Column: CWU football finding success with new defense

October 15, 2016

Offense is always considered to be the flashy side of football.

Whether it is the quarterback throwing a Hail Mary, a running back dodging tackles or even a kicker nailing a 50-plus yard field goal, it gets all the glory.

But whatever happened to the term, “defense wins championships”?

Legendary Alabama football coach Bear Bryant coined the phrase and many teams follow it.

Just take a look at Central Washington University’s football team. Its defense ranks among the top two teams in the GNAC in all but one category and has been a significant addition to this season’s success.

A great hire

No one likes change, but the Wildcats were forced to make one after last year’s defensive coordinator Payam Saadat accepted a job at Cal Poly.

So Central Washington’s head coach huddled up, and with the help of the athletic department hired Scott Power, an NAIA coach who lives for defense.

Power’s last team, Marian University in Indianapolis ranked third in the nation in total defense, helping it win a national championship.

It only seems fitting that his last name symbolizes the way he wants his defense to operate.

In an interview I conducted with him last spring, he laid out his philosophy simply as aggressive.

“We want to be fast, play physical football and attack,” Power said. “We want to dictate to (offenses) what they can and cannot do.”

Strength of the defense

The Wildcats have moved from last season’s fourth-ranked defense to a threat among GNAC teams.

They give up a GNAC-best 345 yards per game, hold opponents to a 31 percent third-down completion and have a plus-1 turnover margin.

Individually, Central Washington also has two players in the top 10 in tackles, three in the top 10 for tackles for a loss and two in the top 10 in sacks.

After starting the year giving up 43 points to Portland State, the Wildcats have kept opponents to an average of 23 points per game and have won four of the past five contests.

If anyone questions whether Central Washington’s new defensive coordinator has been a great addition to the program, his changes to the defense should prove that he has.

He ended my interview with a statement of hope to make an impact.

“Not long ago, this team was really good on defense,” Power said. “It has been done here before and I’d like to do it again.”

Power easily met his goal six games into the season and should be recognized, for that. Only time will tell what direction the team will ultimately head in, but in my opinion, that direction is up.