But the thing that is standing out now, after this last debacle, is the call for leadership. You are really hearing it for the first time, that there is a real void. But I think this has been brewing since August. Consider:
- One report we heard was that several players, standing on the sidelines during a tough August practice, were seen jacking around and not paying attention. This was what led Wulff to vent to the press that some players just weren't tough enough yet or understood what it takes to become a good football team, remember?
- Things looked promising vs. Okie State. The team had a decent bounce about it, and the defense played a pretty good game when you consider all the offensive troubles. And even after a very difficult first half, they came out and had two consecutive TD drives to start the third quarter, and you could see some upside here. They even ran the ball fairly well, against a team that now looks like a Big 12 title threat (have you seen what Okie State has been doing this year?). Just clean up some things offensively, fix some of the brutal special teams disasters, and this could have been a ballgame. I know I walked out of Qwest thinking that there was real promise with this team.
- But if we only knew what was to come. There was a report we got from someone on the sidelines during the Cal game that a lot of players not in the game looked completely disinterested, with very little talk or interaction amongst themselves. Just no energy whatsoever, and you would expect more excitement for the home opener. Obviously when you get run off the field like they were vs. Cal there isn't going to be a lot of cheerleading, but this was reportedly before the game had even started, before the rout was on.
- Against the Ducks, some reports started showing up in the media, with Alfonso Jackson saying that they were flat for the game. Coach Wulff denied that, and he thought they came out ready to play. Something sure seemed off though.
- They actually showed some real energy in that UCLA game. I know that's a memory now long gone, but they did put their heads in there and fight for as long as they could. Obviously it didn't work out, with the offensive line issues and Marshall's first road start a very difficult one to say the least. But that was at least a spirited effort. No talk at all about being flat in that one.
- For a short time, the Oregon State game was actually interesting. Anyone remember the 2nd quarter? The flurry of interceptions, the offense had a nice TD drive, Louis Bland ran one back for a score, and they "won" the 2nd quarter 14-3. There was real emotion and again, a little bit of promise, but of course it all evaporated in the 2nd half.
- Finally, the USC game. Wulff said afterwards that they are competing, and people aren't exactly quitting.....but we get down early, and "the emotion just leaves us." Bud Withers had the emotional tone in his notebook from Sunday, and openly asks where is the emotion.
What does that tell you? It sure as hell tells me that there WAS A CULTURE ISSUE here. This wasn't about trying to pass blame on the prior staff, and hide from things as a coach, as some of you have openly suggested in our comments. Once again, I ask that everyone go back and read that Seattle Times article. Seriously, just go back and spend a few minutes to go over it. Remember this quote?
"WSU is a hard school to go to, man," Williams says. "You ain't got nothin' to do but get drunk and smoke weed, and not go to class because you're too tired from doing what you're doing."It's a sledgehammer reminder of where things were when Wulff walked into this mess. Rip our coach all you want, question his background, whatever you need to do to feel better about things. But do not fail to understand the enormous task he was handed in trying to get this deal going in the right direction.
That said, what can be done? Will leaders suddenly emerge from the ashes of this mess? For the first time we've heard Kevin Lopina and Andy Mattingly speak up about things, about how there are some problems with some players here and it has to change. Maybe they are going to naturally step forward, as upperclassmen, to take the reins. I know the buzz has been positive on Louis Bland and some of the other frosh in terms of leadership. But they are just frosh, and 9 out of 10 vets aren't going to listen or follow a rookie, ever. They just won't.
So what we have here is a wide gap. On one side you have the older vets who have never tasted success, and obviously it doesn't bother many of them too much. They were raised in this program under Doba's hands-off approach. Now Wulff comes onto the scene, with a whole new level of accountability. You have to go to class and get decent grades now. You have to lift weights, harder than you ever have before. Heck, you have to EAT the meals you are supposed to eat, and coach Wulff is going to keep track of all of it. Talk about a change.
On the other side you have these young recruits with lots of energy and leadership abilities, guys Wulff and the rest picked to be part of their program. But outside of a few of them, the vast majority are redshirts. They are simply too young to lead right now, that clearly these older players won't follow their lead right right now. And it's obviously hard to be a leader when you aren't even playing.
Add it all up? It's a transitional mess, on and off the field. I for one hope we see a new change, beginning with this bye week. I hope Lopina and Mattingly become the offensive and defensive leaders going forward. Clearly they are pissed off by the whole thing, and that's step one to making a change isn't it? Maybe some of the freshman and sophomores are willing and eager, but have been waiting for some upperclassmen to take the lead? Maybe this will really and truly be the turning point for the entire program?
Happy Monday, and GO COUGS.