USC
“USC was fun because I got to play in the fourth quarter, even though we got our asses kicked and (Connor) Halliday broke his leg. It was super foggy, but my best friend (USC QB) Max Browne got to go in and we were literally playing against each other. That was a super cool moment.”
Nov. 8 – A 39-32 win at Oregon State
“That was my first win as a starter and that was Luke’s (Falk) first win, too. That was probably my favorite game at Oregon State because we played in the day, it was a beautiful day. I don’t know why we didn’t play in the day more often down there. Probably because we never play in the day.”
Nov. 22 – A 52-31 loss at Arizona State
“We should’ve honestly beat them. We were kicking their ass in the first half. That was fun too, though, because I got to play against another one of my good buddies, (defensive back) Jordan Simone, who’s from Skyline too.”
Nov. 29 – A 31-13 loss to Washington
“Apple Cup. That was really cold and miserable. I remember we were staying in Lewiston, too, for all these games and when we were driving up to the game from Lewiston – once we got to the top of the hill, it was just snow and we were like, (expletive). But out on the field it was just ice. Just balls of ice. It was just freezing, so if you fell you would just get cut up by these ice chunks. It was just a terrible game in general.”
Sept. 5 – A 24-17 loss vs. Portland State
“OK 2015, Portland State. Start out with a cool ‘L.’ That was another miserable game because it was just torrential downpour.”
Sept. 12 – A 37-34 win at Rutgers
“2015 was probably my favorite season because then we go to Rutgers, which was a cool trip. We went a day early and this was also (defensive coordinator) (Alex) Grinch’s first year. Both Portland State and Rutgers were probably one of my worst games at linebacker just because I was still getting adjusted to where to put my eyes, where I fit in that system.”
Sept. 19 – A 31-14 win vs. Wyoming
“Wyoming was just a fun game, I think I had 13, 14 tackles. Third down and fourth down stop, back to back, which was fun. We got the dub.”
Oct. 3 – A 34-28 loss at Cal
“Cal was frustrating. That was (Jared) Goff’s last year. We had a fake (punt) in for that week and (Eric) Mele was our special teams coordinator. He was on our own 40 and they had their defensive safe out there, so it was like a hard no. Don’t run it. And (the WSU punter) ends up running it, fumbles, scoop and score. So that sucked.”
Oct. 10 – A 45-38 win at Oregon
“That was super fun. So, fun fact, I actually had a double ear infection that whole game. I guess it was super loud, but I had no idea. It ended up working out, obviously we got the dub. It got worse during the game so at the end of the game I was like, this really hurts. So the whole overtime experience, I was like deaf. Then the flight home was super fun.”
Oct. 17 – A 52-31 win vs. Oregon State.
“That was a beautiful game, super sunny. Oh … I remember I was running down on kickoff and I think (Erik) Powell booted it into the end zone, but there was a crack block coming. Blew the whistle, it was touchback and this guy just clocks me. Totally takes me off my feet. I got decked, drew a flag though, got up like a champ.”
Oct. 24 – A 45-42 win at Arizona
“This was a fun game. Honestly all these games were fun. I just had a few plays each game of either TFLs or just solid plays I’d be proud of even having this year. I think I had the most tackles (in 2015). Grinch had me coming off the edge a lot and that was before teams could really figure out what we were doing and so I was free coming off the edge multiple times and would just tackle the dive for loss. We were up big most of the game, then they ended up coming back.”
We briefly get off topic, debating who was quarterbacking the Wildcats in 2015. We decide, correctly, on Anu Solomon. “OK, let’s move on,” he says.
Oct. 31 – A 30-28 loss vs. Stanford
“It never should’ve came down to that (Powell’s missed FG). Because one, Powell was like perfect. He was solid, we were shutting them down. I wasn’t out on the field for most of their touchdowns, which I’m not saying I would’ve stopped it, but it was unfortunate. It was super rainy, but for the most part I was super pumped on our defense. We shut down (Christian) McCaffrey, held him to the least amount of yards he had all season. We did that in ’15 and ’16. We should’ve got that W, that was frustrating.”
