Friday, October 26, 2007

Football Friday Game 8 - Where's the Running Game??

No truth to the rumor that's actually Bill Doba in the picture above. Quick, Simpson's fans, can you name the scene? In particular, what was the title of the animated short, and who is the actor in the scene??

I went with the picture today to show some simultaneous pain and frustration at this season. I mean getting nailed in the groin by a football both hurts, and is frustrating! But really, the old man fits Doba. Oh, and there's a football in the picture, so what the heck.

Today's Football Friday theme is where the hell is the running game? I wrote about it at AOL today, which will be available later, but the bottom line is this:
  • Since the beginning of 2006, we are 6-3 when we've cracked 100 net yards rushing in a game. When held under 100 yards rushing? Try 2-8. That's no fluke.
  • Our 108.6 rushing yards per game average right now is the worst over the last 10 years. In fact, the second-worst mark is 1999, at 114 yards per game. Those were Poop Island years.
  • UCLA only gives up 2.5 yards per carry and a conference-low 3 rushing TD's on the season. They held Cal, one of the top running teams in the conference, to just 67 yards on 30 carries last week.

It's an ugly combo this week. Get Brink in 2nd or 3rd and forever, and you have our offense right where you want it. UCLA forced 4 turnovers against Cal's offense last week, all the while shutting down their primary weapon, the running game.

But call me crazy, I don't know what it is, but Brinkhater agrees with me via voicemail - for some reason we're going to play well this week. Maybe it's the bye week and we're pretty healthy, including Gibson, our #1 playmaker. Maybe it's the up-and-down Bruins and how they can beat Cal one week, but lose to the likes of Notre Dame or fall flat on their faces, 44-6 style, at Utah. Maybe most of all it's that Andy Mattingly and the defense have to be delighted that they'll see a gimpy QB in Cowan in a pro-set or one-back offense, a similar approach that we saw out of ASU. An approach that led to one of our best showings of the season on defense. In other words, this ain't Oregon or even Arizona's spread shotgun offense that ate us alive. This is a QB under center that we will attack, attack, and attack some more. I would wager that we'll see nearly 50% blitzes from the linebackers this week, and they will try to chase down Cowan and stuff the run, and we'll take our chances.

Maybe more than anything else, we're due to put a scare into somebody. We've done well against UCLA in recent years, and I think that trend will continue. I heard UCLA d-tackle Kevin Brown on the radio this week, and he said, to a man, they HATE COMING TO PULLMAN and it's the worst road trip imaginable coming from LA. So you know they don't want to go up there anyway. And they are talking the talk of "no letdowns this week", but sometimes you hear that out of college kids and what happens? They come out flat as a pancake anyway. They are kids, after all. After a huge home win over Cal and the back-slapping that's been going on down in LA after the 4-0 Pac-10 start, you know those guys are feeling pretty good about themselves. They look really, really vulnerable to me.

But in the end, however, I am going to take the easy way out and go with a UCLA win. But it's going to be a nailbiter, and only a series of running-game failures and a big special teams mistake will be our undoing. I'm going 24-20, UCLA.

Other games:

AZ 27, UW 24 - Arizona is a complete mess. But weren't they a mess last year when they came up north and ruined our season? Weird feeling on this one too, but UW was so terrible defensively last week that I don't know if they'll be able to turn it around so quickly. They are sure talking like they are thrilled to see Arizona coming to town, but I think that Husky defense is shell-shocked. How could they have confidence they could stop anyone right now after one of the worst performances in school history last week? Meanwhile Locker's 4 TD's were nice, but 12-for-31 through the air?? He still has the lowest completion percentage in the conference, and that's not a one or two-game trend.

Oregon State 33, Stanford 17 - Stanford is beaten up, losing another running back this week for the season. Oregon State has one of the best rushing defenses in the nation, and without a running game Stanford is doomed on the road.

