Oct. 29, 2002
While the Huskies' pass defense has received much of the media's attention this season, it has gone almost without notice that Washington ranks first in the Pac-10 stopping the run, allowing just 79.2 yards per game. If that average holds, it would be the team's best since the national championship season of 1991. And don1t think that Washington's run defense is so good solely because opponents are throwing the ball on every down -- in fact, Husky opponents have averaged 33.4 rushes per game in 2002 (267 att., 8 games), opposite a nearly-equal 34.1 passing attempts (273 att., 8 games). One of the keys to Washington's outstanding rush defense has been the emergence of junior Marquis Cooper. Listed as a co-starter at inside linebacker (with sophomore Joe Lobendahn) to start the season, Cooper has solidified his presence with 58 tackles through eight games, the 13th-highest total in the Pac-10 conference. GoHuskies.com pulled Cooper aside for a few moments this week to try and learn the secret of his success.
GoHuskies.com: You had 11 tackles against Michigan and 11 against
Cal; how do you get to the ball so fast?
Marquis Cooper: "The middle linebacker usually goes free to the ball. Nobody really blocks me because the d-line takes care of the gaps, leaving me to run through and make the tackle."
GH: Playing at the inside position you have to be able to defend the
pass and stop the run, which do you like to do better?
Cooper: "I like to stop the run a lot better, because it's right there in front of me. I just see it and go make the tackle."
GH: Obviously the defense this year has been great at stopping the
run, but what do you think you need to do personally, and as a team, to
improve against the pass?
Cooper: "Personally, I just have to drop back and get to my assignment. As a whole we just need to step up and start guarding people better. We need to jam better, and stick to our guy. We also need more of a pass rush."
GH: You've got on some sweet looking trunks -- going to the beach
sometime soon ?
Cooper: "Nah, but we have pool workouts in a little bit."
GH: Not a lot of people know what pool workouts are, can you explain
Cooper: "They're pretty light -- you do some running in the pool, and other things. We have a body vest on so we sink down a little bit, but it's easier on our bodies."
GH: You're from Arizona. Is it hard being in the Northwest without
the great weather?
Cooper: "I miss it a lot, but so far it's been a nice year, a lot of sun here. Right now I'm ready to go home and play Arizona State, and get some more sun on me."
GH: The last time you were at Arizona State, as a true freshman, you
blocked a punt, with your family in attendance. Does going back home give
you extra motivation to doing well?
GH: "When I go home, I want to do the best I can. Maybe I'll get in the end zone this year -- an interception or a fumble recovery in the end zone. I want this to be one of my best games this year. My family will all be there, and my friends from high school."
GH: If it comes down to it, would you rather make an interception, or
get a big sack?
Cooper: "I like them both the same. I like hitting the quarterback hard and putting him on the ground, and I also like getting the ball in my hands. Whatever comes my way."
GH: On the topic of sacks, when you hit the quarterback, have they
ever made some strange wheezing sound, or cried or something?
Cooprt: "There was one Pac-10 QB, who will remain nameless -- I hit him and he was on the ground holding his ribs, groaning, 'Uhhh ...' I was like, 'Heck, yeah!'"
GH: In the Seattle Times a while ago there was an article on some of
the strange pets you have -- tell me about them.
Cooper: "When I was younger I use to like animals. I'd catch lizards and frogs in the backyard. I'd ask my mom, 'Do I have to take it back?' and she'd say, 'Heck, yes, take it back!' I came here and got some snakes, a pitbull, and some fish."
GH: You have snakes, a pitbull, and fish? What does your roommate
Cooper: "I live with fellow 'backer Matt Lingley. He doesn't mind, as long as they stay out of his way."
GH: Anything else going into this week that you're doing or looking
Cooper: "Just getting a victory. We've got to get a victory."