Monday, September 29, 2008

Brinkhater Declaration, NOT Prediction

Greetings Cougar Nation and Brinkhater Army. Hope you all had a Happy Monday.

Well, in case you haven't noticed, today is Tuesday. And while it may seem like just any other Tuesday to you, to Brinkhater it is "Semantics Tuesday." And so, in this post, I delve into the simple semantics of the difference between a "declaration" and a "prediction."

Because I am too dumb to read, I couldn't consult Mr. Webster to see if my distinction has any relationship to real words or fact.


With that in mind, I am left to simply tell you what I THINK the differences are between the two words/concepts. Simply put, in Brinkhater's book, a "prediction" is something that you THINK might happen. A declaration is something that is GOING TO HAPPEN (or not).

So, to illustrate the distinction, I will give you a few examples from me own 'lil life.

First, lets get the prediction thing clear: Each week, I PREDICT the Cougs' fortunes. And, in spite of my gaudy record recently (17-0), my predictions are simply that: I THINK that they are going to happen. But I don't really KNOW (if you know what I mean). But in my near 4 decade long tenure as resident Sports Dork del Mundo, I have also been privy or part to several important Declarations.

Like many of you, I spent my wee early days pretty high on Steve Largent and the rest of the expansion Seattle Seahawks.


I remember being SO excited when the Hawks became the quickest team to ever finish with a 9-7 record. "We're going to the playoffs next year" I said to anyone who would hear me.

Unfortunately for me, someone did.

"As long as Jim Zorn is the starting quarterback" roared the voice of my dear Uncle Hummer, "The Seattle Seahawks will NEVER, EVER make the playoffs."

Now, mind you, my dear Uncle is more often funny than serious. So, when he made that statement, I HAD to take notice. I mean, it wasn't as if he was saying that he THOUGHT that the Hawks might not make the playoffs with Zorn, he was saying that the Hawks would NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER make the playoffs with "Jimmy Puke Puke" (as he called him) at the helm.

In short, He was making a DECLARATION.

Years later, at the Red Robin on 5th Avenue in Seattle, Sedihawk and I were enjoying our weekly Football Friday Lunch. After talking about the Cougs for about an hour, we quickly shifted to the Seahawks and their Rookie Quarterback Rick Mirer. "Sedi," I said, "The Seattle Seahawks will NEVER MAKE THE PLAYOFFS with Rick Mirer as their starting quarterback."

Now, at that time, I was really making a prediction. But in hindsight, because I was right, I was really making a DECLARATION.

The Seahawks never did make the playoffs with Rick Mirer. He was, after all, a miserable failure (takes one to know one, right?)


Years after that, I made a similar statement about another #10 (Zorn was the first) and his fate. Although this time, it WAS a DECLARATION. I let anyone (and it was no one besides Rooster, Sedi, and maybe Hooty who may have read one post or e-mail during that time) that Alex Brink would NEVER lead us to a bowl game.

Tragically, I was right. And to this day, I have the world's worst Moniker to show for it as a HORRIBLE battle scar.

But, instead of being humbled by the righteousness of my past declarations (and to quit while I'm ahead), I feel the need for more.

And so, to get to the "lead" of this post, I offer you first a picture:


You all know who this is? Its defensive coordinator Jody Sears.

Grant you, the only thing I REALLY know about Jody Sears is that he was an average player on the first Cougar team that I fell in love with (1989).

I also want you to know that despite being the most unfair person in the world, Brinkhater TOTALLY gets the fact that its unfair to judge Mr. Sears on his record at Eastern. After all, who can get a decent defensive player to commit to EASTERN of all places?

That said, Mr. Sears didn't exactly light the world on fire at Eastern, did he Cougar faithful?

So, if any of you "homers" out there are questioning where I am going with this, I beg of you to look at the state of affairs over at Montlake.

And when you ask yourself why it is that Ty is going to get kicked to the curb in the coming days and weeks, you need to find only one word:

Defense.

Moreover, when you ask yourself how it is that Oregon State became good after being the laughing stock of the world, you need only speak one word:

Defense.

When you ask "what wins championships" or "what made us really good from 2001-2003," you can say:

Defense.

And if you want to know what it will take to turn this program around, the answer is simply:

Defense.

Now, with regards to Mr. Sears, I am sure that he's a good recruiter and a good coach.

But, as a former WR, does he know SO MUCH about the other side of the ball that he is able to match wits with some of the greatest offensive minds in the game?

Does he know enough to be able to coach up sub-par talent and get them to compete with All-Americans who are bigger, faster, and stronger?

My answer is "N-O, NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"

And so, I give you all this painful, painful, painful, DECLARATION:

The Washington State Cougars will NEVER make a bowl game with Jody Sears as the Defensive Coordinator.

You all can bicker about all the things that you want, but I BELIEVE that Coach Paul and the rest have what it takes to turn this whole thing around.

But how Coach Paul deals with his dear friend Jody will be the most telling and critical decision of his tenure.

He already demonstrated his ability to call a spade a spade and cut ties with Rosey.

Now, the fate of the program rests with this last deep, personal connection.

Sears won't take us where we need to be, folks, its plain and simple.

Take the ball out of his court. Demote him or let him go.

The fate of the program depends on it. Read more ...plus comments

Monday Morning Ramblings

I wonder how they are going to keep these guys motivated. A horrible month of September that saw just one win over a non-BCS team, but otherwise, it was four routs against teams that we are supposed to compete with on a weekly basis. We have heard of it before, where you get 1) a new regime with an entire new, hard-ass approach, 2) there are major issues from day one, and 3) the team falls apart and splits off into different factions as the locker room lawyers and bad apples show their true self during tough times. Numbers one and two have happened, and number three could as well. I don't envy Wulff right now, and he said as much in today's Times:
As for whether something is being lost in translation from coaches to players, Wulff said, "We're asking them to do some different things. In our mind, we're asking them to be more sound and more disciplined. We're just struggling, getting kids to execute."
Oh well. As Wulff said, it's a one-game season from here on out, and the only thing they will focus on is this week's opponent, UCLA.

