My absence from the blog over the last several weeks has been due in part to a long list of super-important bullshit. Lots going on in the McBoob household this fall. As many of you know, I helped coach Mini McBoob's Pop Warner Tiny Mite team this year which made me late to two games and absent from two others. As luck would have it, I missed the one home game of the year (UCLA) where the Cougs played really well. By putting my son ahead of the Cougs, I got a big dose of good Karma and missed the OSU game while the tiny mites played through a typhoon in front of a crowd of 22 people at halftime of the EWU/Weber game.
You know how NFL films does a season recap show for every team? They always give them subtitles like: Seattle Seahawks 2005: Soaring to the Super Bowl. It sounds really cool when the team had a great year but when the team really sucked they come up with some ridiculous euphemistic title like: Miami Dolphins 2007: Another Perfect Season. Well, if I had to put together the season review for the Cougs in 2008 it would be Sour Apples. My second choice would be At Least We're not Notre Dame.
Honestly, I spent more time watching cartoons with the kids on Apple Cup Saturday than I did watching the game. I just didn't have it in me to get on the roller coaster one more time. Of course, I paid enough attention to know what was happening but I really only watched when everybody else got excited. Fortunately, I did tune in to watch the last drive. Bink to Gibson goes down as maybe the second-best play for the Cougs at husky stadium in the modern era. It'll be hard to top Leaf to Jackson...
I'm going to opt out of the coaching debate but will say that I am adamantly against bringing back Captain Happy - regardless of whether or not it would lead to a hand-off to Eric after a few years. Of all the names bandied about, my top three in order of preference would be: Bob Gregory for his insight into another Pac10 program; ties to the area and WSU; and recruiting ties in CA. Paul Wulff for his experience as a head coach; his record at a "non-sexy" school; his ties to the school; and the fact that he was in my BioSci class in '88. (Great column on Wulff by Moore today in the PI). Tie between DeWayne Walker and Pat Hill. I like Walker because he's young; has insight into another league system; and recruiting ties. I like Pat Hill because he looks like the kind of guy I could drink beers with at the Sports Page.
So without further Madu, here is my season in review...
Washington State Cougar Football 2008: Sour Apples
Game of the Year: Has to be the Apple Cup. The only thing that would have made it better would be if it secured us a bowl bid. Despite an otherwise disappointing year for both schools, this will go down as one of the best contests in Apple Cup history. Brink goes out with a bang and adds "husky Killer" to his resume'.
Play of the Year: Again to the Apple Cup. Like I said. Brink to Gibson for the game winner is bested only by Leaf to Jackson as the best play for the Cougs in husky stadium. This makes it the third-best play in modern Apple Cup History, with Bledsoe to Bobo a solid #1.
Offensive MVP: Brandon Gibson. Let's just hope Mark May isn't the one giving Brandon advice on where he'd go if he enters the draft. Gibson really flourished this year as the primary target for Alex Brink. After showing flashes of greatness while playing in the shadow of Jason Hill, I believe Gibson is actually better than his predecessor. Hill was prone to intermittent cases of the "dropsies" whereas Gibson consistently makes catches, whether he's wide open or in tight coverage. Only a poor 40 time would keep him from being a day-one draft pick this year. With an unknown quantity at QB for the Cougs next year, I know I'd take the money and run...
Defensive MVP: I'm giving the nod to Andy Mattingly over Hussein Abdullah. Abdullah was never a big-play guy but this year more than ever, his steady play every week was key to an otherwise inexperienced defensive backfield. However, you just can't overlook the guy who made the coaches change their scheme just to get him on the field. Like Nuke LaLoosh, Mattingly announced his presence with authority to ASU and the rest of us during week 5 and never looked back. Despite the fact that he was a part-time player until week 5, Mattingly finished one tackle shy of the team lead but led the way in sacks (8) and tackles for loss (11). That he was rewarded by the Pac10 with Honorable Mention is a slight if you ask me. We're going to look back on his career and wonder why on earth we burned his redshirt for a contribution of only 10 special teams tackles in 2006. He's a special player.
Newcomer of the Year: If I were to name one player on each side of the ball, I'd give the nod to Kendrick Dunn on D. The fact that neither Dunn nor the other two starting LB's were benched in favor of Mattingly speaks for itself. The best newcomer to the program outside of incoming freshmen was Vaughn Lesuma. As advertised, the big man displayed quick feet and came right in and solidified the left tackle spot. Aside from a couple penalties late in the year, you never heard a peep about him and in the world of O-Linemen, no news is good news.
Freshman of the Year: Shoulda been Mattingly but since he was so desperately needed in 2006, I'll have to say Chiba Nunchucks. Seriously, don't tell me you didn't go OOOOoooohh! the first time you heard Unbiased Bob call his name. That silent N had to have thrown off more than just me. If ever there was a baptism by fire, Chima Nwachukwu's 2007 season was it. Thrown to the lions due to a brutal lack of depth at CB, Chima got used like a Tri-Delt early in the season but steadily improved as the season wore on. No doubt he's got the physical skills - and with a season of Pac 10 play under his belt, he should be a fixture in our defensive backfield for the next three.
Coach of the Year: George Yarno's O-Line was a very pleasant surprise for the Cougs this year. When Andy Roof got booted this spring, it left us very thin but Yarno's boys did a helluva job protecting Brink and especially later in the year, opening up some running lanes. George is one of those guys who has seen and done it all. He simply commands respect and his guys love him. Let's hope he sticks around when the new head-man is hired. With only Bobby Byrd gone for next year, our line should be a big strength.
