Tuesday, September 16, 2008

From Bowling to Bowled Over: A Review

Happy Hump Day Cougar Nation. Hope you’re having a good week.

Well, with the exception of some stragglers, we had one of our better weekend of comments that I can ever remember. For the most part, you all offered some really strong insights and conclusions. One of your remarks that stood out for yours truly concerned Brinkhater’s not-so-nimble prediction that we would finish 6th in the conference and would head to our first bowl in several years.

Obviously, I was deeply wrong about that. But beyond my idiocy, the question is “why?’

So, let’s revisit my cwazy line of reasoning.

At the start of the year
, I reasoned that we would win a whopping 7 games. Our supposed Prey: An awful Baylor, a meek Portland State, a down UCLA and Oregon State, a woeful Stanford, a Lockerless UW, and a pitiful excuse for a Rainbow: Hawaii. In short, I predicted us to lose to every team that would finish .500 or higher and beat everyone who would be .500 or lower. Not that unreasonable in my book.

As of this writing, I have yet to be swayed about the fortunes of the teams that I thought we would beat. I thought they'd be bad, and from what I've seen, they look pretty bad.

Of course, that begs the most important question: What happened to US?

Well, when we offered our pre-camp predictions, there were several criticisms of us. And here they are:

We had no depth at DT and our ability to stop the run was a MAJOR source of concern.

We had no depth anywhere in the case anyone got injured.

Our kicking game was ranked worst in the conference.

IN relation to those criticisms, I reasoned that NONE of the above would prove relevant over the course of the year (silly Brinkhater). Why?

1) I reasoned that “the Roof” would provide needed depth and that Trent and the Safeties would compensate up the middle. I also believed that Mattingly and Mullenix would provide sufficient pressure to draw the attention of the defense. Obviously, Roof was expelled, the M&M’s have melted in the hands of every OT they've seen, and our play at DT and Safety has been absolutely abysmal.

2) Our quarterbacks HAVE been the worst in the conference as predicted by Ted Miller and Benedict Bob Condotta. Of course, my reasoning for why we would be at the top instead of the bottom was because we had 4 starters returning on the O-Line, had two terrific receivers returning with one gem in the balance (Willis), as well as two FANTASTIC running backs to set up play action.

3) Wulff ran our kids into the ground. Of course, he needed to. And, of course, he should not be held responsible for Anderson’s hernia or the rest of the onslaught to the WR corps. Nor can Wulff be held responsible to the miserable injuries that affected the O-Line during camp, or the shuffling that had to take place between Weeks One and Two. In any case, all of the nice constants I thought would be there with the line and the receiving corps? No where to be found. In fact, the instability and injuries to the WR corps and the line have made our suspect QB play even worse. Moreover, those injuries crippled our development and made our performance between Week One and Two not only non-existent--it actually made us REGRESS.

4) Our kicking game is still awful. We missed a PAT in game one, had a worm burner returned for 6 against CAL when we were still "kind of" in the game, and the punting (in Game One) arguably cost us our first competitive game of the year. While I know that our kicking game hasn’t come into real play yet, if we were nearly any good, it would cost us and cost us dearly. I thought we’d be almost reliable this season, but we still have to say 20 Hail Marys even before a dog gone PAT.

So what does this all mean? Where do we go from here?

Call me cwazy, but I honestly believe that this season can be salvaged.

It may not be great, it may not be pretty, it may not be impressive, but I do think that there are 4 wins (out of six winnable games) that are there for the taking. And yes, 4-9 at this point would be a SERIOUS moral victory.

Of course, based on our play and decision making so far (yes, this does mean you coaches), there are also 10 more losses that we can easily siege!

But, here’s my recipe for making the more positive outcome happen THIS YEAR:

Pray for health for the Offensive Line.
If there’s ANYTHING that I am certain of it is that Wulff can coach an O-Line. If this group can stay healthy, they’ll develop. Given the fact that they were previewed as high as #5 in the conference, you know that they have talent in that group. So, if they develop as expected, the talent at the skill positions WILL become apparent just like Brinkhater foresaw at the beginning of the year. You saw some clues last week that things can and will get better as the WRs started to run the correct routes with more consistency. With health at O-Line, we will start to move the ball. But we really can’t afford more big injuries.

