Sunday, September 07, 2008

Now What?

So it happened, and it's over. Can't live in the past, right? Anyone who lives in the past and laments the present will never be a success. So it's time to plow forward. But clearly there are issues here, big ones at that, and they don't look like they will be solved overnight.

Now that we are two games in, it's time for some self-examination, fact-or-fiction style.

1) We don't have Pac-10 talent.

FICTION - First of all, let's clear this up right now. We DO have Pac-10 talent. What, is Brandon Gibson suddenly a Big Sky caliber receiver? The kid led the conference in receiving last year with over 1100 yards and nine TD catches. Is Andy Mattingly suddenly a bad player, not worthy of BCS-conference ability? Or do we just totally forget about his 91 tackles and eight sacks as a sophomore in '07? What about linebackers Greg Trent, Cory Evans, and Kendrick Dunn, each coming off an 80+ tackle season last year? Just toss it all out the window? There is talent here, and some of it of the all-conference type.

2) We don't have Pac-10 depth.

FACT - The problem is the same thing that's been an issue the last several years, and that's a lack of quality depth. Look at the offensive and defensive lines, and how beat up and out of position they are just two games into the season. Seriously, Matt Eichelberger and Adam Hineline are what we are relying on for plugging up the inside? Did anyone see the holes that were blown up yesterday? And there still isn't any semblance of a consistent pass rush from the defensive ends. Meanwhile, the O-line is just one big, shuffling mess right now that was just overwhelmed against BCS talent in Cal. Cal was dropping seven and even eight into coverage on many situations, and we still couldn't block them with five and even sometimes six blockers.

And how about the skill guys? We have Gibson, and Frischknecht, but after that? We are young and inexperienced at the worst possible time. Consider from 2007, we lost Bumpus and his 70 catches, Collins and his 52 catches, and even Charles Dillon, with his 37 balls for over 400 yards last year. That was a prolific offense, with an experienced, senior QB who threw for over 3800 yards and 26 TD's.

And to take it a step further, think about the youth and inexperience we are relying on, right now, to carry the load at the skill spots. Jeshua Anderson, Daniel Blackledge, even Michael Willis, all those guys have been beat up and/or out, completely, from practices. And when you realize we are trying to implement a brand new system, with a brand new QB, and these guys have only had spring ball and fall camp to figure it out? When half of them can't even get on the field at all, how can we expect anything other than the complete train wreck we've witnessed thus far?

It's a well-known thing that young skill position guys, particularly WR's, usually struggle initially due to the speed of the game and the complexity of the offense. In practice things are scripted, and vanilla, but when games come around, you are going against guys you have never seen before, defenses and coverages are disguised, blitzes come from all over, etc, etc, etc. When a young WR is out there thinking, he is a step, or more, slower. And therefore you don't get to see them use their athleticism and speed, and worst of all, there isn't any separation from the defensive backs.

3) Gary Rogers isn't a Pac-10 QB

FICTION - I know, I know. Two games in and this looks like a fact that he has no business being a starting QB in this league. But think about all that is stacked against him right now. First, he doesn't have game experience. Just two career starts, and very little playing time the last few seasons. Anyone who follows the game knows that there are always some bumpy moments early for a QB trying to get his feet wet, and it takes a few games to figure it out.
Next, think about who is trying to protect him. After a decent first week, the offensive line got absolutely whooped yesterday, in every conceivable fashion. Cal was unblockable at times, no matter what we tried. Rogers got the yips, no doubt about it, and on the times he did have time to throw, he was rolling away from pressure that wasn't really there.

Third, think about the young skill guys we are trying to get by with right now, as we addressed in point number two above. Young skill guys, who haven't practiced, in a brand new system. Wulff again admitted that players are lining up wrong, running the wrong routes, you name it. And that's with not even 50% of the playbook still in the fold.