Speaking of UCLA, they are still a work in progress but showed some improvement vs. Fresno State, losing 36-31. The troubling thing about the Bruins? Their running game got on track in a big way, churning through the Bulldogs for 234 yards.

As with any team on the schedule from here on out, the opposition's goal will be to 1) run, 2) run some more, and finally, 3) run it. Get used to it. Why would any offense do anything else but do the most simple thing in the game, which is handing off and asking your offensive lineman to run block?

I know some people have rallied that with our defensive tackle situation so bleak that maybe they should just go to a 3-4 and play up to their strength? Well, they have done some of that, if you haven't noticed, and it's obviously not working. But how about going in another direction? Maybe instead of experimenting with a 3-4, they should go to a FIVE MAN FRONT, almost like a goal-line defense! How about a 5-2 defense? Mullennix, Turpin, Ahmu, Eichelberger and Mattingly all along the front, with Greg Trent and Ken Dunn at linebackers? Bring down Jackson as a rover instead of a strong safety spot, putting eight in the box, while having Hicks play free safety as a centerfielder, right down the middle of the field? It puts your cornerbacks out on an island, sure, but what other choice do they have? Besides, UCLA's QB play has sucked this year, so there shouldn't be a whole lot of fear in their passing game. Just roll it out for first and second down, see if you can put the QB in second or third and more than 5 instead of second or third and less than 2. Then go to your regular nickel packages on obvious passing downs. But at this point, anything should be an option, for what they are doing now isn't even close to working.

You think things are bad in Pullman, well, they are. But how about Seattle right now? UW loses a game they have pointed to as one they had to get, allowing Stanford to waltz to their way to 466 total yards, surpassing their best mark by well over 100 yards on the year. They also lose Jake Locker for 6 weeks, if not more depending on how his broken thumb comes along. Now 0-4 and a huge underdog at Arizona, 0-5 looks pretty likely. What a mess.

Finally, nice going M's. A 101-loss season is bad enough, and you are now "founders" of the 100-100 club (over $100 million spent in payroll, and at least 100 losses to go with it). But here they were, coming into the weekend, with a lock on the #1 pick in next year's MLB draft if they just could have lost ONE GAME this weekend. Not two games, not three games. Just ONE more loss. Instead, in a meaningless series in every way, shape and form, they SWEEP THE A'S!?! Meanwhile the Washington Nationals did the right thing, laying down for the weekend and getting swept by the Phillies, giving them the #1 pick?? What a nightmare. Stephen Strasberg, the dominating right-handed power pitcher from San Diego State who routinely hits the upper-90's on the radar gun and is head and shoulders THE GUY this year, pegged as can't miss by every scout around. What a great idea to have him in the rotation with Felix and Brandon Morrow and the rest. So even when they win, they lose. PUH-THETIC.

Happy Monday! Read more ...plus comments

Sunday, September 28, 2008

LOST


These are trying times, and they will continue to be. The 2008 season is officially LOST, much like the TV show. But I have to say, we've been getting tons of opinions and insight, and to us it's all valuable. Everyone comes at this thing from a different angle, and so far the comments have been excellent. Keep it up, everyone!

That said, despite the lost feeling, I know I am going to stick it out. We've been through tough times before (98-2000, where we didn't win a Pac-10 game for a year and a half?). I can get through this.

I know Wulff is going to take his fair share of heat, and after this start the questions of whether or not he's "over his ski's" will be out there. I hate to say it, but I'm sure even the players are questioning everything at this point. Once the bad apples and locker room lawyers start to quit, then, well, it could get even WORSE. But to even suggest that it's time to punt on Wulff now? That's crazy.

Seriously, the guy needs more time. His early verbals commits are of the solid 3-star variety, and the guy's reputation is stellar among high school coaches. But even if he signs an excellent class, these guys aren't in the program yet. And even when they do show up, it will take them a couple of seasons to get stronger and figure things out before we're even going to see fruit from the recruiting class.

Besides, we threw a long contract at Wulff, not a month-to-month lease. Sterk and Floyd believed in what Wulff could do. They knew the quality of the man, and they saw a guy who won with absolutely nothing at EWU. So I don't doubt they believe they got the right guy. But they knew that this will take some time. Of course, they can't stand there at the podium during fund-raising times and say "well, we're going to stink for a while, but just wait until 2010!" Doesn't make you want to reach for the check book, does it? But I am not giving up on Wulff. I believe he's simply trying to do the best he can with Doba's leftovers, and quite honestly, Doba's incredible oversight and mistakes.

Go back and read the Seattle Times article in the spring about a program that was spiraling out of control. Go back and read some of the quotes from Wulff describing the complete lack of skill from so many players, from how to line up to how to feed themselves to how to go to class. Think about the APR and how hard we've been hit. It's not like we haven't been warned that these kinds of things were coming. Wulff didn't cook these things up as a built-in excuse for why they were going to lose football games. It's reality, like it or not.

The other thing, on Harbaugh's comment about how so many people wanted the job - I question the validity of his statement. If there's anything we know about Harbaugh so far, it's that he says a lot of things. Remember the Pete Carroll hub-bub from media day last year, where he said Carroll is telling people he wants to go to the NFL? Hmm, last check, Petey is still in LA. So take Harbaugh's words with a boulder-sized grain of salt. The way he was quoted, people built it up as though there was a line around the block filled with BCS coaches, waiting for an interview. That isn't true. We heard that we talked to June Jones and Norm Chow, plus the others mentioned in the press (Kevin Sumlin, John L Smith). But Jones wanted a lot of money to get off the island, and he got what he wanted at SMU. He's a pain in the ass anyway with some baggage to boot. And Chow didn't work out, and quite frankly, is a "lifer assistant" for a reason. So it isn't like the news rolled across the country when Doba was let go, and top coaches were like "WOW, Pullman is open?? The smallest school/market/stadium/budget in the Pac-10? I'm SO THERE!"