Play both Quarterbacks.
May sound sacrilegious, but this team was MADE to follow the Leaf-Dixon combo that Oregon employed a few years back. Start with the guy who can scramble to offset the blitz early (Lopina) and then mix it up the rest of the game by inserting a guy that can really spread the field horizontally and vertically through the air (Rogers). In my book, alternate the two every couple of series until one guy gets the hot hand (or not). Then ride that dude into the 4th. I actually think both guys can learn better by doing and watching anyway and I think it will make us effective over the course of a season (and yes, 10 games qualifies as a season my book) while also avoiding a split locker room.

Move to a 3-4 or 3-3-5.
This is beyond a no-brainer in my book; and I, more than anyone else in the nation, am qualified to make that very statement because I, in fact, have no brain.

In Brinkhater's world, there is beyond 100% justification for Wulff and company to stick to their guns regarding their philosophy on offense. But where the defense is concerned, sticking to their guns makes no sense whatsoever. For one, NOTHING that they want to do with the 4-3 is so complex it can’t be taught in the spring and pre-season. For two, the current scheme does not play to the team’s strengths. For three, we CAN NOT become even remotely competitive with the status quo. For four, we are NOT as slow as we’ve seemed thus far. From what I’ve seen, we just look that way, cuz EVERYONE on the team is diving toward the center on each play to compensate for the fact that our DTs are the worst ever in school history.

To be sure, the addition of Hicks and the return of Jackson will help some, but where it will help is 7 yards down the field after the opposing teams’ tailback has picked up 8 on first down to make it second and two (instead of 1st and 10 following a 50 yard gain). I mean, I know I don’t know much, but when the other team has second and two most of the time, you gonna lose.
So, the return of Hicks in and of itself will mean NOTHING for our fortunes.

Moreover, given the fact that we have NO TALENT or depth at DT but have PLENTY at Linebacker, why in the WORLD would you sit that talent and start some fat, slow scrubs when you don’t have to?

It may not be this week, but I’d be SHOCKED to not see a change in Defensive scheme by the Oregon game. If we make the change, I like our chance to stay in games (assuming that the offense improves) with that game (the Quack) and the USC game as exceptions..
And I’d REALLY like our chances if they’d move Mattingly back to LB.

But what do I know, right?

Anywho, where this week is concerned, we will win and win handily, so you all can take a chill pill and relax--at least for this week.

Our first REAL test will be how we line up against the Quack in a couple of weeks. Granted, even without Roper, we’re gonna get blasted. But, it is the improvement we make in THAT game which will determine our fate for the rest of the year.

There are six winnable games left on our slate.

Lets get #1 this weekend.

ONE final note - Bellevue High School, the #1 AAA school in the state, and WSU recruiting target Jamal Atofau will play in Qwest Field this weekend. It's called the "Best of the West Classic".

It's a full day of high school football, featuring teams from California and Washington. Here's a synopsis:

Bellevue High School will host four football games Sept. 20 at Qwest Field, highlighted by the Wolverines playing one of California's top teams. The Best of the West Football Classic will
feature seven Seattle-area teams, with host Bellevue playing California High School from the Bay Area (San Ramon), a team that was 11-2 last season, at 7:30 p.m.
Kamiak and Shorewood will open at 10:30 a.m., followed by Woodinville and Eastlake at 1:30 p.m. Redmond plays Bothell, last year's runner-up in Class 4A, at 4:30 p.m.
Bellevue will play its third California team in five years at Qwest Field. The Wolverines, one of this state's perennial powers, beat De La Salle in 2004 and Long Beach Poly in 2005. All-day admission will be $7 for students and $13 for adults.


OklahomaCougar said...

This is all real nice, and maybe correct.

But for this Coug, I just want to a more fundamentally sound and disciplined team take the field. No stupid turnovers, no stupid penalties, solid blocking, solid tackling, and special teams that stay in their in lanes.

"Must learn walk before you can run, nature's rule Daniel-san, not mine"

Nuss said...

I am most definitely with you on the 3-4. Changing defensive alignments is not like changing offensive schemes -- principles such as "tackle the ball carrier" and "get to the quarterback" still apply. You're just putting your best 11 players in the best possible position to do those things.

And it's not like a switch would represent some sort of massive shift in fundamental philosophy -- they've run plenty of 3-3-5 so far. Add another linebacker, and there you go.