Finally, and this point gets lost in the shuffle, but for the second straight week, absolutely NO semblance of a consistent running game. How many QB's out there, really, can be successful if they are always in third-and-long? There's a reason teams commit to stopping the run on first and second down. There's a reason they want QB's in third and long. When you get QB's in predictable passing situations, the defense will win that battle well over 50% of the time. All the stats in the world will back that up. And think of all the third and long that Rogers has had to face just two games into the season.

Bottom line - Gary Rogers still cannot be evaluated, because he simply hasn't had any help.

4) This coaching staff isn't Pac-10 worthy

FICTION - This is one of the dumbest things I've heard thus far, and I can't believe some people are slinging this on the message boards after just two games (and some good advice - when the going gets bad, do yourself a favor and STAY OFF the message boards! The idiot factor increases by ten-fold, and you have the obligatory UW-Oregon fans that love to "troll" and bait people into the idiocy. Don't do it.). These guys have been very successful at EWU.

Does anyone need a reminder of how difficult it is to win in Cheney? We hear Pullman is tough, all the time, but go drive out to EWU and see their facilities. Then realize Wulff built a winner at that program, taking them to the playoffs multiple times, and winning coach of the year honors three times. This isn't by mistake, or a misprint. Wulff and this coaching staff is the real deal, but as has been preached since day one, this is going to be a long, tough climb, and only the strongest are going to survive.

The other factor here is the timing of this whole changeover couldn't have come at a worse time. The APR mess is one thing, and the program was spiraling out of control as the Seattle Times pointed out in the spring. And that's just the off-the-field stuff. But to have such a drop-off in experienced offensive talent is another thing altogether. Not only are you trying to completely change the culture of the team, and that has been well-documented thus far. Not only are you trying to implement a no-huddle, multiple offense that is pretty complex and would have growing pains no matter how experienced you are. But you are trying to do all this with guys who haven't done it before, guys who haven't been able to practice what you are trying to implement. You are starting over in many, many ways, and to expect them to sprint before they can crawl is a huge problem.

So that's it. No sugar-coating things here. It's a mess right now, and I don't envy the job ahead for these guys in trying to do the right thing. They are trying to change things, but the deck is completely stacked against them. But who among us thought we would be 2-0 right now? Everyone has picked against us the first two games, so whether we lost 28-27 on a blocked extra point or 66-3 in a worst-ever wipeout, we're still in the same boat. I hope we've hit rock-bottom after yesterday, and it's hard to imagine anything worse than that.

Baylor is next, and instead of lamenting what just happened, let's hope they can look forward and seize the day as an opportunity to turn it all around. Let's hope we can take steps to get better.

Enjoy your Sunday, and hang in there. GO COUGS!


Michelle said...


I read (outloud) your whole analysis to my dad and both of us couldn't agree more with every single thing you said.

I really have nothing else to add. You hit it right on. Thanks for keeping it real.

Brinkhater said...

I agree with Michele ALMOST. I actually think that the timing of the changeover couldn't have come at a BETTER time--unless last year was Wulff's first.

Can you imagine what next year would be like if Doba was still the coach THIS YEAR? I mean, come on.

The only perpelxing thing at this point is the quarterback situation. Like it or not, if this season threatens to be something other than 1-11 or 2-10, this week's game is everything.

So, why are we taking away reps from guys that need MORE reps than anything else?

My hope is that whether it is Rogers, Lopina, Lobby, Levy, whatever that they just name the kid today or tomorrow and let him practice, practice, practice.

One things for sure, we're going to find out how bad Baylor really is.

Luke said...

I agree with much of what you said, but disagree with some things.

First of all, point one...we are lacking Pac-10 talent. Gibson is not the Gibson of last year...he has dropsies worse than Darell Jackson. Our DBs are just terrible. I could go on...but I'll save the tirade. Sure, we have some good guys, but face it...this team of "talent" was largely recruited by Doba and really sucks. I mean really sucks. It's like UW got first pick on the in-state kids, then EWU, then CWU, then WWU for god's sake, then PHS...and finally Doba. That's extreme, but that's what it feels like.