And look at where our recent coaches came from. Doba, promoted from within in an emergency situation that made sense in 2003, but that's about it. Price, from Weber State. Erickson, from Idaho and then Wyoming. So it's not like we strolled into the the horseshoe and stole Woody Hayes when our job was open.

At this point, I'm all about 2010, and some improvements along the way. It sounds crazy, and so much can change. But that is what I am looking towards as we go through some very painful growing pains. In 2010, Marshall will be a redshirt junior with a couple of seasons of experience. All those sophomores and frosh we are seeing on the field now will be juniors and seniors. The recruits signed this coming February will have been in the program for two full years, eating right, hitting the weight room and learning the system. Even the JC guys that Wulff is redshirting today will be at their peak. Guys like Bernard Wolfgramm and Zach Williams, will be experienced seniors by them. James Montgomery, the touted running back from Cal, will be a senior. Other kids like Jared Karstetter, Kevin Norrell, etc, all upper classmen by then. Most of all, the reprocussions of the Doba disaster will be further into the rear-view mirror, and the culture will be considerably different than it is now.

So that's it. Show us some improvement these next few years. Build towards 2010. I'm willing to wait. And if we're still a mess in 2010? Then we'll talk! Read more ...plus comments

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Good Night, and Good Luck


Look at those scoring drive bars above. See all that green? Not good, when "my color is Crimson." But no, no over-reaction, no over-analysis here. Just another beatdown by a BCS opponent that was far, far superior in every way, shape and form.

Sure, we saw some terrible turnovers and penalties early, things that couldn't happen if they wanted to stay in shouting distance. It was 21-0 while people were still filing into Martin stadium. The floodgates were open and that was all she wrote. Very Cal-like if you ask me. Anyway, I don't think there's much left to say.

So that said....if you want to be negative, want to vent, want to rip the coaches and players, or even flat-out walk away from WSU football? It's ok. You have every reason to gripe about where this team is five games into a new era. Just a complete and utter DISASTER, this train wreck of a football season.

And what's worse is that there doesn't exactly seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, is there? This is going to be a horrible year of football around the Palouse, and that just cannot be sugar-coated. This is a bad team. Pure and simple. But the sad reality is this may only be the beginning. It could get even worse before it gets better. So if you want to check out for the next couple of years, and chime back in for 2010? Totally understand. You won't be alone.

Enjoy your Saturday night.
Read more ...plus comments

What is Your Hope Today?

First, the obligatory flag-spotting on a Gameday Saturday. Another week, another sighting, this time in Athens. Nice job, and thanks to Coug Will Walker for posting.

So, what is YOUR hope for today? Not your expectation, because I think everyone is pretty much lock-step that Oregon should take care of business today. But stranger things have happened, history is littered with examples so we'll spare the details. But you know what I mean there. Thursday night we saw an example of a team that didn't care about point spreads or media pundits declaring victory for USC. Just like Stanford didn't care last year either, no matter they were a 41-pt underdog. It's happened before, it will happen again.

Anyway, here's what I'm hoping for today (beyond the obvious):

1) CLEAN UP THE TURNOVERS AND PENALTIES

I don't think we can undersell this point in any way, shape or form. This team is not as talented as some of their BCS brethren, and it's been obvious so far. The talent and size/strength line is heavily in Oregon's favor, no secret there. But turnovers are something else. A team that doesn't have the same size, speed and talent level simply cannot play giveaway. 14 turnovers in four games, a minus-9 in turnover ratio, it just doesn't work.

We are excited by how Marshall played last week, and for good reason. Decent completion percentage, four TD drives in the second half, a willingness to go to the tight ends instead of forcing the ball in Brandon Gibson's direction. But the best part? No INT's. He at least shows some sort of comprehension of the offense to the point that he could potentially take care of the football, something that is just so important. We'll see how it goes today, and who knows, maybe he'll play like a nervous frosh trying to be Brett Favre every play. But man, lose the turnover battle, prepare for the worst possible outcome.

The penalties are another issue. The most penalized team in the conference, averaging eight penalties a game. Just like turnovers, penalties can absolutely kill your momentum and/or take away a productive result on the field. Now, the Pac-10 refs are brutal, nobody is arguing that here. But like turnovers, you cannot shoot yourself in the foot repeatedly by your own mistakes and even hope to stand a chance on a weekly basis. Maybe you can get away with it against a middle of the road 1-AA opponent, but against a BCS team like Oregon? Uh, no. Clean up the penalties, and you have a much better shot of at least hanging in there.

2) KEEP THE GAME IN FRONT OF YOU

Oregon's going to come at the WSU D with every wrinkle imaginable. It doesn't really matter who is at QB. The scheme is something else, and when it's clicking, it's about as unstoppable as a college offense that you will find. But one thing to maybe cling to is that when Oregon has played a defense that is disciplined and, for lack of a better word, keeps the game in front of them? They've had some trouble with those kinds of defenses. What I mean by that is don't get sucked in by the slight of hand that is the spread read-option!

It's very simple to sit in my lofty perch and say that. And Chip Kelly is probably the top offensive coordinator around in terms of not only the approach, but all the different things that can happen from just each individual formation. There is so much to think about as a defense that often times you are chasing ghosts out there. UW's EJ Savannah had a famous quote after last year's UW loss to the Ducks, where they gave up over 600 yards and 55 points to them, in that half the time, "we didn't even know who had the football." They were that good.

