Against No. 5 USC’s fierce pass rush, Cougars’ inconsistent offensive line has to ‘play nasty’

The No. 16 Cougars have allowed 14 sacks in four games, 121st in the nation. Now they face a front seven with multiple projected NFL picks.

Toward the end of Washington State’s win over Nevada last week, the Cougars’ offensive linemen were spotted doing up-downs on the sideline.

Why the in-game calisthenics?

“If you can’t move the ball one foot on fourth-and-a-foot, well yeah, the offensive line and running backs will probably do up-downs again,” said WSU coach Mike Leach, who ordered the 15 in-game up-downs to send a message to his offensive line.

Through four games, No. 16 Washington State has been inconsistent at best on the offensive line, coach Clay McGuire said. Now, the Cougars’ O-line will face its toughest challenge of the season yet.

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No. 5 USC (4-0) comes to town Friday in a matchup of unbeaten teams that will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

But if the Cougars (4-0) want to snap the Trojans’ 13-game unbeaten streak, they’ll need improved play from the offensive line.

“We’ve been up and down. I don’t think we’re hitting on all cylinders right now,” McGuire sad. “We’ve shown flashes of what we can be, and we’ve done some good things, but we’ve also been sloppy at times.

“I don’t think we’ve played together as a unit yet, and we need to start doing that as we hit the Pac-12 stretch.”

USC’s defensive line undoubtedly will be the best WSU has faced this season. That’s a concern because the Cougars have given up 14 sacks in four games and are ranked 121st in sacks allowed nationally.

“We’re not real happy about that stat at the moment,” McGuire said. “It’s not what were looking for. We definitely don’t want the hits on the quarterback. Those add up as you move through the season.”

The stat looks even worse when considering the teams WSU has played. FCS opponent Montana State had two sacks against the Cougars. Boise State – arguably the best defense WSU has played to this point – had five sacks. Oregon State came to Pullman still hunting for its first sack of the season. The Beavers left with three. Then came winless Nevada, which sacked quarterback Luke Falk three times and buried Tyler Hilinski once in garbage time.

Now, the Cougars’ offensive line faces the challenge of holding off Trojans tackle Rasheem Green – projected as a first-round NFL draft pick – pass-rush specialist…

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