Despite the 24-31 loss to Auburn on Saturday, there is one positive note that WSU head football coach Mike Leach and his staff can take away from this game; the strong performance by the offensive line.
The play of the line is one of the main reasons why WSU could compete against Auburn. The Air Raid offense relies heavily on the offensive line’s play.
In only the first game of the season, the team made massive strides in the running game. A team that averaged 29 yards of rushing per game last season rushed the ball for 120 yards on the road, along with scoring two touchdowns. Thanks to the help of the big guys up front (the offensive line), the WSU running backs were able to have wide enough space to run the ball.
"All the running backs were just talking about how we felt the offensive line was much improved and it opened up huge holes for us, and we were able to take advantage of it and gash the defense," WSU running back Jeremiah Laufasa said in an interview with the media.
For the passing game, WSU redshirt junior Connor Halliday was able to throw the ball for 344 yards and move the ball efficiently the entire game because the offensive line provided him enough time to throw the ball. Halliday was only sacked twice on Saturday, which is a major improvement from last year. Last season the offensive line had difficulties protecting the quarterback, which resulted in multiple sacks.
The offensive line was also able to withstand the hostile environment of an SEC stadium and only commit any holding penalties. Not having any holding calls in a game is impressive, but when the offensive line does it on the road, with 85,095 fans (attendance for the Auburn game) screaming at them, shows this offensive line has made a change in the right direction.
By not having many offensive line penalties, the offense does not lose any yardage, and the momentum of the offense is not disrupted. This is what fans witnessed during the Auburn game and why the WSU offense moved the ball down the field the entire game thanks to the help of the offensive line.
With WSU having an offensive line that is experienced and has the type of body weight to win the battle upfront against the defensive line, it gives the team a higher chance of competing in tight games and winning.
This is not a "one-time fluke"; the offensive line has improved and will once again help WSU have a shot at defeating the USC Trojans this Saturday in Los Angeles.