SO, it's a big task, but I'm HOPING that our defense can stay at home. Tackle well, sure, but don't make the huge mistakes of being out of position or biting too hard on all the fakes and such that they will see today. Oregon absolutely eats young, aggressive, undisciplined defenses for breakfast, so the Coug D is going to have to play better than any other time this year. Let's just say a performance a lot more like we saw vs. Okie State will be encouraging, and a lot LESS like what we saw vs. Baylor or Cal!

3) A COMPETITIVE GAME INTO THE SECOND HALF

This is one thing that I think we all want to see this week, and I sure hope we get it. Down 15-0 at the half vs. Okie State and 25-6 early in the third quarter, so it was an uphill battle in that one. 42-3 vs. Cal at the half that was just a disaster. 28-14 at the half vs. Baylor in a game where they showed some fight early, but Baylor took over before intermission. So for all three games we've played vs. BCS teams, we've been down AT LEAST two TD's at the half, and it's much worse when you factor in Cal. Add it all up, and in three BCS games, we've been outscored 85-17 in the first half! YIKES.

Just think, if this team can get off to a good start, what it could do to the confidence and momentum. I know Martin Stadium is the smallest venue in the conference, but we also know that when the place is full and the fans have a reason to be excited, it can be as loud as any other stadium in the west. It's homecoming, so the crowd should have a little extra juice. Wouldn't you just love to see a game go into the third quarter where they weren't at least a few scores behind?? I know I would.

So there you have it, my top three things to hope for today. Enjoy the game, and GO COUGS! Read more ...plus comments

Friday, September 26, 2008

Did We Just See a Ghost??

What a win for the Beaver Believers. But watching that true frosh running back last night, Jacquizz Rodgers, run around USC's defense last night? Looking at this:

Sure reminded me of this:


Same build, same great feet, same great vision, same great cutback ability, same style of always moving forward. Even the same jersey number. SPOOKY.

The most impressive/surprising thing to me wasn't that Rodgers has the speed or the moves. But he simply wasn't afraid to take the ball between the tackles, and looked a lot more physical than I think I expected. Not only great feet and speed, but a pretty tough kid as well.

Lucky for Oregon State, the Rodgers kid is just a true FROSH. We only saw Jerome Harrison for two very special years, including the 1900 rushing yards his senior year, leading to All-American status. So get used to that name, because you are going to hear it a LOT the next few years.

But once again, Mike Riley and the Beavers have circled the wagons after another miserable start (losses to Stanford and Penn State) and have come all the way back to 2-2 after stomping the yard with Hawaii and then last night's shocker. Amazing. I heard from Brinkhater last night, and his point was great for Oregon State and all that, and they do look like they have put themselves together and ready for a decent run in the conference. But maybe the real question is why the heck to do they keep getting off to lousy starts, only to magically right the ship??

As far as last night's game, I think two big reasons Oregon State won - PENALTIES AND TURNOVERS! Sound familiar? When the Beavers have struggled over the years, it's almost always when they lose the turnover battle. Even the opening loss to Stanford, they had nearly 500 yards of offense compared to only around 300 for Stanford, but they were minus-3 in the turnover battle. Last night? Zero turnovers, and two big ones from USC. Both USC turnovers were converted to points on the board for the Beavers. And USC was flagged seven times for 84 yards of penalties, while the Beavs? Five penalties, but just 27 yards. That can make a huge difference in a tight game, and sure enough, Oregon State is the one still celebrating right now.

So here's a question for everyone - does this loss HELP the Pac-10? Or does it hurt? Obviously on the national stage, this kills. USC was the top-ranked team going into last night's game from the WAC-10, and only Oregon was ranked in the coaches poll. But even if SC wins the rest of their games, the BCS title game seems like a real longshot. But what about the rest of us? Does this loss fill you with hope? That nothing is impossible, even after our own rough start? You better believe Oregon, Cal, ASU, Oregon State, heck, even Arizona suddenly all believe they have a legit shot at smelling Roses. Does this loss signal the beginning of one of the most wild conference seasons we've ever seen?

All I know is I can't wait to see how things play out! For once again, last night, we are reminded that there is never, ever such a thing as a lead pipe guarantee. For we were reminded, yet again, that is WHY THEY PLAY THESE GAMES! You just never know. And that is why we love it.

Happy Friday, and GO COUGS! Read more ...plus comments

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Football Friday Week V: Back to the Drawing Board


Greetings Cougar Nation. Happy Football Friday, Week Five Style.

Or is it?

Seems to Brinkhater that we enter the near halfway point of the season almost like it was Week One.

I mean, for starters, we have Ocho Rojo making his first career start.

We also have an offensive line that's still very much in development.

We also have our first real game (against a real opponent) with a defense that has some new faces at safety along with a slightly different set than the straight 4-3 we saw previously.

Its new, new, new, new all over the place.

As for our opponent this week, well, Hawk has chronicled the Quack pretty well. Oregon's really good and on any given Saturday can be a serious offensive juggernaut.

That said, with THEIR quarterback situation being the way it is right now, it is also entirely possible that they could show up as a jugger-NOT on any given Saturday--as they showed in last week's hapless performance (for the first three quarters) against the Blue Turf Smurfs.

What we do know about Oregon is that they are loaded at the skill positions, have a fantastic offensive line, and in my book, boast the second best defense in the conference.

Brinkhater thinks that the Quack are going to score early and often in this one. That said, this is still a game to watch because even though the odds are long, there is a chance that this could be a game decided in the 4th.

For one, while we should all expect that Oregon is going to run rough-shot over us, their inexperience at Quarterback could result in some serious red-zone woes. In short, we could give up a ton of yards in this game on the ground, but give up a host of fields goals a la first part of the Clay Bennett State game.

OR, the inexperience at QB could result in a couple of early picks in the red zone that could keep us in it and change the complexion of the contest as the game goes on...