ASU 34, Cal 30 - Even though ASU lost Torain, I still like Dennis the liar and Rudy at home. ASU is always tough as nails in Tempe. I also think Cal is now officially reeling without a healthy Longshore. Watching them last week, they look nothing like the team that sprinted by Tennessee earlier in the season. They'll score some points on ASU, but the Sun Devils keep things rolling.

Finally, the whopper - USC 32, Oregon 28 - This is just the type of game that USC lives for. They love the idea that people are doubting on them. Carroll will have their focus on laser-beam levels this week. I see a very similar game that we saw with Cal and Oregon earlier this year. USC has the size, strength and experience on defense to keep Dixon and Stewart under control. Oregon's really beat up on offense right now, losing WR's Cameron Colvin, Brian Paysinger and backup RB Jeremiah Johnson. That's too much firepower against a team like USC, and it will catch up to them this week. In the end, the Trojans will simply wait for the inevitable mistakes out of Dixon when he starts forcing things that aren't there. Don't believe me? Go watch the 4th quarter of Oregon and Cal and those two gigantic picks from Dixon.

Enjoy the weekend, and GO COUGS!


Brinkhater said...

Very, strong analysis...

Nothing that has happened with us so far this year makes Brinkhater deviate from his pre-season predictions. I thought then that we'd win this game, and I still do.

WSU 35 UCLA 24 Enjoy this win, cuz I think it will be the last of the year.

CAL 34 ASU 21 I think this is where Tedford shows his mettle. The kids won't quit on this one...

Oregon 38 USC 24: You know, I think that SC is just lurking there just waiting to KILL somebody good....but even with the injuries, I think the Quack is just too good. This a gut check time for Belotti's babies, are they for real, real or are they a bunch of pussies like they've been in years past. I think they are for real this time.

Oregon State 31 Stanford 21. Ditto hawk, the loss of the RB is going to be tough to overcome, but Captain Comeback has his smart boys believin...Beware: Stanford now executes.

AZ 31 UW 30 Jake is going to run wild, but I think that Willie will be too much in the end. Will ANYONE tell me how the hell we got blown out by the Cats? Man we suck.


Only a few more weeks of this football nonsense and we can move on to a real cougar team!!!!

Anonymous said...

How about this morsel - Karl Dorrell, in his head coaching career at UCLA, has been a favorite on the road 13 times. Guess what Dorrell's record is against the number as a road favorite?? 0-13! That's right, 0-13. Worse than that, not only have they failed to cover as a road fav in thsoe games? They've actually LOST ALL 13 ROAD GAMES as a favorite!

Someone doesn't handle success very well. THE WRONG TEAM IS FAVORD. WSU, straight up.

Anonymous said...

Okay, okay. I can sort of see why you guys think a win is possible if not probable this Saturday, but let's be reasonable now. This is a bad football team we have with poor coaching. As much as I would like to be optimistic, was it not two weeks ago that we were throwing in the towel on the season? A win would be great but I don't see our offense breaking out or our defense suddenly playing well (they just gave up 53 points!). I think the game is winnable, but I would certainly not expect it.

Now, about basketball. I seem to be the only one worried by our depth. We had a big man graduate and two key back-ups transfer. Granted, Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low play almost 40 minutes every game, but our back-up PG spot is between Jeremy Cross (who I've always liked but c'mon, he's a walk-on who has only really played scrub-minutes) and a true-freshman, Stephen Sauls. Hey, but hopefully we'll be as good, if not better than last season. We definitely have talent. Go Cougs.

longball said...

Wow, silence on this blog after homecoming triumph? Anyone care to comment on the Jekyl and Hyde nature of this team on the road vs away?

Sedihawk said...

First of all, what a great win. The defense played extremely well, but, I honestly think that UCLA had something to do with it. Losing Bell and then Breazell took their top playmakers out, and I don't care what anyone says, Cowan is playing with very little explosiveness. He took some wicked shots and just didn't move very well. He's not a very good pure passer anyway, and without mobility or his weapons, they were cooked. His WR's didn't help him out either. I don't know what the number of drops was, but I think I lost count it was so high.

