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!