Of course, any red zone woes by the Quack could be rendered moot (OR NOT) depending on the play of OUR offense. And, while I am sure that many of you are concerned with how Marshall will play this weekend, I would urge all of us to focus more narrowly on the play of our offensive line.

Remember: in a first start guiding any offense let alone one as complex as ours, you can EXPECT that #8 is going to make some serious mistakes.

What is questionable is whether or not he is also going to make some PLAYS in spite of those mistakes. And that, dear friends, will be determine by the O-Line.

Oregon is going to try to make Marshall beat us early in this game. So, if the O-Line gives him time, this COULD BE A GOOD BALL GAME!
Prediction: I am hoping that #8 improves as the game goes on and doesn't get hurt.

I think he will improve.

And I think he will escape without injury which will be the moral victory we get from this game.

That said, I don't trust the play of our line against this team, this week. And I think it will cost us dearly in our ability to sustain any drives (but if they play well, this game will be HELL for Quack fans).

In addition, the injuries to Stripling (the new Mullennix?) and especially the loss of Evans is going to make slowing the Quack down too monumental a task for our boys.

Quack cruise and send Brinkhater's streak into an unimpressive 18th week:

Quack 41 Cougs 16

Other games:

Washington 31 Stanford 17 Jake the Snake runs for 200 in this MUST WIN game. Lose and the Huskies may be set up as the favorite for the cellar of the WAC-10.

CAL 55 CSU 17. Colorado State scored 6 points in the final 1:30 to beat Sacramento State by 3 points two weeks ago. CAL will murder them.

USC 63 Oregon State 21. Pete usually doesn't run up scores against conference opponents, but with no other WAC-10 teams in the Top 25, he may have to.

Fresno State 34 UCLA 10. Bruins will make a statement of their own that they may be worthy of last in the WAC-10.

And the Big One:

Alabama 27 Georgia 24. Upset alert, but everyone should know that Nick Saban can flat out fricking coach.

Enjoy the games, Go Cougs, and Vamos Ocho Rojo!!!!!!

Sedihawk says:


Mmm, quack attack. It's Duck week, and is it just me or has it flown by? And hasn't it been pretty tame in terms of the duck trolls who always seem to drop by with something uplifting for Cougar nation? I guess the loss to the Boise Staters has them down in the dumps. But after all, hey, that was Boise State's SUPER BOWL (if you watched that Youtube clip from the other day, you'll get the joke).

Here's what I see this weekend. Remember the Cal game? Yeah, something like that. Ok, it won't be THAT bad. Maybe more like Baylor. We may never approach that type of Cal loss. We never even lost to those great USC teams that badly. But the thing that I can't get out of my mind is last year's loss at Oregon. 53-7 was horrific, but as a lot of people know, that game could have been considerably worse. Consider:

  • Oregon had an amazing 40-0 lead at the half. 40-0!?! In other words, when it was a game, we were in another dimension as far as how far away we were in the talent department.

  • Oregon had over 550 yards of total offense, including 213 rushing yards, and 30 first downs. As Doba used to love to quip, those kinds of numbers are "hard to do against air".

Yuck yuck yuck. If Bellotti didn't decide to grow a heart in the second half and actually feel bad for Doba, that game could have been insanely awful. Like 77-7 awful.

So what's changed this year? Sure, Oregon's lost Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart, two fantastic players and unbelievable fits in the Chip Kelly spread, read-option offense. And Oregon has been hit as hard, if not harder than WSU, at the QB spot, losing their top two choices in Nate Costa and Justin Roper. And for stretches last week, Jeremiah Masoli and Chris Harper were in and out of the lineup. They ended up burning the redshirt of what some claim is the next Dennis Dixon, Darron Thomas. Thomas lit up the Boise State secondary for three fourth-quarter TD passes, but it was too little, too late. Anyway, right now, it appears that the starting QB could be Masoli, OR, Justin Roper? The young kid, Thomas, is down a bit as the third QB. Who really knows what we'll see out of the QB spot, but I would bet we'll see more than one of those guys at various stages in the game.

But enough of the QB stuff. Because does it really MATTER? I don't think it does. Oregon scores 30+ points in their sleep in this system. In 17 total games with Chip Kelly as the offensive coordinator, Oregon has scored at least 30 points in 13 of them, averaging 39.4 points per game. That's a MACHINE. Yes, their skill position speed is fantastic, and the running backs with Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount are excellent. But to me, the biggest thing they have going is that offensive line. Just like Wulff said in the radio show the other night, they are great up front, right next to Cal as tops in the Pac-10. Four senior starters, plus an all-conference TE in Ed Dickson, against our defensive line?? Be afraid, be very afraid.

I also picture OC Chip Kelly taking about five minutes of game tape from our game vs. Baylor or Cal, turn to Mike Bellotti and say with a gigantic smile, "You know, Mike....I think we might be able to run the ball this week." :)

The other scary part is our offensive line vs. the Oregon defensive line. Both starting defensive tackles are seniors and pushing 300 lbs. Ra'Shon Harris and Cole Linehan, inside, have both played in 34 career games. While I think Kenny Alfred will do just fine at center against these guys, who knows what the guards will do. We've seen what happens when our offensive line takes on a big, experienced BCS defensive line (CAL). And defensive end Nick Reed is a nightmare with his quickness and energy. This guy never, ever takes plays off, and when you think about our breakdowns last week in terms of just keeping the QB in the game? Especially picking up guys coming off the edge? It better clean up, in a hurry, or else Ocho Rojo won't survive the first half.

Now, I do think we are getting better as a team, in many phases. The defense is going to improve with the safeties settling in, with Hicks and Jackson and their ability to partol the middle of the field. And as Wulff said, we really tackled well last week, only recording two missed tackles on the day. Go back and watch the Cal game (if you dare), and you will find nothing but blown assignments, guys out of position and most of all, poor tackling throughout that train wreck. So they really are getting better.