Nov. 7 – A 38-24 win vs. Arizona State
“That was a fun game because we were down early, maybe two-plus scores. Ended up coming back and low-key beating their ass. So that was fun and I got to play my buddy Simone again. He’s a baller so it was fun seeing him.”
Nov. 14 – A 31-27 win at UCLA
“UCLA, Rose Bowl. Gabe Marks, Falk balled out. Falk balled out this whole year. This was low-key his best year. We had 76,000 people at the UCLA game? Is this actual attendance or is this what the stadium holds? (I tell him it’s the attendance) No way. That’s crazy.”
I interject again: “They don’t fill the Rose Bowl like that for UCLA games anymore.” Pelluer replies: “Yeah, definitely not. You can see that on film.”
Nov. 21 – A 27-3 win vs. Colorado
“That was me and Phillip Lindsay’s first battle because he was an up-and-comer. We kicked their ass up here, that was super cold. That was a fun game and that was the first time we unveiled the white helmets. No, we unveiled the white helmets in 2014, but we did the white helmets with the numbers. I’ve always had good games in that combo, but everybody gets hurt in that combo. It’s so weird, so you’ll probably never see those ever again.”
Nov. 27 – A 45-10 loss at Washington
“That was probably the best Apple Cup I’ve ever had. Had like 13 or so tackles, couple TFLs, but that was just frustrating. Luke was out, Bender was in. I don’t know, it was super unfortunate. It was honestly a nightmare. We’d come off the field, they either scored or we got three-and-out or a turnover. There was no in between. Then we’d go right back out because they turned it over or something crazy happened. That was a never-ending nightmare.”
Dec. 26 – A 20-14 win vs. Miami (Sun Bowl)
“That was just a fun bowl to go to. One, we did the most fun things there. We went to a ranch, had these bomb-ass steaks. What else did we do at the Sun Bowl?”
Sports Information Director Bobby Alworth, from the back of the room, lends a refresher, “We went go-kart racing.” “Oh yeah,” Pelluer says, “we went go-kart racing.” “Strip club,” he adds. “Just kidding.” Quickly, Alworth interrupts, “We did NOT go to that,” before offering “how about (your) diving pick in the end zone?” And now we’re back on track…
“Oh yeah, that was cool. I forgot who tipped it. Maybe Chuck (Charleston White)? That was cool, though, because they were driving, play-action, I drove out, just start running for the dig. I saw the ball go right past my head, gets tipped, I catch it in the end zone. I just remember Taylor Taliulu just covering me up. He was like, ‘Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas.’ Because it was the day after Christmas. The series before that, I think I gave up a screen then we switched quarters and we flopped field and (Isaac) Dotson came up to me and he saw that I was just pissed. He was like, ‘Yo, you’re good bro. You’re going to make a play. Just keep playing.’ I listened to him and literally the next thing I know, that happens and I come on the sideline and he’s like, ‘Dude, I told you bro! I told you!’ It was awesome.”
“We’re flying now, two seasons down,” I tell Pelluer. “Yep, boom,” he says. Alworth wants to know what Pelluer told me about the loss to Portland State. He reminds the linebacker of Klay Thompson’s pregame cameo. “Oh yeah, he looked really out of it,” Pelluer said. “He was late, too.”
Sept. 13 – A 45-42 loss vs. Eastern Washington
“I feel like all our first-game losses were because – I remember I had a conversation with Grinch about this after the 2016 season. I was like, ‘Hey, we need to do more stuff in the offseason to prepare for different offenses.’ We had no identity as a defense going into any of our seasons except for 2017 when we finally got our first game win. We didn’t do anything, we don’t have a tight end in our system so anytime we’re doing good on goods, just spring ball or fall camp in general, we’re going against our offense and it literally doesn’t help us at all. But that was kind of just how we felt. So, Cooper Kupp. We didn’t have a good game plan against Coop and Eastern. They got us out. This four by one empty for a lot of game, we just did not know what to do about it.”
