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WSU football: Washington State makes changes on defense after Rutgers meltdown

Washington State appears to be making some defensive changes after their 41-38 loss to Rutgers. At Saturday's practice the starting defense was featuring several different players.

Washington State will be looking to improve their defense after losing to Rutgers.
Washington State will be looking to improve their defense after losing to Rutgers.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

In their first game of the season the Cougars gave up 496 yards of offense and 41 points, but more importantly couldn't stop Rutgers when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter. Missed tackles and poor defensive line play led to a majority of the yardage gained by the Scarlet Knights.

Coach Mike Leach was not happy about his team's defensive performance.

"For too long around this university expectations and performances and all that has been too low." Leach said after the Rutgers loss. "We've got to change that. We've got to expect more out of ourselves and we've got to get more out of ourselves, starting with the coaches."

Heading into the season the defensive line was thought to be one of the strengths of the team, but they were easily out-played by the Rutgers offensive line.

"I don't think we ever established the line of scrimmage on defense," Leach said.

The Cougars also missed far too many tackles. Rutgers averaged 7.1 yards per play, with much of that coming after contact.

"Tackling killed us. We've got to be better tacklers," defensive tackle Xavier Cooper said.

The poor performance has led the coaching staff to make some changes. At Saturday's practice, safety Teondray Caldwell was replaced in the starting line up with Darius Lemora. Caldwell had 4 tackles against Rutgers, while Lemora had 5 tackles coming off the bench.

Tracy Clark is also out at cornerback and has been replaced by Charleston White. Linebacker Cyrus Coen, who missed the Rutgers game for an undisclosed reason, is back in the starting line up. Tana Pritchard was also playing with the starters. Pritchard, a linebacker,  had 5 tackles (one for loss) and an interception against Rutgers.

Leach also said the team needed some defensive scheme changes. He said the defense was too one-dimensional and needed to apply more pressure to the offense.

"It was a spotty (defensive) performance. We gave up too many explosive plays," Leach said.

The Cougars next face Nevada in a contest that could be very important to their bowl game hopes.