Offensively, we are coming around. The running game was stronger last week, almost 280 yards rushing. And Ocho Rojo showed something that both Gary Rogers and Kevin Lopina did not, and that is the ability to take care of the football! Marshall didn't have a turnover in his limited time on the field, which is a welcome change. The young WR's are getting better each week, as there seems to be less confusion. Jeshua Anderson is looking more comfortable and starting to mesh into the offense. And after some early struggles, Brandon Gibson has started to play like Brandon Gibson 2007, with over 200 yards receiving combined the last two games.

But here's the biggest thing that probably keeps coach Wulff tossing and turning at night - TURNOVERS AND PENALTIES! They simply cannot continue, or these guys will get run off the field. This team has enough issues with youth and inexperience and a lack of strength at many positions. But to also give the ball away is just plain suicide. Currently we lead the Pac-10 with 14 turnovers in four games, and dead-last with a minus-9 turnover ratio. Ouch.

And in the lack-of-discipline department, WSU also "leads" the Pac-10 with 32 penalties, again, in four games. Double-Ouch. Until they get this kind of stuff cleaned up, they stand no chance against a ranked BCS opponent like Oregon.


The biggest thing to watch is how the defensive line can hold up against the run. They will need a heroic effort from A'i Ahmu and Matt Eichelberger just to stay within shouting distance. But I can't get past the feeling that they are walking into the lions den with Oregon's offensive line.

Oregon's early success running the ball will have a major effect on our defense. Already we will be putting eight guys "in the box", up near the line of scrimmage, just to have hope to slow down the run. But if they are able to continually gash the defense for positive yardage every play, that will lead to more and more cheating up by the safeties and corners. And that, my friends, leads to BIG PLAYS over the top. This Chip Kelly read option is a pain because of their ability to show you so many different looks with their offense. One time they'll hand it off. The next they'll pitch it to the back. One time they might motion a guy from the slot and he becomes the player who could get the option pitch. Or, the QB might fake the handoff, start to go into the option, and then pull it back out via play action and throw it deep. There's just so many things they can do to confuse and confound. A young, aggressive defense cheating up against the run will be dead meat against a team like this.

But call me crazy, in the end, I do think we'll see this one as interesting, and probably into the 2nd half we'll hang in there. I do believe we might see some success with Ocho Rojo, and a fast early start would do wonders for their confidence on offense. But I believe the Oregon running game will be far too powerful over the course of four quarters. Oregon runs away in the 2nd half, winning it 44-20.

Other games:

Washington 27 Stanford 16 UW becomes the last NW team - on any level - to win a football game. And it only took until the last Saturday in September to do it! Welcome to the club. But seriously, UW runs at will in this one. Last year they steamrolled Stanford's D to the tune of 388 yards rushing, on the road at Palo Alto. Expect a repeat performance.

CAL 49 CSU 14. Colorado State is lousy. Cal has had a week off to stew about their terrible loss at Maryland. Jahvid Best gets back in the all-universe discussion after this one.

USC 38 Oregon State 27. USC has had their struggles in Corvallis, losing that epic game in 2006 and winning by only eight points in 2004, USC's national title year. The Beavs will keep it close but they simply don't have enough to beat USC.

Fresno State 23 UCLA 9. UCLA will put up a surprising fight, but there is just no ability to move the ball or score enough points against a pretty good Fresno team. But their defense will allow them to hang around at home.

And the Big One on the national state:

Georgia 20 Alabama 16. Ah, Saturday night in the SEC. How can you not love it as an NCAA football fan? Another excellent fight between two SEC heavyweights. Since the game is between the hedges in Athens, the home field will win out. QB Matt Stafford will be the big difference here. Note - the last five times Georgia and Alabama have played when both teams were ranked? Georgia has won ALL FIVE. Take UGA at home.

Go Cougs!!!!!!

Longball Says;

Sorry I'm late! But I am here at last to finally push this post right off the bottom of the page.

This week is Homecoming and a time for us all to celebrate our beloved WAZZU, take in the sights, smells, sounds and tastes of Cougar football Saturday, enjoy the camaraderie with the Cougar nation and reminisce about glorious Cougar Football Saturdays past. Soak it all in before kickoff folks, cause once this one starts it will be all Quack. The tragic circumstances leading to Ocho Rojo's sudden rise to starting QB have left us with an interesting storyline this week. It actually makes this game worth watching. However, unless number 8 is also an All-World defensive tackle, we aren't likely to enjoy too much of what we see against the Ducks. We are going to be totally outclassed on both lines and by the end of the game it will be reflected on the scoreboard -

Ducks 45

Cougs 14

I'll leave the other predictions to my wiser blogmates, but I wanted to get my 2 cents in before the weekend.

Viva Ocho Rojo and GO COUGS! Read more ...plus comments

Paul Wulff Radio Show Recap - Week Five


Week FIVE already? Wow, this thing is going fast. Anyway, this week's radio show recap. I'll try and condense it as much as possible but also hit on the key points.

  • Bud Nameck hosted this week, Bob Rob was unavailable but will call this week's game. They started the show by talking about the injury to Kevin Lopina and Gary Rogers. Both were termed "scary" injuries, but the best news of all is that neither of them are life-changers and they should fully recover. Obviously Rogers is the more serious of the two and his football days could be done.

  • Wulff really went out of his way to express his disappointment about Rogers, and you could tell he felt awful for the kid. He also repeatedly said how great a job his parents did in raising such a wonderful young man. He really likes Rogers, and it's just too bad all the way around the way this has worked out.

  • Lopina's injury is less serious of the two, but it could keep him out for some time. Wulff said they are now under the belief that this is a three-to-six week injury, not the two-to-four week injury reported earlier in the day. They just have to take it easy and be careful with the recovery.

