Monday, September 01, 2008

Is There Really That Much Improvement in Week Two?

For WSU, it's time to look forward. Saturday's loss is gone, and hopefully lessons were learned. The coach-speak of week one to week two will be on full display this coming Saturday, so, let's see what happens.

Speaking of week one to week two improvement....is it actually true?? Mmmm, sort of. I looked back at the last five years of our games, starting with 2003, and in some cases it IS true, some, not so much.

2003: Beat Idaho 25-0 in Seattle, then lost to Notre Dame 29-26 in OT.
Note - They were sluggish at times vs. Idaho in Kegel's first start since 2000. Lots of field goals in this one as the team struggled in the red zone. This was Cody Boyd's first appearance and he looked great, blocking a couple of Idaho field goal attempts to preserve the shutout. Things were better early vs. the Irish, in a game they sprinted out to a huge lead but couldn't hold on...in Ty Willingham's first game at ND, and, current Seahawk RB Julius Jones ran wild in the second half vs. a tired WSU defense. But overall improvement? Not really.

2004: Slogged through a comeback win at New Mexico 21-17, then lost to Colorado 20-12 in Seattle.
Note: Swogger rallied the Cougs in his first-ever start vs. New Mexico, throwing two fourth-quarter TD's. But the next week it all fell apart, as the WR's dropped an amazing amount of passes in the first half (reportedly 8 or 9 true "drops") and Swogger lost his cool. Brink comes in, gives them a spark yet also fumbles twice and throws an INT returned for a TD. Improvement?? NO.

2005: Struggled a bit with Idaho, winning just 38-26, but then went to Nevada and destroyed the Wolfpack 55-21 in week two.
Note: This might be the biggest example of how much better a team can look from week one to week two. The Idaho game was a weird one, with two TD's in the first three minutes of the game for a lightning quick 14-0 lead. But then Idaho snuck back into it and made it interesting before WSU pulled away. But the week two blowout on the road was huge. Brink went crazy, the defense made plays, basically everything went well. The other side to the coin? That was also Nevada's first game of the season, and they looked off in every way. What people forget is Nevada would go on to a bowl-winning season in 2005, looking absolutely nothing like the team we played in their season opener. Just a classic example of how different things can look from week one to week two. Improvement?? YES!

2006: Hung tough but blown out late, 40-14 at Auburn. Stormed back to crush Idaho 56-10 in week two.
Note: The end-result was great, sure. Week one was one of the worst-ever performances by Brink at WSU, just 11-for-24 for 67 yards (sound familiar to Gary's line on Saturday?). We looked overwhelmed by the SEC speed. Idaho's defense must have looked like statues compared to Auburn, and the results showed. We had over 300 yards of offense at the HALF, and would go on for an amazing 56 points and 637 total yards, including 344 rushing yards. But there is no other way to say it, other than Idaho was a BAD football team. This was Erickson's first season, and they had a lack of talent and depth across the board. And let's face it, that 2006 WSU team was one of our best non-bowl teams in recent history. Improvement? Yes.

2007: Hung tough with Wisconsin before getting blown out late, 42-21. Bounced back with a runaway victory in Seattle over San Diego State, 45-17.
Note: Just 328 total yards vs. Wisc but a whopping 654 yards vs. SD State, another huge offensive improvement. Brink had one of his best stat-games, throwing for 469 and 5 TD's, as well as a school record 38 completions. The WR's were unreal this day, as Gibson, Bumpus and Charles Dillon all went over 100 yards receiving, and made several spectacular catches along the way. Obviously the quality of the opponent has to be taken into consideration. Wisconsin was an excellent football team last year, while SD State? Still rebuilding, to put it kindly. And oh yeah, SD State's season opener was our second game, and they did not look good. Improvement? Yes.

Bottom line: Week one to week two, at least in recent times, does look promising. But the quality of the opponent and the timing of when you play them has to be taken into consideration. Cal is a quality, bowl-winning team from 2007, just like Okie State. This isn't Idaho or some other weakling to improve or shore up some issues. It's out of the frying pan, into the fire this week.

