On a rainy day in Pullman, the Portland State Vikings (1-0) ran wild over the Cougar (0-1) defense as they picked up a 24-17 road victory. This was the first time in program history that Portland State beat a Pac-12 school, and the first time that the Vikings picked up a victory over Washington St.
Washington State’s defense proved incapable of stopping “quarterback” Paris Penn from running — Penn never attempted a pass — as he picked up 57 yards on 13 carries, including a touchdown, to help carry the Vikings to victory. The Vikings completely controlled the line of scrimmage, and opened up massive holes for the ball carriers to get through. New defensive coordinator Alex Grinch seemed way over his head in the early going, as the defense struggled to adapt to the changes PSU made to its game plan at the half.
As for the vaunted Air Raid, sophomore Luke Falk was never able to get it going for more than a drive. Yes there were several dropped passes by his receivers that cost the Cougars first downs throughout the first half and early in the second. It was frustrating to watch as no one was able to take advantage of the big holes that Portland State was leaving in the defensive secondary.
Despite the offenses clear struggles, the only turnover came when Falk was replaced by Peyton Bender in the fourth quarter — Falk was injured scrambling for a first down. Bender very quickly demonstrated why he didn’t take the starting job from Falk during the fall camp by throwing the ball into triple-coverage on three of his four pass attempts…the third and final one led to the game sealing interception.
The real downer here is the fact that special teams has continued to be an area of major weakness for Washington State. It is now crystal clear that Andrew Furney’s leg was able to mask a lot of the issues that the Cougars special teams possess, year in and year out. And that has to make you wonder about the man at the top of the program.
Mike Leach is in year four of his rebuild project, yes he got the Cougars to a bowl game in his second year, but defense and special teams continue to cause all sorts of problems for the football program. Those two units were atrocious in 2014, and are off to an auspicious start in 2015 with this incredibly disappointing loss to Portland State. Is there a chance that the defense could solidify and the special teams might stop fumbling? Absolutely (this is the first game after all), but it’s also really clear that whatever coaching method being used isn’t working…and it needs a drastic change.
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