  • The QB situation now has Marshall starting, obviously, with Dan Wagner backing him up. JT Levenseller is the third QB, and Wulff termed him on "redshirt alert", meaning if both QB's go down, they will be forced to play him. One interesting angle to all this is that JT took a lot of snaps with the number two's in practice, and Wagner only got a few reps in. They really want to see what JT can do with more practice time, so he's getting a good look. Kind of strange in that we've already seen two QB's go down, so while we like Marshall, who knows how long he'll hold up under some serious pressure. Why Wagner isn't getting a lot of reps in practice is a little odd, unless they are more serious about playing JT this year than they are letting on? Wulff reiterated that they really want to redshirt JT, so they are hopeful he won't have to play. Wulff also went out of his way to claim how much progress JT has made so far, and they like what they've seen out of him.

  • Of course, the topic turned to Marshall. Wulff said that he brings a lot of intangibles that other QB's don't seem to have, and he's a strong leader. He also said that the players seem to rally around him, and he brings good chemistry to the position. He touched on his competitiveness, saying he is REALLY competitive (can't always coach that!). He also said that while he was somewhat surprised with his performance, he honestly wasn't TOO surprised he did so well. He's been working his butt off, studying film, etc, and he has confidence in what he can do.


  • A caller asked about Ocho Rojo's grasp of the offense. Wulff said that he looked smooth out there, but they also didn't really call anything that would make him uncomfortable. They wanted to keep things simple and run things that they knew he would do well with, but at the same time, the kid did well by moving the team and getting them into the endzone without any turnovers. Overall very pleased with Marshall....but Wulff wasn't totally "gushing" about him. I get the drift that he's just trying to keep everyone on this planet before we get too carried away.

  • Wulff did say they will give Marshall as much of the offense as he can handle, so they won't try and coddle him too much. So while they will tailor the offense towards his strengths, they won't simply remove a bunch of stuff from the playbook because he's a frosh. He will get as much as he can take.

  • A caller asked about the no-huddle, and in particular, the calling of plays at the line. How can you prevent the defense from figuring out what you are doing if your QB is calling the plays right at the line? Wulff said they have a pretty intricate system of hand signals, and in all his years he's never had anyone figure it out....EXCEPT FOR JERRY GLANVILLE! He said that last year, without question, Glanville stole their signals. There was a long stretch of their game last year where it was beyond obvious that PSU knew exactly what they were running. This wasn't just being paranoid, but this was clearly Glanville's staff stealing their signals. But on Saturday, Wulff had three coaches signaling in plays, and PSU had no clue what to do. That might be part of the offensive outburst? Wulff's quote was "this year, we got him!" :)

  • Another caller asked about the sloppy play, with penalties, missed assignments, turnovers, etc. He said they try and handle that in practice, where they have a series of 12 plays that they must run as perfect as possible, all eleven guys. If they run it perfectly, that's one less "gasser" they have to do at the end of practice. Run all 12 plays perfectly, they don't have to do any "gassers". He said that's an incentive for discipline, but he really didn't get into any individual punishments for the boneheaded stuff that might occur during a game. I don't get the impression he's got them out running stairs all day. But at the same time, with such a young team and a brand new system, etc, they probably need every second of practice time they can get in working on what they are trying to do in games?

  • But Wulff did go out of his way to again tout the unity council, made of up 15-20 players who meet every week to go over what's going on with the team. It's been a big thing so far, and it's got some kids to really start to shine as leaders. He also said that the little mistakes are already starting to clean up, and it will get better and better as the season goes on. They ARE getting better.

  • Another called asked what the heck is going on with the d-line? Here you have Mullennix sliding inside to tackle, but he's clearly not a tackle. And you have probably your best linebacker in Andy Mattingly playing defensive end, and he's not making an impact. What gives? Wulff said that right now, they like Mullennix inside at tackle only on passing situations. Since PSU was such a passing team, they thought he gave them their best pass-rushing option on the inside. He also addressed Mattingly, and basically said that you might see Mattingly back at strong-side linebacker at some point this season or next season. He said that there are some things that Mattingly does at linebacker that are great, but, there are others that he really doesn't do very well, at all. And, Wulff really likes having Kooyman, Mattingly and Mullennix as their primary defensive ends, at least for now. But the bottom line is that these changes for both guys are more out of necessity rather than by choice. They just don't have the depth or experience up front, so they are mixing and matching the best they can.

  • Wulff talked about Oregon, and raved about their running game. He said it is the best running game in the Pac-10, and 4th in the nation right now. Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount are a fantastic combination, two of the best in the conference. But their offensive line is really a concern. Four seniors, and they are excellent as a unit. He also raved about the tight end, who is an all-conference guy in Ed Dickson. He did say that they will have an inexperienced QB back there, whoever it turns out to be, and that Darron Thomas, the frosh, is the better thrower of the group. But you get the idea that they are expecting Oregon to run it as much as they possibly can. Wulff said the key will be to try and prevent the big play. He said they will NOT stop their run, they will only be able to slow it down, but as long as they tackle well and not give up the big play, he believes they will be ok. He also said the tackling has been better, and in grading the game, they only counted two missed tackles vs. PSU.

  • Wulff also said how much better things were with having Xavier Hicks and Alfonso Jackson at safety. He said they have a lot of leadership back there and they are much stronger down the middle of the defense. He said they make the coaches look a lot better when they are on the field.

  • Someone asked about the article in the Seattle Times last week, about the whole deal with nutrition and putting muscle on these kids, leadership, etc. Wulff said that the biggest thing is that this is an area, no doubt about it, that has slipped over the last several years. He said part of it is youth and immaturity, but a lot of these kids just have no clue how to eat properly. That's such a huge part of getting stronger, in how they play, how they feel, and that they take it very seriously. The weight room and practice field is important in terms of getting better, but if they aren't eating properly, then all that hard work might not pay off.

