I wanted to approach today with a "relax, chill, it's no big deal. We'll be fine, just give Wulff some time"........you know, "Lighten Up Francis"?? But the more I thought about it, the more I felt like this - I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. I have been behind the Wulff plan, every step of the way. I have preached patience, and that this thing is going to take time. I have tried to remind people of the crap sandwich served on a silver platter to Wulff when he took the job, courtesy of the former coach and his incompetent staff of recruiters who simply blew it on a number of levels. But even I am having a hard time defending the plan after yesterday. I don't know if we could have lost more than we did on Saturday. First the obvious:
- Scoring streak, something we could at least cling to in the worst of times, is now gone. Never really threatened either. It's hard to score when you don't cross midfield.
- 52-year home scoring streak, also gone.
- Another 60+ point loss, the fourth loss of that nature so far this year. Four conference games, four losses, four games where each opponent scored more than 60 points. That isn't just bad, that is not even competing. No pass rush, poor tackling, blown assignments and a complete domination up front by USC's offensive line. You couldn't blame the offense for turning it over like crazy in this one either. Just two turnovers, and that was hardly the reason the defense couldn't hang in there. This wasn't like Cal or Oregon where they were behind so quickly because of turnovers. This was a complete inability to stop them in any way, shape or form.
- Another miserable day at the office with the football, but this was the most miserable of miserables(?). 116 yards, four first downs, nine pass attempts? There is no other way to say it, but easily one of the worst performances in the modern era. This is back to the days of leather helmets and grainy black-and-white footage. Might as well have put Eric Block in there and run Bellevue High School's wing-T offense. At least you could TRY and fool the opponent that way, instead of running some of the slowest-developing counter plays with a pulling guard who simply cannot block anyone on the outside. Continuing to run wide on one of the fastest defenses around is baffling. Just an awful day.
But enough of the chalk from yesterday. It's over. Now what? Can it get any worse than what we've seen? At least players are griping, and I actually consider that a good thing. Our own Michelle, who frequents Bohler Gym, said last night she "hears consistently players who just don't care about football or winning or their teammates." So good for Andy Mattingly and Kevin Lopina, two juniors who will (probably) be here next year, to vent in the press.
"I think our team — a lot of guys are used to losing," blurted out defensive end Andy Mattingly. "It doesn't piss 'em off that we're losing this bad."
It was inevitable that after one woodshedding after another, some signs of fracture would become apparent in this first-year regime. Mattingly broached it, and quarterback Kevin Lopina reinforced it.
"I'm sure we're going to have a [players] meeting," he said. "We're just going to have to find out who's here to compete and play. If you don't want to play, then just turn in your gear. Players are frustrated, coaches are frustrated.
"People have just got to do something about it."
If guys are dogging it, not giving a damn, giving up with a good chunk left in the season? Then call 'em out. Have some pride. COMPETE. It is what it is at this point, so don't hold back now.
The bigger issue to me anyway is what this is going to do for Wulff. As Brinkhater said last night, this really hurts his supporters. You listen to the radio ads, the "my color is crimson" ads? What does Wulff say, but that they are bringing in an exciting, wide-open, no huddle offense. What did we see yesterday?? Titanic-era football. But at least Lone Star Deitz was successful, and actually won our only Rose Bowl in 1915!
But for a team that is trying to raise money on the next, most crucial phase of all for Martin Stadium, you know, the one with the luxury seats/suites? The phase where the ticket revenue alone will match the rest of the season tickets, combined? The last thing they need right now is a product on the field that is unwatchable. Can you imagine the look on Jim Sterk and Elson Floyd's face right now, asking for big money commitments from long time donors who have seen a lot, but nothing this bad? This can't be what they thought they were getting when they hired this staff back in December. And as a fan/alum, are you ready to write a big check to support this right now?
I also wonder if the coaches just have simply run out of ideas on how to get these guys going. When you are so far into a season now, and you get your junior QB back on the field, yet you scale back so drastically? Something is wrong. Either the players are so clueless they can't walk and chew gum, or the coaches are completely fried in trying to get them motivated, I really don't know. Maybe players are playing scared, as Kevin Lopina suggested yesterday, but maybe the coaches are coaching scared too? Or maybe it's a combination of things so deep that we'll never get the full story.
Meanwhile, I know Wulff-haters are having a field day bashing this former Big Sky coach, but come on. I will still say he's been dealt a bad hand, and I honestly question whether or not any coach on our short list from last year would be doing anything other than what we are seeing right now. They are young, beat up, weak and inexperienced where it counts - on the football field. From the QB injuries, the running backs, the WR's, to yet another new combo of offensive linemen that started yesterday, we are a nightmare. And please, stop saying Wulff is an idiot or doesn't have a clue. Downplay it all you want, but the guy was successful at his prior stop, and has been either a player or a coach since the mid-80's. Yes, he knows more than you, me, or anyone else who reads this incoherent rant. So stop thinking you know more than him. You don't.
BUT, all that said, the biggest thing I wonder is if Wulff truly understood what he was getting into. No, I don't mean the overall mess that Doba left him, we all knew that. But while I will tout Wulff's experience in football, well, he's never had to do THIS type of job before, know what I mean? Coming into a situation where he is the new boss, where the players already in place have no idea who he is, and had to change the culture? Remember, when he got the EWU head coaching job, he was an assistant there for several years. The players, all of them, knew him and his style. There was a system in place, a system he was part of, and so the culture shock wasn't much of a shock at all. He was able to simply continue things there, making some changes of course, and everyone, from the newest recruits to the fifth-year senior, KNEW what he was all about.
Compare that to what he's just walked into? There couldn't be a more different, difficult situation to take ownership of than this one. They have gone from Club Doba to Wulff's Platoon, and it's changed completely. Wulff and company have asked things of these players that they have never had to do before, so it's human nature to resist change, no matter how positive it might appear on the surface. Maybe we harp on the players for resisting the change, but maybe it's also the coaches who should also shoulder a lot of this blame as well? Maybe they need to look into the mirror right now and think about how they've handled this situation? Wulff has never been charged with the task of coming in and changing things over from a lazy, half-assed approach from before, with a losing mentality to boot. Maybe he hasn't done the right things himself, and force-feeding this change isn't the way to go about it?
So there you have it. The bye week is here, and it's time for everyone to recharge. Most of all, time to figure out what's next. Do they keep falling down the hole, deeper and deeper? Or do they decide enough is enough, and it's time to take pride with what happens on Saturdays? WE feel embarrassed to wear the colors in times like this, imagine what some of those players and coaches are feeling right now? It's time to decide if you are ready to quit, or ready to fight.
Happy Sunday, and yes, GO COUGS.