Friday, August 29, 2008

Ready For Lift-Off

One more day and it's all for real. 2008 hits the runway. Are we ready? Will we have game-one yips in Qwest? Will we really be as bad as the pundits have said? Here's some quick hitting questions, plus some links and such.

1) Is Gary Rogers up to the task? I know the focus tomorrow is all on the Okie State offense, and for good reason. We are all anticipating that they will move the ball, and we are going to be in for a major track meet. We worry about our defense, and the less-than-impressive performances from last year vs. high-octane spread offenses with mobile QB's (Oregon? Even UW?). But what about Gary Rogers? Will he be up to the task?

The thing is, we really don't know, do we? The book on Rogers, at least in-game action, is pretty flimsy. Sure we can go back to the Auburn clips from two years ago and wax poetic about the throws he made.....but, uh, that was just ONE drive. Yes it shows upside, but is that something to take to the bank? He had a strong drive vs. Baylor as well in '06, throwing a laser-like TD pass in Qwest Field, no less. But what about all the other drives where he's taken the field?

There are so many extenuating circumstances when you try to evaluate a QB in limited playing time. What was the situation? Was it a blow-out, and the defense had their backups in and basically "called off the dogs"? Yes, Rogers looked brilliant leading the lads down the field vs. a lightning fast SEC defense in Auburn, but it was 26-7 in the third quarter at that point. Not exactly crunch time if you follow me. Auburn blitzed the bejeezus out of Brink early and often in that game, but if you watch the highlights, they are basically sitting back in a soft cover-2 for that entire Gary Rogers drive. And on the long TD pass to Cody Boyd over the middle, yes, a great throw and a good read to find him, but, uh, where's the defender on that play? Someone forgot to cover Cody, all 6-8 of him, right down the middle of the field.

I don't mean to poke holes in Rogers. But we're talking about a QB who has thrown for 244 yards, TOTAL, in his three seasons of limited playing time. How could we possibly know what we are going to see when it's his show for four quarters every Saturday?

I think that's what makes this season so damn compelling. It's a new team, hell, it's a new PROGRAM, in every way, shape and form, and that includes the trigger man calling the shots. Anything, and I mean ANYTHING, can happen. I am with all of you though, I cannot wait to see how it looks in real-time tomorrow.

2) Will the D be overwhelmed? One thing about the defense that seems to at least slightly overlooked is all the talk about how young they are. But did you know that of the starting front-7 for tomorrow, there's only one non-senior starting, in Kevin Kooyman at defensive end? All the rest, from the tackles to the other d-end to the starting linebackers, all seniors. And that, my friend, can only bode well for what we're about to go through.

Not only is everything new, but, that experience and leadership is going to go a long way towards a respectable 2008 season. Last year was about new faces and learning how to play. But enough of wading in the kiddie pool. Time to go to the deep end. Time to stop sitting back and being afraid to make mistakes. It's time to attack.

The buzz has been exceptional on what Greg Trent has done this offseason. It seems the new coaching staff has given him the green light to just go off as the vocal and emotional leader of the defense, and it's something that has been lacking for the last few seasons. We haven't had a chip on our shoulder, defensively, since the days of Will Derting.

Speaking of Derting....remember the swagger of Will? I sure do. I think Carlyle Holiday of Notre Dame does too. Boom goes the dynamite:


I would sure love to see a defense play like that again, wouldn't you? Let's hope we see them come out with some swagger and dictate things from kickoff to kneel-down, and the physical, emotional leader in the middle can set the tone. What the heck. What do we have to lose??

3) What about Coach Wulff? It's important to realize what we have here. We love the change in the culture, and from day one it's been a whole new program. Things are moving forward in every way, from team discipline, academics, and even recruiting is off to maybe the best start many of us can ever remember who's followed this type of thing. Cougfan had a story not too long ago that read something like this is the first time ever that out of the first five commits, each player was rated in the top-100 in the nation at their respective position, and each player was of the three-star variety. You never want to get too carried away with recruiting rankings, but still, we're talking uncharted territory here. But what about the end-result? What will we see on the field?

When you go back and look at his resume, it's impressive the more you look at it. The parallels between EWU and WSU are uncanny. Small stadium, small budget, small donor base, small media market. Yet this is a guy who went 53-40 at maybe the toughest school to win at in the Big Sky, winning coach of the year honors three different times out of eight seasons. In those losses, however, at least one game each year was regarded as the "paycheck" game, where they were lambs led to the slaughter in playing BCS teams around the country. So the record on equal terms is even more impressive. He took EWU to the Football Sub-Division playoffs in three of the last four seasons, when they had only reached the playoffs once in the prior 11 years.

But maybe the most important thing? He led EWU to a winning record in seven out of eight seasons. That is a complete turnover of the program, twice, and only one losing season? That is a consistent winner. That is how you build a program. And that is what we want here. Yet he continued to overcome the odds, and play the strongest hand he could with what he was dealt. It's the story of his life, overcoming adversity at every step. Why should it be any different now? Give it some time, Cougar Nation, but once things fall into place, we are going to have a program that you will all be proud of. And one that opposing teams will know that no matter the situation, they are going to have their hands full. Once this culture flips, and Wulff has the time to build it into his vision, look out!

Some other quick links of interest.

The Beavers gave us their annual early-season road loss. This time Stanford got them, as the Beavs' mistakes late did them in. When OSU turns it over, they lose, pure and simple, and they lost in the turnover ratio at a minus-3.

