Cougar defense making a statement

Blacksburg came into last Friday’s football game averaging almost 350 yards a game of total offense and 32 points an outing. The Bruins got 61 and three. Also, a 12-3 defeat at the hands of Pulaski County.

The Bruins have an offense based on speed and there is talent in that attack, make no mistake, however, the Cougar defense was quicker, and far more aggressive. Pulaski Co. ran down the vaunted Blacksburg offense. It was a fast, big play offense vs. a quick, big play defense. Give it to the Cougar defense and in a resounding way.

The 2019 Cougar defense is allowing only 40.5 yards rushing a game, that’s 1.4 per try. The defense has allowed only 122.2 total yards per game. Opposition has passed for only 654 yards, 81.7 per game. The completion rate is just 39%. The defense has caused 20 fumbles and has recovered 11 of them. It also has seven pass interceptions. There are also three blocked punts.

Just some old program records. The most fumbles ever recovered in a season by the Cougar football program was in 15 in 1979, ’80, and ’84. This year’s defense has a shot at that mark. The most fumbles ever recovered by a Cougar in a season was five by Todd Wade in 1987 and he also has the career mark with eight in 1987-’88. The most shutouts ever in a season was five in 1982, the most pass interceptions 19 in 1992, and the fewest points ever allowed in a season is a stunning 49 in 1983, just 4.9 points per game.

But as time moves on it becomes harder to compare numbers. The game of football has changed. The field is more spread, the ball is in the air more. But at least for 2019, Pulaski County resembles old school football.

Corvin Carter has four pass interceptions on the season, Luke Russell, A.J. McCloud, and Gage Mannon one each. Russell and Ethan Gallimore lead the team with two fumble recoveries each, Mannon, Chayton Rollins, Zeke Surber, Christian Finn, Chase Dotson, John Lyman, and Bryant Worrell all have one.

The best defenses of the past in Cougar football history were different. They were big, strong, and just matched up man for man across the front. They were physically superior. They stuffed opponents at the line of scrimmage. There were a lot of three and outs. The 2019 defense is much smaller, but very quick, and waits on nothing. It’s very aggressive, and attacks. If this defense sat and waited for the offense to come to it, it would take away its best assets. The personnel and scheme are a perfect match.

The statistics are revealing. The Cougars have recorded 38 quarterback sacks on the season, and they have come from eight different players. Ethan Gallimore has 11.5, Tristan Bowden nine, Austin Gallimore 5.5, Russell five, Rollins three, Bishop two, Tyler Brockman and Zeke Surber both have one.

Austin Gallimore is the leading tackler with 67, Russel has 46, Ethan Gallimore 39, Chris Shay 31.5, Rollins 25, and Will Bishop 22.5 lead the way. Austin Gallimore and Russell have 14 and 12 tackles for losses.

The defensive coordinator for Pulaski County is Rob Colley. He has a high opinion of his unit. “The two things that stand out about this group is how coachable they are, and their desire to be great. They approach each practice with the desire to improve individually and as a team,” says Colley.

The most prominent aspect is how hard they play. “There are a lot of reasons this group plays so well,” says Colley, “but the two things that standout the most is their constant pursuit to the football. We almost always have eight or nine hats working their way toward the football. They all want to play well as a unit and do their part to excel. They are a pleasure to coach,” said Colley.

While it is difficult to compare performances when they span the entire history of a program, and regardless of what records both team and individual have been established, the 2019 Cougar defense is without question one of the finest in Pulaski County history.

The offensive numbers are not as impressive, but that does not mean less important. There is one very key statistic offensively, and it’s likely the most significant. Pulaski Co. has outscored its opponents 66-6 in the fourth quarter. It was evident last week that the Cougars wore down the Blacksburg defense. The Cougars are averaging 26.8 points per game. It should be mentioned that the 1983 team that allowed only 4.9 points per game, also scored only 12.2 points a game.

While the opposition is averaging just 1.4 yards per rush, the Cougars are getting 4.2. Keyontae Kennedy leads the way with 412 yards on 106 carries, 51.5 per game. Mannon has 332 yards on 62 tries, 41.5 per game, and Chris Shay who has really come on of late, has 294 yards on 67 carries, 36.7 per game. The Cougars outrush the opposition 172.7 to 40.5 per game. Total offense is 233.7 to 122.2.

The Cougars are also completing a higher percentage of their passes. McCloud is 47 of 95 for 475 yards, a 49% completion rate. The only drawback is 13 picks. Dotson has the most catches with 11 for 83 yards, Layne Suthers nine for 68, Lyman seven for 88, Logan Burchett six for 85, and Shay five for 42.

Mannon leads the team in scoring with 54 points, Shay has 30 and Kennedy 24. Broc Simpson is having an outstanding season with 26 of 27 extra-point kicks, six of eight field goal attempts, and 44 points.

By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot

(Photo Caption)

Cougars Zeke Surber (top) Ethan Gallimore slam Blacksburg’s Parker Epperley to the ground