doing a heck of a job in an improving secondary that gets better every week. Now 4 picks on the year, good for second in the conference, and 81 tackles. This is what we expected out of him, and he's been huge to the improving defense. The pick-6 was wonderful, but his biggest contribution might have been after the BRUTAL kickoff fumble by Charles Dillon (Charles - dude - just fall on the frickin' ball at the 4-yard line! What the heck was that??). Abdullah had the 3-yard TFL on first down, then nearly had a pick on a pass attempt on 3rd down to force the field goal attempt. That was maybe the most impressive part of Saturday's win, because I don't know about you, but earlier in the season and Stanford walks into the endzone, they take a 14-13 lead at that point and momentum is 100% Stanford's. Stopping them there was just huge.
Some other tidbits:
- Cougs got another commit. This time an unheralded, 1-star offensive guard from the OC. He was all-OC as a junior and reportedly "nasty", whatever that means. Tim Hodgdon picked the Cougars over Arizona, Cal, Oregon and ASU among many on his list....but in this day and age of early offers, WSU was the only school to actually extend a scholie? Hmmm. He is a good student, reportedly a 3.8 gpa, so at least he'll get in. Welcome to the family Tim!
- I'm a little worried about what the crowd is going to look like this Saturday. Doba alluded to it on the post-game show on Saturday night, basically pleading to the students to please stay for the game! Traditionally our attendance of the last home game before the AC in Seattle can be an issue....until you consider the best crowd of all time at WSU was the Stanford game in 1997, which came BEFORE the AC in Seattle the following week! But that was a special circumstance, as that team would have sold out anywhere at that point of the season. In 2003, we hosted ASU the week before the AC and we drew something like 28,000. The game was on TV and from the looks of it, there were probably more like 22,000 in the stands. And that was a top-10 team at the time! This year? Not so much. I don't get the feeling that the pull of seeing Brink's last home start is going to keep the kids from heading home early on Saturday with the idea that they'll just watch the game on TV at 3:30. Hopefully we'll get 30K, but that might be a stretch.
- Our worst defense of all-time is starting to creep up the Pac-10 rankings. Did you know we're now 8th in the conference in total D, and not that far from Oregon's gang green at #7? We now give up 415 yard per game, which is a lot, but still an improvement from where we were after the Oregon debacle. We've also now given up 44 points in the last 3 games. Not too shabby, but when you consider what we gave up vs. Wisconsin (42), Arizona (48), USC (48) and Oregon (53), well, 44 in a 3-game in-conference stretch is something to celebrate!
- We're still giving up 52% conversion rate on 3rd down. That's good for last in the conference. But a big improvement on Saturday, holding Stanford to 5-for-18 on 3rd down. And 52% sucks, but it's up from 57% just a few weeks ago, which was last in the universe. Baby steps.
- I know we only punted once, but it went for 46 yards, no return yards, and it was inside the 20. Suddenly this rugby-thing is becoming a weapon! Who would have thought? Does anyone miss Blunt? Neither do I. Maybe after the season we'll break the story about what really happened with his suspension. What a meat-head.
- The kickoffs were TERRIBLE. How many times did Stanford field it at like the 25 and next thing you know they were at the 40? Stanford averaged over 21 yards per kickoff return, and when they are fielding it at the 20 or so, that's just plain bad. Sometimes I think we'd be better off to just kick the thing out of bounds every time and let them set up shop on the 40. At least there wouldn't be a threat of them taking it to the house! Or maybe instead of the squib, they should just kick it pop-fly style and make them fair-catch it at the 25 or 30, or better yet, see if they try to field it and maybe we can force a fumble by a return non-hands guy? I don't know the answer, but against Oregon State, giving them a short field is not a good idea.
- Andy Mattingly is slowly looking like an all-conference linebacker and when the season is over, I wouldn't be surprised to see him at LEAST honorable mention all-conference, if not 2nd-team. 10 tackles vs. Stanford, including another sack, plus a QB hurry. 74 tackles and 8 sacks from a sophomore who only started what, 4 games ago?? Amazing. He could finish at 90 tackles and 10 sacks when it's all said and done. He'll be the face of the Cougar defense next year and I'd bet anything he'll be a captain.
- Speaking of the Cougar defense - notice how many underclassmen are out there making plays? All four starting LB's are juniors or sophomores (Evans, Trent, Dunn and Mattingly) and they fit that 3-4 like a glove. Both starting corners will be back next year, as well as one safety at Jackson, plus another safety with Hicks who is basically a starter out there. Hicks, man, that kid can lay the wood. With hitting ability like that, I bet we see Hicks as the starter at strong safety and Jackson will slide back to free safety after Husain graduates. Suddenly our back 8 in the 3-4 defense looks like it's going to be pretty salty next year!
- Happy Veterans Day. Watched Saving Private Ryan on TNT HD last night, what a fantastic movie. But just one more reminder of how brutal things were back then and how hard those guys fought for what we have today. Tom Hanks' last line to Matt Damon in that movie, as he sits dying, has to be one of the best and most underrated lines ever: "Earn this." Wow! Lump in my throat, every time.
Enjoy your week, and as always - GO COUGS!