The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

WSU defense could fuel miracle season

Ron Stone Jr., Brennan Jackson shine in Wisconsin win
Brennan Jackson celebrates toward his sideline after recovering a fumble forced by Ron Stone Jr., Sept. 9.

“Strip sack and a touchdown. Stone and Jackson, stone cold. Touchdown Cougars,” Mark Jones and Louis Riddick said on the ABC broadcast. 

Stone cold. The second strip-sack by Ron Stone Jr. of the game and the second fumble recovery and first touchdown by Brennan Jackson of the game solidified their performances as the highlighted what became a big upset win over then-No. 19 Wisconsin. 

Ron Stone Jr. pounces on Wisconsin QB Tanner Mordecai to force a strip-sack fumble, Sept. 9.

Over the first two weeks of the season, the offense, and specifically new offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle, have been the focus of the football team. Rightfully so, as Arbuckle has the offense looking its best since the Gardner Minshew-led team in 2018. 

But the defense has balled out for the most part. Especially in stopping the run, WSU has been controlling the trenches and forcing opposing teams to beat them with their arms rather than their legs. 

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In week one against Colorado State, the defense gave up a total of 37 rushing yards, and once the offense got a lead, the Rams had to abandon the run and try to make a comeback through the air. 

The secondary picked up where the front seven left off, intercepting two passes throughout the game. Jaden Hicks took his interception to the house for a pick-six and Jackson Lataimua picked up the other inception for the defense. 

Aiding in stopping the air raid, the Cougs defensive line tallied three sacks but kept getting pressure throughout the game. 

While the Colorado State game was a relatively strong showing against Wisconsin, the defense took it to a whole other level. In the Badgers first game of the year, they tallied 317 rushing yards, with two running backs each having over 140 yards individually. 

It looked like a tall task for a Cougs defense that just one year ago gave up 172 yards on the ground. But the team shut down the run in front of the home crowd. 

On 29 carries, Wisconsin had just 90 yards on the ground. Thanks to Arbuckle’s offense scoring often in the first half, it forced the Badgers to play from behind and rely on the arm of Tanner Mordecai, which is where Stone Jr. and Jackson shined their brightest. 

As a whole, the team only had three sacks, but in nearly every play at least one Coug made their way into the backfield and forced Mordecai to scramble and make something out of nothing. On his blind side, Stone Jr. had his two nearly identical strip sacks diving on his back and forcing the ball out, with identical outcomes as Jackson was right there in the backfield, ready to pick up the ball. 

Forcing three turnovers while the WSU offense kept ball security locked down became the recipe for success. WSU allowed just six third-down conversions on 17 attempts for the Badgers offense on top of their consistent pressure. They fed off the home crowd’s energy to stop Wisconsin’s offense consistently. 

Wisconsin QB Tanner Mordecai rolls to his left and makes a throw on the run as Ron Stone Jr chases him, Sept. 9.

As Jake Dickert said on the field after the game, WSU belongs in the Power Five.

“In this moment, it is everything. We belong in the Power Five,” Dickert
said. “We’re all we got; we’re all we need.”

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About the Contributors
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.
MADDY RICE, Evergreen photographer
Maddy Rice is a photographer for the Daily Evergreen. Originally from White Center, Washington, she is a sophomore majoring in Business Managment, with a minor in Sports Managment. Maddy began working for the Daily Evergreen in the Fall of 2023.