I'd love to see it sooner rather than later. I understand the idea of switching to it for the Oregon game in the interest of not allowing the Ducks to prepare, but let's be honest: Our success is going to be predicated on how well we play, not whether we surprise anyone. (Our "no huddle" offense has taught us that.)

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the D BH. But I haven't seen anything at all that would justify sticking to the philosophy on O. I hope to be proven wrong, and by all indications there will be plenty chances, but this "system" doesn't work with sub-par athletes. The idea of platooning QB's makes sense, except for we don't have anybody as gifted as Dixon, or Jonathon Stewart, or their receivers corp, or their O-line. I would take Rogers over Leaf though..

Hate to play negative Nancy... but I haven't seen anything that would give me the remotest sense of optimism regarding the O.

Has anybody brought up the fact that PSU beat Eastern last year?


Anonymous said...

Interesting Coaches show this evening...


Couple things I took away from it...

1) Wulff addressed the issue about our kids having difficulties with the current system. To paraphrase, he basically stated that the coaching staff is going to continue to put them in tough positions, and expect them to step up. He expects it will take time, and with a) inexperience at most positions, and b) a new system, it's going to be rough and take longer than anyone wants.

2) Who's starting? Lopina, and it sounds like his wrist isn't giving him too many problems thowing so far. Doesn't mean Lopina is THE GUY, as they are still looking to see who will lead the offense more consistently. They will NOT be running a dual QB system this season. Sounds like they want to settle...they just want someone to step up first.

3) Recruiting had a couple points. Feels negativity on message boards hurts the program and has impact on recruits. Wishes they didn't exist. Doesn't read them. Recruiting philosophy right now is to let recruits know that we are struggling right now due to lack of depth, which gives them the opportunity to come in and have a great shot at starting in the Pac-10 as a freshman. Tells them that losing right now is a struggle with experience and depth, but that the program will win with '09 recruiting class. For a quick speel, it sounded pretty good. Finally, felt that the kids he got in 08' are very character and passion friendly. No mention as to quality of the class.

4) Speaking of the 08 recruiting class, even though we are starting 5 freshman, he "hates" it, and says we are doing it because our depth is so bad right now. He is strongly opposed to not red-shirting, and will not hurt the program in the long-run for a short-term gain.

5) Feels that we are really young and will be a real good football team in the next couple (read as 1-3) years. Feels that the guys we have are good, but need to learn how to step up, and play in tough situations

6) Adaptability. It was covered a couple times. Baylor, and what happened with the hurricane should be of no issue. His kids need to learn that life isn't going to be consistant, and they need to learn how to adapt to adversity. Coaching staff will work on putting the kids in tough situations so that they can learn how to handle it properly... again, see point #1.

-- EDIT: couple more points I just remembered --

7) Coach loves his canucks and feels he can get good talent out of Canada. Recruiting a couple kids up there right now. Also, Pencer is banged up but feels that he will be a great football player when he gets healthy and has a year or two under his belt.

8) Feels the offensive line, especially the young ones are very good and very special. They are just too young, and have been shuffled too much to really be able to play with the kind of consistancy they need to, and haven't had an opportunity to gel. Feels the line is going to be very very good in the coming seasons. Still expects them to step up, and start playing stronger.

9) He was pissed about Baylor running a 40 man huddle on the sidelines during the game. Talked to the ref's about it many times, and will ensure it is brought up to the NCAA in the off-season. Feels like there is a fine line to the 12 man huddle rule, and that with the 'no-huddle and the like' pushes the line for allowing a defense to adjust. The 40 man sideline huddle just crosses the line.

10) He was pretty knowledgable about the seniors we lost to graduation, and sounds like he feels we have massive drop-off this season. Really only mentioned B-Gib as a quality guy. Feels like Brandon has stepped up tremendously this year, and has caught on very well with the system. Daniel Blackledge and Jeshua Anderson have struggled cause they never got to practice due to injury. Karstetter and Norrell just have issues because the game is a lot faster than they are used to, and the system is very complex.

That's about all I can remember. He sounds a lot more posed and confident now than he did last winter. I always remember that he just didn't speak well when I heard him on the radio or in the quick soundbites on the net. He was very poised and well versed during the show.

Brinkhater said...

Great comments, all. Keep em comin'.

thepope3 said...

what i dont understand is that BJ Guerra isnt starting at LG. He played some 10 series last week and he doesnt get the start? He is from my High School and the kid is money in the bank