Second, my skepticism since day one on Wulff has only gotten stronger. The thing that bothered me the most was watching his sideline demeanor. I watched Levy sit there and coach the kids, giving them advice, telling them what to do. Wulff stood there and peered over his shoulder (god i wish i had a screenshot) like a junior assistant coach waiting to see what the big play is that the real coach is going to call.

I'm not ready to lynch the guy. No, give him a couple years. But for god's sake Wulff, show some fire and some leadership out there.

Brinkhater said...

Here's a nice quote from Zach "touchdown" Follett via a California paper:

"We knew on film that this wasn't going to be one of the best teams we faced. We had to make sure we didn't play to their level."

As ET says, "Owwwwwch."

Anonymous said...

Anyone know when Women's Basketball starts?

Anonymous said...

Rogers isn't a Pac-10 QB.
It's true that he did not have much experience, but look many many many new and inexperience QBs in the country, they all perform better than Rogers. Inexperience is not a excuse for Rogers, he is a SENIOR!!!
Watch the way he runs the offense, and throw the ball, they all has NOTHING to do with inexperience.

Sedihawk said...

Brother Brinkhater, I am not about to suggest that another year of Doba was a good thing. You know that. We were ready for it to end after the 2006 season for many, and obviously after the wipe-outs vs. SC, AZ and Oregon last year. What I mean by it couldn't come at a worse time is that it couldn't be a worse situation for WULFF TO STEP INTO. He couldn't have been dealt a tougher hand to play, on and off the field. He's hit the treadmill at 8 MPH since the day he took the job in trying to clean up this mess.

And Luke, I don't believe we are oozing with Pac-10 talent. Not even close. But we do have some decent players, and it's totally unfair to write them off after two games. Brandon Gibson may be off to a slow start, but we're talking about the best WR next to Mike Thomas of AZ in the conference. Given his track record, doesn't he deserve a couple of games to learn this new offense as well? Andy Mattingly was a legit all-conference candidate last year and did get honorable mention as a true sophomore. Greg Trent has over 250 career tackles now. Don't dismiss those guys so easily.

We just don't have pac-10 depth. We are replacing people who have graduated, left the program or are out with injuries with walk-ons, JC transfers and freshmen who are trying to figure it out in the line of fire.

And Luke, do you really want Wulff to huff and puff and blow the house down? Do you think his demeanor shows he doesn't care? Stoops has been doing that since day one at Arizona, making a complete ass of himself on the sidelines, and that hasn't made a lick of difference. But this isn't paint-dry-Ty we're talking about here. He will show some emotion when the time is right.

Wulff has more on the line in this than you, me, or any season-ticket holder. He's a former player for gawdsakes. He couldn't care any more than he already does, so these losses and these growing pains are going to hurt him a heck of a lot more than it will hurt any of us.

But we can't say we weren't warned about all this. Wulff's frustration has been on the rise, and you could see he hasn't been happy with things since camp began. Remember his complaining to the media about how half the team was on the sidelines because of some types of bumps and bruises, saying again and again about how we need to get tougher and play through a little pain? Do you think that was just talk? If we know anything about Wulff, we know he isn't a BS artist. He's honest. So I believe in what he's telling us, and I think he knew this was coming. But are you really going to question Wulff's head coaching chops after the success he's had as a leader and recruiter?

Wulff isn't alone in slow starts here either. The great Dennis Erickson was 3-7-1 in his first year at WSU, and I'm sure people were thinking he was over his head, this coach from nowhere U with a new offense that nobody seems to know what the heck to do. And his home opener as WSU coach? A 44-7 blowout at the hands of Stanford. We would also lose 42-7 to USC that year and 38-7 vs. ASU. Of course, after a year with this brand new, one-back offense, things exploded in year two and the rest is history.

It's easy to be sideways after yesterday, and I'm not surprised that we have differing opinions right now. But I'm just going to relax. We've got a long way to go. I am going to hope for improvement, and that the young talent will take some strides this year, giving us reason for an optimistic future. I'm going look at how successful the early recruiting has already been. We have some of the strongest early commitments that we've ever had, under Price, Doba, any of them, in recent times. That isn't by accident.