“Then my best friend, actually, I grew up with and went to Skyline with, Nic Sblendorio, was on that team, too. He also played receiver and there was this one play he got a jet sweep towards our sideline and I remember I was pursuing and I took a bad angle and he just took one step and I went right past him. To this day, he brags about juking me and it’s the most frustrating thing. But I remember, I think Kupp got a screen one time on the outside and Sblendo was blocking me and we were just dying laughing. I was like, ‘Get off me bro, get off me.’ That whole time we were just talking (expletive) to each other. That’s pretty wild we got that opportunity.”
Sept. 10 – A 31-28 loss at Boise State
“It was cool playing on the blue, but we lost and Leach was furious at us. I think we practiced in pads that next day on Sunday, so we were literally having a full-padded practice on Sunday. He was that mad. But during the postgame rant, he was like ‘Uh, uh, you guys don’t deserve to lift this week. That’s how poorly you played. We’re like looking around, ‘No lifts? OK cool. Sweet.’”
Sept. 17 – A 56-6 win vs. Idaho
I tell Pelluer Idaho is my alma mater. “That was a tough one for me.”
“Yeah, we smoked ’em.”
Oct. 1 – A 51-33 win vs. Oregon
“I think (Justin) Herbert came in late in that game and low-key tore us up, so that was kind of concerning.”
“That’s what you remember from that game?” Alworth says. “Six rushing touchdowns.” Pelluer responds, “Oh yeah. That was cool. We’re focusing on defense here, Bobby.”
“I remember me and Royce Freeman met in the hole, right on the goal line. And I stood him up for literally a millisecond. We were on the half-yard line. So he ends up scoring and he’s like, ‘Get your weight up, get your weight up.’ I couldn’t say anything back, I just got scored on. He also gave me a black eye, I don’t know how, his shoulder mad must have gone through my facemask. But one of my best buddies is an equipment manager (at Oregon) and I told him that story. He went up to Royce and Royce was like, ‘Oh man, I remember that play. Yo, your buddy low-key gave me a black eye, too.’ So we both got black eyes on the same play. But we won, so it was all good.”
Oct. 8 – A 42-16 win at Stanford
“We shut down McCaffrey, we got multiple turnovers. 2016 I think we had a lot of turnovers. Dot kind of stole a pick from me, I was there but he’s way more athletic than me. Speaking about another play: McCaffrey was in the pile and I was kind of in the back end of the pile and he just had the ball right there and I just started punching at it, but they hadn’t blown the whistle yet. The play was still going on and I was just punching at it and the ref was probably this close to pulling the flag. He pulled me off, ‘You can’t do that.’ ‘I’m just punching at the ball.’ He had no idea, that’s what Grinch taught us, had that instilled in me. Just punch that thing.”
Oct. 15 – A 27-21 win vs. UCLA
“That was kind of another wet game. I just remember Hanser had two punch-out force fumbles. I recovered one of them on their sideline.”
Oct. 22 – A 37-32 win at Arizona State
“Now that was a legit dogfight. They had their two big backs, I always forget their name. He was at Pac-12 Media Days, too, and we hung out with him but I always forget his name. Anyways, they ran ‘wildcat’ a lot of that game and they were just running power, counter, dive just right at us the whole game. After that game, I remember Wils (linebacker coach Ken Wilson) coming up to me and my knees, elbows, everything was just bloody. He’s like, yeah that was a helluva game. It was hard to win there, that was a tough place to play.”
“Kalen Ballage” was the name of the ASU tailback in question, Alworth reminds us.
“Yeah, Ballage. Gosh man, they were horses. They also had really good grass. Great grass. I love playing on a good grass field. That was just an enjoyable linebacker downhill, get your hands dirty kind of game.”