Our running game was a shocker, I mean we talked Friday about how bad our running game actually is this year, and boom! We get 214 out of Tardy.

A couple of other things:
1) Roxas did OK for a 17-year old, and our o-line overall looks like a pretty deep group. Hooty pointed out that Rowlands made all the line calls this week from the guard spot, and maybe that's why we ran the ball so well? Maybe it's part of Alfred still learning to be the center, or maybe they simplified things, but it was a different approach this week.
2) We added a new wrinkle with Jed Collins, and that was where he'd line up on one side, and then crack down on the opposite defensive end spot as a trap, and that seemed to throw off UCLA. They didn't expect it and it's not something I've ever seen us do, but I liked the looks of it.
3) Brink was Brink, and didn't do anything all that wonderful but didn't kill our chances either. He played like a decent senior with a running game behind him. We've now won 7 of our last 10 when we get 100 or more net rushing yards.
4) VERY impressed with Tardy and McCall. McCall ran very hard, even though he couldn't get in on that dreadful goal-line stand. But Tardy had his best game as a Coug. Tardy looked, I don't know, but he just looked quicker than I've seen him any other time this year. And a few times he just looked like he was running down hill. That TD run late showed that he does in fact have an extra gear that we haven't seen all season long.
5) The D is so much better than they were vs. Idaho, it's night-and-day. Especially the DB's. While I think UCLA had something to do with it, there were a couple of balls that both Chima and Giles played really well, in that they actually made plays on the ball where earlier in the year (Arizona) they might even be in position at least but still couldn't make a play. I was impressed with both guys from the Idaho game in that you could see their footwork and athleticism was there, just that they were too inexperienced/skinny to do anything. But they have improved a lot.
6) We looked good out of the 3-4, and it looked completely normal for the first time with our guys running it. Last year we looked like a fish out of water, but this game at least it looked like we should be a 3-4 team. I bet we're sticking with it until the end. I mentioned it to Hooty but you could see that Mattingly has some really good instincts. The little things that you don't often see, like how he times his blitzes, how he anticipated things, etc. He didn't fill the stat sheet this week, just 5 tackles but also a sack, but he was around the ball a lot and I really like what we're getting out of him. He got good pressure on Cowan on a few plays and just ran Chris Markey over on a few blitzes. The future is incredibly bright, as long as they keep him as an OLB!

Now....why the lack of postings on this win? I think it's a combination of a lot of things, like some of us traveling back from the game, traveling for other reasons, etc. And even though the win was great, honestly, maybe the passion is just lost for this season? I don't know. It was weird though, I have to say the pre-game atmosphere was one of the least-exciting that I've seen at a WSU home game.

It's hard to put my finger on why, I mean the crowd turned out decent, there was good weather, you name it. But I think the level of the energy of the fans has dropped with our current situation. I think the majority of the fans are not exactly turned on by what's going on, and it's finally showing through. The students were great, as always, but otherwise the crowd seemed flat.

I don't know what else to really say, other than a 27-7 win over UCLA is wonderful.

Sedihawk said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention Xavier Hicks. Not just the big hit to knock out Breazell, but he's a good young sophomore out there! I hope we never see Jackson again at safety. Hicks looks like a really good prospect at the position.

Anonymous said...

a surprising game to say the least.....after that first easy UCLA td I thought we would be in for a very long day....

the team showed more emotion than I have seen all year....that's what you get when you get a monster on defense..Mad-dog.... and a monster on offense...Collins...AND you have a Tardy and a Bumpus and a Gibson having terrific games..

that catch by Bumpus was phenomenal...( I think it was Bumpus)

anyway, I have always loved M.Bumpus so I hope it was him...LOL