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Not just five pennies, but one unified nickel

WSU offensive line has not given up sack since last year’s Apple Cup

The+offensive+line+and+members+of+the+WSU+football+team+kneel+after+running+out+of+the+tunnel+right+before+the+coin+toss+Saturday+night+against+San+Jose+State+at+Martin+Stadium.
The offensive line and members of the WSU football team kneel after running out of the tunnel right before the coin toss Saturday night against San Jose State at Martin Stadium.

The offensive line and members of the WSU football team kneel after running out of the tunnel right before the coin toss Saturday night against San Jose State at Martin Stadium.

BENJAMIN MICHAELIS | THE DAILY EVERGREEN

BENJAMIN MICHAELIS | THE DAILY EVERGREEN

The offensive line and members of the WSU football team kneel after running out of the tunnel right before the coin toss Saturday night against San Jose State at Martin Stadium.

JACKSON GARDNER, Evergreen assistant sports editor

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Another week has gone by and it’s another clean sheet for the WSU offensive line.

Of the 108 passing attempts thrown from graduate transfer Gardner Minshew II and the three attempts from redshirt junior Anthony Gordon, neither quarterback has been taken down for a sack in 2018.

That’s a pretty shocking statistic considering the question marks that have floated around them and the three new additions to the unit.

The team’s cohesiveness pretty much surprised everyone except those on the WSU offensive line.

“I mean, you guys may be surprised, but we’ve been at it since passing in January,” redshirt sophomore left guard Liam Ryan said. “We’ve been so tight that it’s unbelievable.”

If you really want to have fun with that stat, you can go back a season ago and calculate three straight games — the 2017 Holiday Bowl and the first two weeks of the 2018 season — where opposing defenses hadn’t recorded a sack.

In fact, in order to find the last time a WSU quarterback has been sacked, you would need to go back to the third quarter of the 2017 Apple Cup. So in total, Cougar quarterbacks have attempted 188 passes since last being sacked. It’s an impressive number.

Head Coach Mike Leach, who is routinely a tough critic of his offensive line, had relatively nice things to say about the group up front.

“I thought they did a good job in the first half,” Leach said. “I think Gardner does a pretty good job of getting rid of it so I think both of them work together and I did think they protected pretty well for most of the game. I didn’t think they came off the ball well.”

Even with the last jab at the end, that’s pretty high praise from Leach, who once compared his offensive line’s intensity to that of a “[junior college] softball team.”

But it’s not just the lack of sacks, it’s the lack of quarterback hurries that make this WSU offensive line look so good right now. Only four quarterback hurries in two games is just as impressive as no sacks allowed.

All four of those quarterback hurries came Saturday. So in week one, with three new starters on the offensive line, Minshew went unscathed against a well-seasoned pass rush from the University of Wyoming.

Make what you will of the four quarterback hurries allowed Saturday against the clearly inferior San Jose State University team, but, as Ryan said, it’s evident the WSU offensive line is clicking as a unit.

“Last couple years I think this group has been the closest,” Ryan said. “Our coach says don’t be five pennies, be a nickel. So were just trying to be a whole cohesive unit and just being aggressive on the offensive line.”

Just two weeks into the season and two big wins against two Mountain West opponents, the Cougars’ offensive line is certainly fitting that nickel mold.

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Not just five pennies, but one unified nickel