Senior Who Will be Missed the Most in 2008: Loren Langley. OK OK it's not Langley, it's Top Romeen. OK it's not him either but I didn't realize he was a senior until I just looked at our roster. We go into next year with - I assume - Wade Penner as our kicker. Penner actually weighs one pound less than Langley which means the average starting position for our opponents next year should be on our own 48 yard line.
The TWO Seniors we will miss the most on Cougar Football Saturdays in 2008 are Jed Collins and Michael Bumpus. I don't know if Bump will play on Sundays but he is the epitome of what it means to be a Cougar. We only got him because USC had second thoughts but the kid came north and immediately endeared himself to coaches, teammates and fans. It's impossible for most of us to fathom the culture shock a kid goes through when he leaves SoCal for Pullman; but as is the case with most of the kids from LA who go Crimson, they come for the opportunity to play in the Pac 10; and leave a lifelong Coug. With all the uproar over whether or not Brink deserved all the records he broke, no one will ever question Bump breaking Hugh Campbell's all-time receptions mark. We'll root for him to make it at the next level, but if he doesn't make it, I hope he comes back as a GA and hits the recruiting trail.
Jed-zilla was to the Cougs what the Swiss Army Knife is to a camping trip. The dude is a do-everything football player. He not only did everything he was asked, he did it well. This year was definitely his best as a Coug and I was really happy to see the Pac 10 honor him to their second team. Jed goes down as one of my all-time favorite Cougs. He was fun to watch - no matter where it was that he lined up.
Senior Who Will be Missed the Least in 2008: After two ridiculous outings against the Oregon schools, I finally fell off the Brink bandwagon. Yeah, he sucked in the Cal game too but in that game, he sucked good enough to win. Were it not for a dropped TD by Charles F-ing Dillon, we would have skipped out of Strawberry Canyon with a W. He must be one of the best Sunday-Friday wide receivers in WSU history to have made it through the year without being benched. Take your pick. Mine's Dillon.
Biggest Disappointment of 2007: Aside from the simple fact that the Cougs put us through a fourth bowl-less season in a row with 5 embarrassing blow-outs in 12 games, I give this one to the OSU game. Coming off the best three-game stretch of the season, the Cougs were in a must-win situation against the Beavers at home...and absolutely flopped. As I said earlier, I was saved from suffering through this nightmare by Mini McBoob's game that day but before either game started I had a plan to make it to Pullman for at least the second half. Mini's game was at halftime of the EWU game which started at 2. I gave 7 of the 8 tickets I had for the Cougs game to some friends, who in turn gave me a nice bottle of wine. As we tore out of the parking lot at EWU, I tuned into the Bob and Jim show, only to find out that we were getting killed early. Brink threw a pick and all I heard was he threw "another" one. By the time we got home (a 15-minute drive) I believe Alex was up to 4. Needless to say, I tore up my ticket, uncorked the wine and toasted another season of what could have been.
Second-biggest disappointment was the new owners of the Sports Page, who saw fit to have a BAND playing the night before the Stanford game! Are you kidding me?! A band in the Sports Page? In my day, it was a privilege for a student to even drink a beer in the Sports Page. It was a quiet little,locals-only bar owned by a great guy named Stan Wilkinson. I drank my first beer in the page as a prodigal 17-year-old freshman in 1988 and by the time I left, had shared countless beers with Stan. The Page was my bar of choice as a student even though I could fall out of bed and practically be laying on the front stoop of the Coug. It killed me to stay away from The Page on my 21-run, but I knew it would really piss Stan off to find out I'd been drinking there underage for the last 3+ years. By the time I graduated, he must have thought I was 32. I know I'm getting old and crotchety but unless it has an accordian or a banjo, a band has no place in the Sports Page - period.
Can't Wait to See in 2008: Lots of choices here, beginning with our head coach and staff. On the field, we'll all be watching to see who goes under center for the Cougs on August 30th in Seattle. The incumbent would be Gary Rodgers if not for the coaching change. I suspect the new coach will declare the position to be wide open and would not be the least bit surprised if Lopina or Lobbestael wins out. In any case, it'll be a fun battle to watch through summer and fall practices.
Do we have a two-headed running attack next year? With a first-year starter at QB and experience on the O-Line and Running Back, I suspect we'll have a run-first attitude on O. Dwight Tardy was having a great year until he celebrated too hard on that last run against UCLA. Don't believe the spin-doctored tale that he was hurt on the last cut he made on that run. He was hurt when he slipped down the concrete "ramp" that surrounds the field and caught the turf on the way down. My freshman year a kid on my co-ed softball team did the same thing only he broke both bones in his lower leg - that was before they raised the field and effectively shortened the "ramp". Perhaps the stadium renovation plans should include its removal? Chris Ivory showed some real promise in his time as a starter and I'm pretty excited to see if Logwone (can't wait to hear Bob pronounce this one) Mitz is the bruiser we think he is.
On D, I really want to see more of Xavier Hicks. That guy just made plays and I can't understand why we didn't see more of him. He should team with Alfonso Jackson to give us a great Safety tandem. We have two athletic corners in Giles and Nwachukwu and will have one of the best - if not THE best linebacking corp in the Pac in 2008. If there's a question on D, it's is up front where we lose Ropati, Broadus, Mullenix and Johnson. Ropati was really never the same after he got hurt; Mullenix had just about the same impact this year as last when he was leaning on crutches on the sideline; and Broadus and Johnson were really non-factors as well. So really, we can't do much worse with the likes of Ahmu, Kooyman, Graise, Eichelberger and Turpin. I think we'll be a pretty darn good defensive team next year.
What is it that they say wins championships? Good defense and a strong running game. Check and check. Cougs go bowling next year and Paul Wulff is Pac 10 Coach of the Year. You heard it here first.
Over and out - Hooty