Oct. 29 – A 35-31 win at Oregon State
“That was the game down there that we were down low-key big at half and Leach threatened us to have another practice like we had after Boise State the year before if we didn’t win. We ended up balling out the second half. Luke and Gabe went off, Riv (Cracraft) went off. The first thing that pops into my mind this game…”
It’s about 2:15 p.m. now and Leach is getting ready to hold court with reporters for his Monday press conference. “Do you need Leach, Theo?” Alworth asks. “Umm, I’ll be OK. I’ll jump in toward the end,” I tell him. “He’s just going to say the same stuff,” Pelluer adds. Probably, and interview with Pelluer is going too well. We’re still just 34 games in, so I pass on the weekly presser. Back to Oregon State.
“I just remember I got a crack back one time and got the wind knocked out of me. I got up, was jogging to the ball and coach Wilson gave me a loaf on that play. It was the most frustrating thing. I’m pretty sure that happened against Miami, too. David Njoku, who’s on the Browns now, I was on his Draft highlights for getting completely crack backed.”
(The play Pelluer is referencing can be found below at the :55 mark)
When WSU players are graded, a “loaf” is given to someone who doesn’t show effort on a particular play.
Nov. 5 – A 69-7 win vs. Arizona
“It’s pretty cool the last two times Arizona’s been up here, we put 69 on them. So I hope they’re happy about that. Anu Solomon started that game and they were driving toward this end zone (pointing) and he scrambled. I was in coverage and Isaac (Dotson) caught up to him, stripped the ball and there was a big rush for the ball and I was at the bottom of it. Dot got it and he was like, ‘Peyton, you better get that ball! You better get that ball!’ I was like, ‘I’m trying, I’m trying.’ He’s like, ‘Hold onto that (expletive) ball, hold onto that ball.’ That just pops in my mind.’”
Nov. 12 – A 56-21 win vs. Cal
“So we were in those combos again, with the numbers (on the helmets). It was a (expletive) game for that. Riv got hurt, Dot got hurt, Dot’s backup (Nate) DeRider goes in, gets a pick, then a sack and hurts himself on the sack, so he’s out. So I end up playing ‘Will’ (linebacker) this entire game. Coach Wilson’s freaking out. He’s like getting Jahad (Woods) ready to go in and burn his redshirt. I’m like, ‘No, Wils, just put me at ‘Will,’ put Paris Taylor at ‘Mike.’ So this game was actually super fun for me, and I’m pretty sure I low-key balled out. And Dylan Hanser – Dot and Dylan got crazy concussions. Dylan was throwing up on the sidelines, that was crazy. But it was just Paris and I puttin’ on for the team as best we could. I remember they were in empty set, though, and I was covering (Khalfani) Muhammad, their really fast running back. He ended up scoring on me, which was really crappy.”
Nov. 19 – A 38-24 loss at Colorado
“We were still decimated. Frankie (Luvu) was playing “Will” most of the season but we had to move him to “Rush” once Dylan went down. So it was me at “Mike,” but we moved Parker Henry from Nickel. He was coming back from a hamstring injury from Stanford, so he was just getting healthy but he wasn’t really healthy. He had horse, not horse tranquilizer, but horse Icy Hot.
“So he put that on before every game?” I ask Pelluer.
“No, like every practice. It smelled like (expletive). You knew Parker was around, you could just smell it. I think I ended up playing maybe – special teams and defense included, because we could not get on the field on third down in the game – 113 snaps. Parker played like damn near the same amount on a super bad hamstring. This was just a grind and I’ve never been more sore after a game. At altitude, honestly altitude is all mental in my opinion.”
Leach walks into the room and greets us, “Hey, what’s happening?” “Hey coach,” Pelluer replies, as the WSU coach heads to his press conference. Back to our conversation. Pelluer had a career-high 16 tackles in the game he’s discussing. He didn’t have any when the Cougars returned to Boulder this year.
“It’s pretty wild. I guess it’s pretty fitting I go down there, have my season-high, then I go down here this year and get zero tackles.”
Nov. 26 – A 45-17 loss vs. Washington
“I think we went on defense first, I do down and tackle John Ross on kickoff, crowd is hyped. One, it’s a packed house cause we’re playing for the North. That was a super crappy game. Not much to say about that. Gaskin made me miss a couple times which was really frustrating because he didn’t make me miss in 2015. Actually I take that back, he did, but for the most part I did pretty good. Should’ve picked off Browning on the goal line, but don’t have good enough hands so I swatted it.”
