But instead of harping on the crappiness of it all, we thought that it would be a good idea to each take something we were happy about, and write about it. Sure, we'll list something we were disappointed with, and write about that too. But might as well start of with something good from 2008.
So now, here's the WSU Football Blog takes on the 2008 season.
Happy about: There wasn't a whole lot to pick from in this down year, but I'm going with the improvement of the defense down the stretch, when they easily could have quit. How much better did they get? Consider:
Through the first seven PAC-10 games, the Cougs were atrocious. Check it out.
CAL: 66 points, 505 yards of offense.
Oregon: 63 points, 507 yards of offense.
UCLA: 28 points, 325 yards of offense.
Oregon State: 66 points, 548 yards of offense.
USC: 69 points, 625 yards of offense (yeesh).
Stanford: 58 points, 456 yards of offense.
Arizona: 59 points, 531 yards of offense.
Look at those numbers - Six Pac-10 teams scored at LEAST 58 points. UCLA must have felt left out? Five other teams had at least 505 yards of total offense. Four of those teams scored at least 63 points. Just unreal.
We could go on and on...and on...about the defensive woes of '08. Even one of our readers, Matt Wessel, alerted us to the fact that the WSU football team is giving up roughly the same amount of points per game as the WSU hoops team. Even Ted Miller globbed onto this. So how could one be possibly HAPPY about the defense??
Even after giving up 59 to Arizona in early November, the season could have been mailed in the rest of the way. But it wasn't. Check out the last three games.
ASU: 31 points, 398 yards of total offense (24 points allowed by the D as one TD by ASU's D).
UW: 13 points, 323 yards of total offense.
Hawai'i: 24 points, 378 yards of total offense.
This isn't just a one-game fluke. OK, so ASU wasn't playing well when we got them. UW was, well, UW, making their way through their worst-ever season with a backup frosh QB. And Hawai'i wasn't the same Hawai'i of 2007. But still, you can't deny there was some real improvement.
As many of you already know, by the Stanford game the defense had made a few changes. Toby Turpin came back off the thumb injury and gave the defense a spark at defensive tackle. But the biggest change was getting to a three-man defensive line, with four linebackers. Or sometimes even a three-three-five look, where they would go with three linebackers and have five DB's on the field. The change was a good decision, as it allowed an extremely thin position, defensive tackle, to have at least a hint of depth by only having to play one tackle at a time. Having Turpin return was the big boost, but changing the scheme at the same time was a huge moment for the coaching staff. The move also allowed A'i Ahmu to slide outside, helping out the defensive end situation, as Kevin Kooyman was banged up there for a few weeks.
The strength of the team was at linebacker, with the emergence of Louis Bland on the outside, the reliable Greg Trent inside, plus guys like Cory Evans, Kendrick Dunn, and eventually Andy Mattingly all contributing down the stretch. Might as well have as many fast, aggressive players on the field as possible, players who can fly to the ball but also drop back into coverage when necessary?
And with the switch to the three down linemen, believe it or not the pass-rush became a much better deal. Three sacks vs. ASU, but also several QB pressures where Rudy Carpenter had to make throws on the move. Just one sack vs. UW, but they did record eight tackles for loss, and UW only attempted 16 passes. Finally, Hawai'i - SEVEN sacks, a season high, from seven different players. So it wasn't like an Mkristo-Bruce-sackfest where one guy went off. They came in waves vs. Hawai'i.
Most of all, above the schemes and the opponents and all that, the best thing to me was the IMPROVED EFFORT on defense. Even though they just allowed one of the worst-ever in terms of points by an FBS team (570 points), they just wouldn't give in, even with an offense that was flat-out hapless for most of the season. Hard as it is to fathom, it could have been much, MUCH WORSE.
When your team is last in the nation in turnover ratio, and you haven't had a TD pass from your starting QB since September? Your defense is going to be in bad situation after bad situation. While unable to stop anyone with a pulse early in the year, they could have packed it in. But they didn't. They showed some real fight until the end. That, my friends, is a sign that some of the younger players are starting to buy in. That, my friends, is something to be happy about for 2008!
My happy awards go three ways. The first goes to Mr. Tardy who really played great the last two games of the year. Against the Huskies and the Bows, he ran like a fricking freight train while at the same time being quick around the edge. He not only asserted himself as a leader in my book, he also showed that he is now 100% back from last year's knee injury.
My second happy award goes to Steve Bruiser Cruiser. When you think about the special teams play in week one and then factor in the improvement on special teams as well as the resurgence of Tardy and the improvement of Mitz and you have a great stinking year by a full-blooded Coug.
My third happy goes to Bland and Mattingly. Bland was the reason why we won the Apple Cup in my book. Meanwhile, Mattingly's near pick in the 2nd OT against the pups and his pick in the end zone last week in the 4th against Hawaii is evidence that we may have a MLB next year who can defend the pass over the middle. That makes me quite happy indeed.
Yeah... Something I'm happy about... Hmmmmmmm...
Obviously a brutal year. We started off with an encouraging performance against OK ST and we were sorta duped into thinking we only had a few minor problems to clean up. As the injuries mounted, we got worse - WAY worse - and it seemed as if the coaching staff had lost the team. It took a while, but we DID finally see some improvement at the end of the year.
I'm actually VERY encouraged by the improvement and I LOVE the way Coach Wulff is handling the situation. Whenever there's a coaching change, some of the kids will buy-in and some won't. A year like this makes the situation even more polarizing. The athletes who are buying in, will train harder than they've had to in the past, those that are still on the fence...well, Coach Wulff said it himself..." If we have players that can't embrace that, they have to go someplace that will allow them not to develop."
As a father, this is the kind of guy I want my son playing for. (If you're listening Coach, Mini McBoob - class of 2019. Look at the form on this tackle!)
Oh yeah, the Apple Cup was pretty cool, too!
There are, as you know, so many areas to choose from. But I'll go with the most important position on the field - QB. The offense overall was pretty poor, from the banged-up O-line to all the different running backs, to the young and battered WR's. But the group of QB's takes the proverbial cake. Let us count the ways:
Last in the PAC-10 in points per game (12.7), total offense (241 yards per game), passing offense (146 yards per game), passing TD's (6), and passing efficiency rating (90.9). They were last in third-down conversions (26.8%), and had the fewest first downs of any team in the PAC-10 (14.2 per game). Oh yeah, they also "led" the conference with 43 sacks allowed, for 334 negative yards!
I know, there were many extenuating circumstances that led to poor QB play. The whole offense was a mess from week one, and when they started losing QB's to injuries, it was a slow spiral down the drain. But the worst of all was that dreaded turnover margin. MINUS-25, worst in the nation and by far the worst in the conference (UW was 9th, and they were "only" minus-13). WSU had a league-high 38 turnovers, including 17 fumbles and 21 INT's, both marks the worst in the conference.
What am I disappointed with? Eeesh... To point out one disappointing thing in a season like this is sort of like complaining about your skinned knee after you've fallen off a three-story building and broken every bone in your body. What's the point?
"Mr. Blutar....MR. BLUTARSKI. Zero.....Point.....Zero."
So there you have it. My happy/disappointment of 2008.
I agree completely with Sedi about the QBs. Within that horrible dissapointment, my biggest was the decision to bench Rogers after the first 6 quarters of the season. Of course, the reason given for Rogers' benching was that "game performance" meant more than what happened in practice. Then later in the year, Lopina got the nod because of his performance over Levy in "practice." That circular reasoning is the most disappointing aspect of the 2008 campaign.