OSU did have some bright spots, as Lyle Moevao looks worlds better than last year, throwing for over 400 yards against an experienced Stanford defense. And a huge part of those numbers was the return of Sammie Stroughter, who reminded everyone about the kind of playmaker he can be with 12 balls for 157 and two scores. But despite outgaining Stanford 490-301, OSU is 0-1. But the best thing of all from last night? NO MORE JOG BRA JERSEYS!

Nice job Nike. Maybe there is hope for our look next year? Fingers crossed.

A team we'll see in a few weeks, Baylor got blown out at home to maybe 30,000 fans in Waco. Did anyone catch their game last night? Someone commented that they looked bad, and from what little I saw of it, they looked pretty flat. It looked like a pre-season game or something, not a home opener against a ranked team? Baylor was sloppy with five turnovers and just 250 total yards of offense. I know it's early, and they will improve, but Baylor looks like they have a long way to go.

Coach Price, what happened?? 42-17 loss to Buffalo, and we're not talking the Buffalo BILLS?? The word has been Price might be on the hot-seat, and you can't help but wonder what's up down there after that embarrassment. Turner Gill is a hot coaching prospect and was rumored to be on our short list of candidates, but WOW, what a rough start to '08!

In local news, sorry to see Keith Parr Jr (formerly Rosenberg) transfer. He was a touted slot WR/running back combo coming out of Bellevue High School a few years ago, and seemed like he could be a good fit in the WSU offense. But for whatever reason, injury and otherwise, it didn't work out. Sorry to see that he pulled the trigger now on leaving WSU, after that long hot summer of practices. But admirable that he stuck it out, and obviously he is making the decision that it is best to move on down the road. Good luck Keith.

What's with those touted Bellevue players? JR Hasty has left UW, this time for good. LB EJ Savannah was the leading tackler on UW last year, but has an academic issue (but rumored to be close to returning?). Parr (Rosenberg) has now left WSU. Eric Block is still in Pullman, but hasn't really had a shot yet. I like Block, and have heard some excellent things about him from people who know him. Hopefully he can make an impact this year at safety. Steve Schilling is doing well at Michigan as a starting guard, but otherwise, the Bellevue D-1 guys haven't made the impact that many thought they would make. It's still an outstanding high school program, and they will produce many D-1 prospects, but it just goes to show you how hard it is to project success at the next level.

That's about it for today. We'll be back tomorrow for some pre-and-post game reactions to the new Wulff era. So enjoy your Friday, and as always, GO COUGS!


PortlandCoug said...

how dare you tug at heart strings with video of #51. (wipes tear from my eye). I think that qb wakes up in the middle of the night thinking of that hit. how in God's green (brown?) earth did we lose that game?

Good job on this post. You guys have really blown out your work of late. Keep it up. You are stop number one on my daily journey into cyberspace.

Longball said...

Thanks Portlandcoug, That Sedihawk guy really knows what he's doing.

Just a quick note related to Greg Trent, I was watching their Sunday practice and when it was over the entire defense gathered and took a knee in front of him. I was too far away to hear his message, but it was clear who they were looking to for leadership and he was definately answering the call.

Anonymous said...

Sedi when do you sleep man?

You gonna be in tailgaters heaven tomorrow?

Brinkhater said...

Why look forward when you can stay in the past?

Anyone see that the Big Apple went four for eleven for fifteen yards and a pick?


Sedihawk said...

Nobody staying in the past here. Just looking back in admiration and hope for today, that's all. Come on man. You yourself then brought up Brink's line!

I sleep anony. It's all about balance! But I don't sleep like I used to. Wife, kids, mortgage, career, you know, life keeps you awake at times.

We'll be there tomorrow, wife and young kids in tow. Would love to meet some of you. Longball and I are going to try and meet up. And Nuss has announced he'll be holding court under the Viaduct, so we'll see.

Logan said...

you guys need one big meeting place with one big wsu football blog flag to get people coming over and promoting the site.

ptowncoug said...

I was concerned about UTEP switching to a 3-3-5. I just hate the idea of not having enough lineman. How about a 4-2-5! I think this will be the wave of the future to put a stop to the spread option attack. More DBs who are faster than LBs. Anyone want to scheme this out for me.
I hate thinking that Buffalo is good, but their strength played right into UTEP's weakness. We may see the same thing Saturday.
Not sure how CMP is on the hot seat with a 25-24 record with 2 bowl trips in 4 years. Talk about raising expectations for a school that went to bowl games what 4 times in the last 80 years! It's like us complaining that we are not getting to the Rose Bowl enough. Come on, let's get realistic.

Brinkhater said...

Its really amazing that Buff is beating anyone. They were the doormat not only of the MAC for years, but of all of D-1 Football.

I mean, they were the type of team that would lose to Central Michigan 43-6 when the Chipps were 2-9.

Anyhow, is anyone else chomping at the bit for tomorrow's game?

I haven't been this excited for a Cougar game since the Holiday Bowl.

I may start the pre-funk in about an hour.

Longball said...

How's that pre-fink goin, 'hater? I have arrived in the greater Seattle metropolitan area and am way too ready for this game to sleep tonight. If someone was offering I would totally pull an all night tailgate starting now.

I think it would be awesome to have a WSU Football Blogapalooza some day, but I cant imagine how we're going to get everyone together.