Cougar cornerback Marcus Strong walks in to grab a water bottle. “What’s good with you, Peyton?” he says. “Whaddup Marcus?” “How you doin?” “Solid.” Pelluer and I continue to plug away.
Dec. 26 – A 17-12 loss vs. Minnesota (Holiday Bowl)
“Coach (Tracy) Claeys (now WSU’s defensive coordinator) and them, they shut us down on offense. They were only rushing three the whole game. They were physical, man. Them and, I didn’t play against Michigan State, but I could tell the Big Ten’s a physical conference. That was frustrating. Pip (Marcellus Pippins) should’ve had an interception in the end zone, but he jumped too early, tips it, they catch it for a touchdown. Just stupid stuff like that the whole game. But that was a fun week.”
Sept. 2 – A 31-0 win vs. Montana State
“We repped the hell out of Montana State’s offense early, like we should’ve. Even in spring ball. Our spring ball was cool. So each practice we went up against a different offense during our scout period. So one practice we’d be going up against Montana State, next would be Boise State, next would be Oregon State. So at least then we could get used to motions, tight ends, H-backs, slicing the back across formations. Just stuff we don’t see against our offense, and I think that’s why we shut them out the first game and got our first win to start the season since Leach has been here.”
Sept. 9 – A 47-44 (3OT) win vs. Boise State
“That was a helluva game. We were down 21 in the fourth. I just remember the whole time we were standing on the sideline like, ‘Dude, we’re fine. These guys should not beat us. They can’t beat us. We’ve got too many dudes. We’ve done too much the last couple years, this offseason, to let Boise State come in here and beat us.’ So we just kept at it. Then Nnamdi (Oguayo) dragged down their quarterback, he tried to flip it, boom pick-six. Shout-out Dot for the block, Hunter Dale for blocking the goal line. Even though I was blocking traffic, telling him to block that guy. Then just Klink (Tyler Hilinski) balling out. Jamal (Morrow) had super clutch runs. Obviously the one at the end, but there was one on third down where you could just tell he was so determined to get the first. He totally shouldn’t have, but he did just cause he’s such a stud. But that was just such a memorable game. I remember a lot of people left, but it was still so loud in those overtimes. I don’t remember the overtimes too much. Did we stop them? So that was fun.”
Sept. 16 – A 52-23 win vs. Oregon State
“Then Oregon State. Helluva game.”
We both bust out laughing. This is when Pelluer broke a navicular bone in his foot, forcing him to miss the remainder of the season.
“You know what’s funny is that the play I broke my foot on has been on our highlight tapes, because it’s kind of a highlight. It’s like me and Dot just diving at the quarterback. It was an example of a good play, but yeah, broke my foot. My foot was hurting this entire season. I remember going up to our trainer before Boise State. I was like, ‘Hey, my ankle kind of hurts. Can I have some Tylenol.’ So they gave me some Tylenol, I start rehabbing it. We didn’t know what was up with it, but it started feeling better once I started rehabbing it. Then I don’t know, against Oregon State maybe it was because I was launching. Then I stand up. I think that was a third down and they were kind of in four-down territory, but they called a timeout and thank god they did because I couldn’t run. I couldn’t walk. I go on the sideline, I’m like, ‘Wils, I can’t walk right now.’ They tried to re-tape me, I tried to jog around and it was so painful. I’ve never been injured like this before, so I didn’t know what it feels like, but at that time I knew something was off. I went into the locker room and then got X-rays up in the training room, then Dr. Tingstad was like, ‘Yeah, you broke your navicular.’ I was like, ‘What does that mean?’ He’s like, ‘Your season’s over.’ Senior campaign, done like that.”
Sept. 1 – A 41-19 win vs. Wyoming
“I think it was cool we got to play in two of the highest stadiums in the country in one season.”