Most of all, I believe this thing will turn around, but it has to have a chance to gel. Otherwise we become one of those schools that fires their coach every 2-3 years, and then wonders why they aren't a consistent winner.

Luke said...

Gibson second best in the conference? You are high. He was pretty good last year, but lets not kid ourselves.

Of course it's far to early to judge Wulff overall. I would however like to see more leadership on the sidelines.

Sedihawk said...

Luke...Seriously? I guess your definition of being one of the best is a lot different than everyone else. Maybe you don't like the guy, for whatever reason. But how could anyone argue with his production? Gibson had more receiving yards than any player in the conference last year, in 1 less game than all the other contending WR's. He was #2 in TD's, just two behind the Pac-10 leader, and was #1 in yards per catch. He was the only Pac-10 receiver to average at least 100 yards per game. Please tell me how he wasn't at least the second best WR last year. The numbers don't lie.

Anonymous said...

I agreed with most of this analysis--there is talent. Sadly, as much as I love Paul Wulff, his story, optimism, and ties, I need to disagree with the argument that he is a PAC-10 ready coach. Assistant coach, yes, head coach, no. I am also not sure the analogy between EWU and WSU makes much sense. The speed throughout a 1-AA team--top to bottom--is not what you see top to bottom in that of 1-A team and ESPECIALLY not a PAC-10. This is the reason you SO RARELY see 1-AA coaches promoted to BCS conferences. The route for a coach is generally from 1-AA to non-BCS to BCS.
I think he will be a VERY successful coach… just not for a while and he’ll need to recognize that he needs to coach to the players he has not a “scheme.” In the meantime, I’ll support him and the, of course, the Cougs.
Those are my two-cents.

Luke said...

Well said on Gibson. The numbers don't lie. I hope he gets over the drops and starts to really produce. If the collection of quarterbacks can get him the ball.

Sedihawk said...

It's all good Luke. We're all just frustrated. I think we can all agree that even though we thought this would be a down year, nobody thought we would have started out this badly. And the biggest disappointment might have been a lack of improvement from week one to week two. I sure thought we would play tough yesterday, but after one play that was out the window!

And I will also say this - If it's a few seasons from now and we aren't improving, then the hard questions will be out there on Wulff. Just like Willingham at UW and the mess he hasn't yet cleaned up, we will be just as cranky as the UW types who are ready for change. But man, I sure as hell want this to work out.

CougX said...

I look at this team and see inexperience everywhere. This stems from not only very young players but junior and seniors whom are unfamiliar with the scheme. However, unlike the post 1998 & 2003 seasons I see a reversal of fortune. The kids are learning the fundamentals (tackling was still good but the motivation as the game went on was lacking), the few times the offense clicked - it looked impressive and we really have not given it time to jell. Additionally, we have played two pretty good opponents in OSU and Cal that have in no way allowed either side of the ball to develop a rhythm.

I remember the walloping given to us by the UW in 2000 and wanted Price gone for good but then our young talent began to get stronger, experienced and confident. Wulff and his staff will do fine. By the way, the ‘Dawg Father’ was not really that animated on the sidelines if memory serves me right either but his assistants were.

So if Rodgers can learn to not make every pass a 'frozen rope', a few key linemen get healthy and the defense just continues to improve there will be more than two 'W's' this year and even more next. I have faith – keep fighting, persevere and Go Cougs!

JMNOR55 said...

Yes the Coug loss was a big black eye. However, with a young coach, WSU has an upside that their hated rival at Montlake does not. In a few years, WSU will be as good if not better than Oregon.

One other thing, WSU was smart to schedule two 'easier non-conference' games, unlike Macho Wash. who had to schedule three bowl teams in a make or break year.

WSU 28, Baylor 20.

Does Rueben Mayes have kids who are football players?