We saw the beginning of the change in philosophy against Texas in the Holiday Bowl. We lost it a bit last year, and this year, well, we were inbetween.
The bottom line in this season is that we FINALLY made the transition from wide open Price ball to a much more conservative ground oriented attack with all the wide-open, high flying capabilities of the one back. When you think about it, we really represented a poor man’s Miami Hurricanes this year. A high octane running game coupled with the constant threat of the deep ball.
So, what went wrong?
Obviously the D was the primary culprit. Another factor: we lost the pivotal swing game that we talked about in preseason. If you visit Hawk’s post from the end of last season, you will see that he already had pegged the Oregon State game as a swing game. If you venture back to my posts earlier this year, I said the same. Of course, we lost and the rest is history..
To add to matters, the depth and experience we gained with Rapoti last year was lost this year. And, Derting’s loss cost us at least two wins. I think when you look at things realistically, we should have won two of the five “couldas” with the “shouldas” being UCLA and CAL.
This should have been a very frustrating 6-5 team.
But the bright spot in this season also mirrored its darkest spot: Alex Brink. Brink showed skill and moxy in quarters 1-3 and was unable to put together key drives when it mattered. He also showed a painful lack of armstrength to the outside and a horrible inability to throw the ball to the TE and in the middle and thus aid our need to play better ball control (and to meld with our new offensive philosophy. Doubt this? As yourself if Harrison would have seen 1500-let alone 1900-with Price as the coach–I sure as hell don’t think so)
With that in mind, the final drive of the year shows what could and should be next year. Whether its Woolridge by himself or a platoon with Diedrich, Tardy, and DW, we will run the football next year. Brink, if he learns as he should, will use the possession game much more effectively. And that, my friends, will bring results. We won’t be as pretty as this year or in year’s past, but we’ll be effective. We’ll play smash mouth, hit you with possession passing plays, and then bite deep with minimal three and outs.. And, we will be competitive with everyone.
Of course, there are concerns about the MLB spot and the DBs. Hill’s departure is another concern, but somehow I think that the new kids will step up. The system is too well designed for the WRs.
The BIGGEST question mark is how we recover from Milhauser. And that, my friends, is the question that will be answered early in 2006. It is how we respond to the captain of the BEST offensive line we’ve had at WSU in some, some, some time that will tell our fate for next year. With good play at the center and line, I bet that Brink will have a breakout year and will end his WSU career as a Gesser-like great “college quarterback.”
But, if we struggle at the O-line spot, well, the program will be in real jeapardy, cuz Brink is too limited to shine without a running game and pass protecting line. He’s simply not tall or fast enough…
In as many words, 2006 IS THE DEFINING YEAR in the Cougar program. We make it back to respectability and we stay competitive in the years to come. Miss a bowl, and you can kiss our fortunes goodbye as we will once again turn into an also ran program.
With that in mind, here is my pre-2006 prediction without the knowledge of recruiting, spring ball, etc.:
@ Auburn LOSS
BAYLOR/Seattle WIN (THIS IS SWING GAME #1)
@ Stanford WIN (THIS IS SWING GAME #2)
@ Oregon State WIN (THIS IS SWING GAME #3)
CALIFORNIA (HC) WIN
OREGON (Foundation Day) WIN (THIS WILL BE A HUGE WIN)
@ UCLA WIN
ARIZONA (DD, AFD) WIN
@ Arizona State LOSS
That’s 9-3 and a Sun Bowl in my book, but that’s giving us each swing game. This year we lost all five (OSU, STAN, UCLA, CAL, ASU). The key games are Baylor, Stanford, and OSU. Win the first two of those games and I think we are on our way. Stanford should struggle without Edwards. I also have us beating an OSU team that will not be good, a UCLA team that will be hurting with their offensive losses, and an Oregon team that will be really, really, really, really good.
ASU will be too much to handle–I can’t see this team next year going 10-2….
That said, once again, the biggest key will be injuries. We said this year that we couldn’t afford to get hurt and BAM we lose our starting DT and Derting. Two years in a row and we are mashed up the middle.
Finally, we also will rely on Brink–not only that he will improve remarkably–but that he won’t get knocked out. With Swoggs leaving, the cupboard will be bare.
Thank goodness we beat the Puppies!
Onward Crimson soldiers