I interject: “Can you tell the difference (between Wyoming and Colorado)?”
“See, not really. Obviously there’s some physiological effects you have to acknowledge, but for the most part, I can never really tell. And we didn’t have super long drives against Wyoming. They were pretty physical. They had a pretty physical offensive line compared to, honestly, a lot of these Pac-12 schools. But that was fun just to get our first dub. I had faith in this team and what we could do, especially once Gardner took the helm. I remember being pretty nervous before this game. That was just super refreshing.”
Sept. 8 – A 31-0 win vs. San Jose State
“We got the shutout, which was super cool, but anytime you kind of play those teams they’re not too memorable.”
Sept. 15 – A 59-24 win vs. Eastern Washington
“Eastern was a little bit more fun. We got revenge, so that’s what matters. Thank goodness they didn’t have Cooper Kupp again. I had become pretty good friends with their quarterback, Gage Gubrud, and he actually got injured this year so I’m pretty bummed that happened. (The game in 2016) was his first start against us and he’s been killing it. But glad we got revenge on him and Eastern.”
Sept. 21 – A 39-36 loss vs. USC
“Last time we were there, we beat USC in the Coliseum and we should’ve won. There was a lot of bad things about that game. The refs were all over us – all over me, because I was calling the move calls and they’re calling these delay of games. I’m like, ‘Who are you guys? We’ve been doing this for five years now.’ This can’t be happening. Out of control. And we were super confident going into it. I think they out-physicaled us – their offense out-physicaled us on defense, but they’re big and athletic. Their first drive they just manhandled us. But once we got them off schedule, in third downs and second-and-long situations, got our dime package out there, they couldn’t handle us. I just felt bad for (Darrien) Molton and Marcus and Sean (Harper) because they had some freaks on the outside. And that was literally their offense. Their offense was literally lob balls and penalties. So that was frustrating, but I’ll stop bitching about that.”
Sept. 29 – A 28-24 win vs. Utah
“That was just a gritty team win, to be honest. Man, their back (Zack Moss) was huge. A lot bigger than I thought he was. I bounced off him two or three times, it was super frustrating. So it wasn’t the best game for me if I’m being critically honest, but I got that sack when we needed it. That game was a mix of frustration and obviously joy because we got the win. Gardner went down and Easop (Winston Jr.) balled out there at the end, so that was super relieving. But we held them to 24 so I feel like it was a solid game for our defense.”
Oct. 6 – A 56-37 win at Oregon State
“Kind of the same thing, they had good backs and they always play us tough when we go down there. They play everybody tough in their stadium and that’s how it should be. So we kind of knew that going into it. But I mean it was a good game, that first half. Same thing, any of these games – especially when we get down to Stanford – I feel like we’re the best when our backs are up against the wall. Because we play with a chip on our shoulder regardless, but when we have to really prove it, especially when we’re playing teams we know we can beat – which is basically the entire Pac-12 – that’s when we get dangerous. I remember Hunter Dale giving me crap because he would be taking all these blocks and he’d be getting mad at me for making the tackle. He’s like, ‘Bro, can you please just take a block on for me for once.’”
I tell Pelluer he was one tackle shy from breaking into the school’s all-time top-10. I’d written up a brief about the milestone, but Pelluer fell short. “I remember Bobby (Alworth) telling me that,” he said. “I was like, ‘Dang, well I’ll get it next game.’”
Oct. 20 – A 34-20 win vs. Oregon
“That was just wild. I remember we were carving pumpkins – you already know this – and then (Nick) Begg is like, ‘(College) GameDay’s coming.’ I was like, ‘Psh, whatever dude, no they’re not.’ He’s like, ‘Nah, it’s official, they announced it.’ So that was just a shock and honestly it didn’t really kick in until we got off the buses here because the whole week – there was a lot of hype, but it was pretty routine for us. And then we’re in a hotel, at the Hilltop every Friday so we’re off doing our own thing all week. And then once we hopped off the bus, that was the most people I’ve ever seen. The whole week it was just getting hyped up. There’s going to be 100,000 people, National Guard is on call, just the craziest stuff.”
