The arrival of true freshman Andrew Edson this year probably helped inspire Washington State’s third-down defensive package. Now, he’s helping make it work.
Edson recovered a fumble for the second consecutive game Saturday as the Cougar defense repeatedly wreaked havoc on third down during a 44-24 win against Portland State.
The Cougs (1-1, 0-0) will see their task harshen considerably when they face USC (1-1, 0-1) in their Pac-12 opener at 12:30 p.m. Saturday (Fox) at Gesa Field in Pullman.
Edson, an edge rusher and electrical-engineering major from Snoqualmie, Wash., hit the ground running in his first Wazzu preseason camp, drawing continual praise from coaches and helping bolster depth at his position. Together with other young players like Quinn Riff and Moon Ashby, he’s allowing coaches to put four edge rushers on the field on passing downs in their 4-2-5 schemes.
“I can’t imagine what he will be like as a senior if he keeps up this effort,” WSU coach Nick Rolovich said. “That’s two games in a row he’s around the ball to get the fumble recovery. Just pay attention when he’s in the game, how he approaches the play and finishes the play. I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody on the staff or the team that he finds himself around the ball, because he does it every day in practice.”
The Cougars’ four-edge look has thrived so far. Against Portland State, they didn’t allow a third-down pass completion until midway through the third quarter, leading 30-10. Edson, coming off the bench, tallied a sack and a hurry on third down. So did standout edge Brennan Jackson, with help on the sack from senior Willie Taylor III.
Opponents might be tempted to run on third-and-long, but they should watch for Edson if they do. His two fumble recoveries have come in those situations.
On third-and-10 during Portland State’s first possession, running back Malik Walker churned up the middle for 5 yards before coughing up the ball on a hit by Halid Djibril. Edson had been rushing the quarterback, but he quickly doubled back 15 yards to join a scrum and make the recovery.
On third-and-12 the previous week against Utah State, he had pounced decisively on an open-field fumble by a scrambling quarterback, stripped by Justus Rogers.
“He’s really a good one for young football players to watch,” Rolovich said of Edson, “just how hard he plays and how important it is to him.”
Harris getting closer
Cougar return specialist Travell Harris, the reigning Pac-12 special teams player of the week, showed no frustration when stopped shy of the goal line on a 50-yard kickoff return and a 22-yard punt runback against Portland State. But he was apparently feeling some.
“I was definitely upset because I was this close from breaking one,” he said Tuesday, using a thumb and finger to indicate how close. “I’ve just got to give a big shout-out to my coaching staff and my guys for blocking for me and giving me room back there. I’m very close and it will happen real soon.”
Harris, a senior, returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in 2018, but opponents have mostly kicked away from him since then. The skill of his blockers notwithstanding, some of his yardage on kick and punt returns is largely self-generated.
Utah game time
If you like having brunch while watching football, then Sept. 25 will be the date for you.
The Pac-12 announced Monday that the Cougs’ game at Utah will kick off at 11:30 a.m. Pacific, 12:30 p.m. Mountain, and will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.
Donn Walden contributed to this report.
Grummert may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2290.