USC runs right through WSU
Tackling woes continue as Washington State gets hammered by USC
Seattle Times staff reporter
PULLMAN — Chris Ball, the Washington State defensive coordinator, took a postgame podium Saturday and addressed an old theme — the Cougars' tackling. Given the recurring nature of the problem, his weary statement was fitting.
"It's killing us," Ball said. "Killing us ... killing us."
It's killing them.
So beleaguered is WSU's defense that it never forced a Southern California punt, and the Trojans rolled up 613 yards in a 50-16 victory, marking the ninth time in coach Paul Wulff's three-year tenure the Cougs have surrendered 50 or more.
Particularly troublesome to WSU (1-3) was USC fullback Stanley Havili, a versatile threat who seems to get lost in the attention given to the Trojans' tailback depth.
Havili had a 59-yard burst for a touchdown on USC's first play from scrimmage and caught five passes for a team-leading 107 yards, including one for 58 yards.
"They came out and did something different today," Ball said. "He'd been a fullback most of the year. Today, they went with what we call '11' personnel — one tight end and one running back — and he was the tailback.
"He came right out of the gate and really got after it. He's a good all-around football player."
WSU scored on a 29-yard pass from former quarterback Jeffrey Solomon, now a receiver, to Jared Karstetter, for an early 7-0 lead.
"It was an energy boost," said Solomon. "The fans got into it. It was all good."
Until, at least, Havili carved up the Cougars on his opening run, on which WSU linebacker Myron Beck said his team had "three or four missed tackles."
On WSU's second play after that, quarterback Jeff Tuel was intercepted throwing in the flat for Marquess Wilson, and corner Nickell Robey took it 25 yards to put USC (4-0) ahead for good.
"It's one of those things I don't think I'll do again," said Tuel.
With WSU down 21-13, late in the first half, Havili stung the Cougars again, running for 15 yards on a third-and-13 draw play at the WSU 32. Two plays later, USC scored for a 28-13 lead, and it was never a contest again.
"This is the closest we've played to a complete game," said USC coach Lane Kiffin.
Meanwhile, the tackling issue has become vexing for the Cougars.
"A lot of times," said defensive end Travis Long, "we're over-running, over-pursuing. The flow's getting too far one way and they're able to cut back on us. We need to slow down and take better angles, and quit lunging and reaching."
"It's just 'want-to,' " said Beck. "You've got to want to get to the ball."
Said a frustrated Ball, "We've got to be more physical. It's not just technique, it's a frame of mind. We've got to sit down and really evaluate what we're doing, tackle-wise."
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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