Plus, let's not get too excited after only one game. Beano Cook said it best on Saturday night, in that it is very easy to overvalue or undervalue things after just one game. You have to give it a few weeks and see how things settle down. Some teams look like world-beaters early on, but will come back to the pack over the next week or two. Meanwhile some teams look like they can't walk and chew gum at the same time, but things can change in a big way the next week. It happens every year, so why should 2008 be any different?

Speaking of this week, let's take a quick look at Cal to start off Labor Day.

Last week: Beat Michigan State 38-31. Offensively Cal was impressive, racking up 467 yards, including 264 yards passing and 203 yards rushing. Balance has been a staple with Jeff Tedford's offense, and this was no exception. Cal's young skill position guys were impressive, as both Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen went over 100 yards rushing. Vereen broke MSU's heart with an 81-yard TD run with just over 4 minutes left, right after State cut the lead to seven, and that was the ballgame.

Cal's QB controversy appears over, as Kevin Riley was in complete control with an efficient 17-for-24 for 202 yards and a couple of scores. Nate Longshore was 3-for-5 with 62 yards and a couple of INT's, including one in the end zone on a throw he tried to force into triple coverage. Expect Riley to go the whole way this week, other than maybe one or two series out of Longshore just to keep him fresh.

The Cal defense was less than impressive however. Cal has switched to a new 3-4 defense, and MSU looked pretty good, with 23 first downs and over 400 yards of total offense, including 321 yards passing. Sophomore WR Mark Dell lit up the Cal secondary, catching nine balls for 202 yards, averaging 22 yards per catch.

He almost had one of the best TD catches you will ever see, but upon replay, they took the catch away as he didn't quite have control of the ball. But he was unstoppable for much of this game.

One word of warning - Cal's special teams could be a huge problem. Jahvid Best had over 100 yards in kickoff returns, including a long of 35 yards. He's a home run threat anyway, every time he touches the football, but he's the last guy you want to see getting a kickoff and blockers in front of him. Plus, Cal got a TD on a blocked punt for the first TD of the 2008 season, something that really fired them up. Finally, the Cal punter, frosh Bryan Anger, was amazing, with a net of 48 yards on four punts, including three downed inside the 20 and a long of 59.

As we all know, special teams can be the tipping point in a tight ballgame. Let's hope things are cleaned up, fast, or else we could be in some big trouble.

Finally, hopes and prayers are sent our way towards the New Orleans - Gulf of Mexico area. Let's hope the levees hold up. Thank God they evacuated so many people in advance, and the lessons learned from Katrina appear to be saving tons of lives. Good luck to you all.

3 comments:

Brinkhater said...

this is a really great post, hawk.

Of course, every blanket statement is subject to a bunch of assumptions and preconditions.

For us, our improvement between Week One and Two has been really tempered by the fact that we've had an experienced QB and WR corps that has returned over the last several years. And, as we belabored over and over and over, the ceiling on the leader of that group was reached a long time ago.

BUT, when you look at when we were inexperienced at QB, you see what we've been talking about.

In the Nevada game a few years ago, Alex was simply BRILLIANT. And ya, the comptetion was a bit in shambles with a first game with a new coach, Alex really took off in that one.

The other big game was ND. Obviously, what the defense did in that game was really, really something. But, it was the O's development in that game--particularly the game tying TD drive that made that group turn the corner.

Without reference, I seem to remember us then promptly SPAKING Colorado the next week and the murdering the Quack the week after that.

So, while I don't expect to see us figure it all out next week, my sense is that by the end of that game, we will be ready for the rest of the season.

We're going to beat Baylor by two touchdowns in two weeks.

Bank on it.

kaddy said...

I was impressed that our CB's seemed to be in good position most of the game, even though they weren't making plays on the ball. An important first step is to be in position, then they can be coached up to make a play on the ball. I don't remember any blown coverages, at least.

Sedihawk said...

I don't think I'm ready to bank on beating anyone by two TD's right now, but let's see what happens Saturday. As BH has said, win two games in September and show improvement, and anything can happen. Kaddy, great point on the young db's. They were "out-athleted" on some of those Dez Bryant fades, but otherwise you are right. Very rarely was anyone ruuning wide open, nor did thet have a 15-yard cushion on regular passing plays. Maybe it's another year of experience, maybe it is Chris Ball, who knows. But unless we can discover a pass rush, and quickly, there is only so much they can do, you know? But they did play a pretty solid game all around.