Another media relations official walks into the room. “Are we going to skip practice altogether so you can do this interview?” head SID Bill Stevens asks Pelluer, jokingly. “What time is it? I’m good, right?” the linebacker asks. Pelluer has a special teams meeting in an hour, so he’s OK on time and we’re down to our last five games. “Do you think Panda Express is open?” Pelluer asks Stevens. He’s planning to grab lunch after our interview. “Do you want me to get it for you?” Stevens offers. Stevens leaves the room and Pelluer texts his order. It includes orange chicken – double orange chicken, actually. Pelluer returns to the Oregon game.
“I remember it was so loud, that first drive they got three penalties. Then same thing, their guy jumps offsides and they call us for delay of game. Just stupid stuff. I could’ve had a pick. This is the game Sky (Thomas) tipped me a ball, but it was coming in hot. Oregon State, too, I came off the edge twice, they threw that screen, but it’s like right in my face. I should just stick to the bat downs. Oregon was just special.”
Oct. 27 – A 41-38 win vs. Stanford
“Same thing I was talking about earlier, Gardner and I were walking to the locker room at halftime (the Cougars trailed 28-17) and we were both like, ‘We’re solid, we’re good.’ We got the field goal right before half, so we had a little bit of momentum and I was just like, ‘Gard, we’re solid.’ He was perfectly confident, but I knew what this team – even in years past, when our back’s against the wall we’re dangerous. So I could feel we were not going to lose that game.”
Nov. 3 – A 19-13 win vs. Cal
“Just a defensive war, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, it really was. Just three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out. On both sides. It was fun, though, because that was our first game that we felt we were getting – besides Eastern – but Cal totally embarrassed us last year and I wasn’t playing, but we wanted to kind of get revenge and it was kind of a mix of, OK yeah go 1-0, it’s just another game, but yeah they kind of embarrassed us last year. So it was good to kind of get that revenge for the boys who were here last year.”
Nov. 10 – A 31-7 win at Colorado
“They played us tough as hell first half. Really just kind of went off in the second half. Felt like we played a pretty complete game. I didn’t do jack (expletive). I’ve never been more angry after a win than I was. And it’s selfish to say that, but that’s just the competitor in me. So it was just disappointing but I had to keep reminding myself, hey we won, chill out. I would’ve had a tackle but Jahad stripped it, so I met the guy in the hole – and 34 (Travon McMillian) was a good back, I had a couple times to tackle him in the backfield and just didn’t really bring my feet. But met him in the hole on that first trip and Jahad stripped it, so in the stat book he takes that away from me. So screw you, Jahad. But congrats on your Pac-12 Player of the Week.”
“They just kept running those tunnel screens and we just kept taking bad angles and I remember I was coming off the sidelines and Hunter and Cole Dubots, all those guys were like, every time they threw that screen, we saw you and were like, ‘Oh he’s about to get lit up.’ And then it just didn’t happen, so that was frustrating, too, because I had chances. It was awesome, it was a great game. And I just love playing in Boulder. It was such a beautiful day. I just remember getting there and going through our first warmup right off the bus. I was literally just standing in the sun and I didn’t want to move.”
Nov. 17 – A 69-28 win vs. Arizona
“Just kicked their ass. Gosh, their back (J.J. Taylor) is so tiny. He trucked Sky. That was funny. There was one play they ran a weak counter and Sherm was in – me and Dillon Sherman – and they had run one power, one weak power before that. So we kind of knew, and off film, we knew what the look was. Each team kind of has formational tendencies where they run certain plays out of certain formations. I told Sherm, I was like, ‘Hey, this is the formation, that guard is leaning, it’s going to be power.’ And sure enough it was. Met J.J. right in the hole. He was so low. I literally just pressed him down. It was so weird. It was one of the weirder tackles I’ve ever had. Also got kicked in the nuts that game, too, so that was cool. He threw his leg up late getting tackled and I was running in. It sucked.”
* This interview was edited for brevity.
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