  • Wulff touched on the O-line. He said they are still trying to get things figured out there, and that there were some mistakes on Saturday. However both hits that took out the QB's were NOT the entire fault of the O-line. He said that in the play they lost Lopina, the blindside shot where the linebacker came free off the edge, there was a miscommunication. Lopina was supposed to check the running back over to that side of the line to help pick up the blitz, but it didn't happen. Therefore the blitzer came totally free. The hit that took out Rogers was simply a late hit, and shouldn't have happened. In a normal circumstance he shouldn't have even been hit. But he did say the line is still a work in progress.

  • Finally, Wulff talked about what they need to do this week on offense. He said the biggest thing, above all else, is to take care of the football! They still haven't done that in four games, and they cannot afford turnovers. The other thing is to have some balance on offense, in particular trying to get the ground game going. Oregon is very strong vs. the rush, really shutting down Purdue and Boise State on the ground, so it will be a challenge to get that balance going. But they have to keep Oregon's defense honest and keep Lobbestael out of obvious passing situations. Finally, Lobbestael and the passing game has to be efficient, and most of all, move the chains. They have to be consistent and generate some decent drives in this game.

So there you have it. This week's show. Overall Wulff sounded better, and coming off his first win, you can understand it. But he wasn't overly boisterous or gushing about how well they played, etc. Like he said after the game on Saturday night, they can feel good about it, but they have to get right back to work and get ready for the next one, just like they had to move past the other losses. Yes, they are happy they got win #1 out of the way and all that, but they still have so far to go. I think that is what we are learning about Wulff, in that he's not going to be too much of a rah-rah type of coach. He's not the buttoned down CEO type, or flat-out dry and secretive like some other coaches in this state.....but he's not going to go High School Harry like Pete Carroll and jump around either. He'll show some emotion, but, he's also the leader and wants to stay on an even keel.

We'll be back tomorrow with Football Friday...only on Thursday. Enjoy your Hump-day, and GO COUGS! Read more ...plus comments

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Does QB Situation Match 1999?

*Update 9/23 3:00 PM - It's official. Kevin Lopina is now out 2-4 weeks with a fractured L-4 vertabrae. That means it's Ocho Rojo time, for at least the next 2-4 games. Dan Wagner and JT Levenseller will back up Lobbestael.

First off, this is no way an insinuation that the current redshirt frosh QB, Marshall Lobbestael, is on the same path followed by the greatest #17 in school history, Jason Gesser. But in
perusing this week's press release, something caught my eye and made me think back a few years, to when Jason Gesser first broke onto the scene. Believe it or not, there are some parallels to 2008 compared to 1999. Consider:

  • In '99, Steve Birnbaum was the established player, a senior QB who was getting a final shot at this thing. Birnbaum, you'll remember, took over for Ryan Leaf in 1998 and struggled in leading the Cougs to a 3-8 season. Birnbaum did the best he could, but never really put it all together. He does hold the record for the longest TD in WSU history, a 97-yard pass to Nian Taylor vs. Idaho in 1998. But that's pretty much the highlight of highlights for #13. Not much happened in '99 either, as the team would slog through a 3-9 season.

  • QB Paul Mencke was a junior in 1999, and had a rather undistinguished QB career. Mencke would share some time with Birnbaum, but never was able to grab the job. Mencke would set a WSU record for interceptions, tossing six in one game. But that's about all you'll find or remember about Mencke.

  • And then you had the frosh, Jason Gesser. A lot of buzz, some whispers about his leadership, and some people in and around the program who thought the kid had "it". Not top-shelf talent, not blessed with monster size and strength or fantastic quickness. But just something about him, his leadership and competitiveness, his winning ways back to high school where he never lost a game, people just knew he would be a winner. '99 saw them all split time, but Gesser never actually started a game until the end of the season, at Hawaii. '99 was a miserable season, a 3-9 year that saw them beat only Cal in the Pac-10, and something else called Louisiana-Lafayette. But then, that last game of the year, at Hawaii.

Gesser would get the start, and this was against a good Hawaii team to boot, a 9-win bowl Hawaii team in June Jones' first season on the island. Gesser would lead the Cougs to a 22-14 win, taking some repeated blows from the Hawaii defense in the process.
That game was considered the defining moment to the start of Gesser's career.

Don't take my word for it. Check out
Washington State Magazine's look back to that game:

He sometimes seemed fragile, but he was always throwing his body at yard-markers, at safeties, at whatever got in his way. He and others recall his defining moments as late in that freshman season of 1999, when he had a bad thumb but led a team of meager capability to a victory at Hawaii.

On one play, he dove for the chains and in his words, "got cleaned in the ribs." Wincing back to the huddle, he had established a tone. Safety Billy Newman told him that from that moment forward, everybody in the program knew that nothing less than a best effort would do.

So where does that leave us with "Ocho Rojo" (Eight Red), Marshall Lobbestael? I know, I know, it's one game over a non-BCS opponent. He only played in the second half. There is a great unknown for how he's going to handle things going forward. And many one-time wonders have been named Pac-10 player of the week, as success can be just so fleeting. But Lobbestael has been special in his past. Such as his bio from Scout.com:
Has a quick release, outstanding accuracy and tremendous poise. Named 2006 state Class 4A Player of the Year by the Associated Press and Seattle Times after leading Oak Harbor to its first-ever state championship game. Passed for 34 touchdowns and 2,776 yards on the season.

His prep coach, Dave Ward, says that from the time Lobbestael started as a sophomore that he knew he was coaching a Pac-10-caliber quarterback: "Marshall is the best quarterback, the best leader, the best passer, the best player I've ever coached," he says.


Burst onto the recruiting radar early in the season against Meadowdale when he completed 18 of 22 passes and a school-record six touchdowns passes (breaking a record set by his older brother John).
As a junior in 2005, Lobbestael earned second-team all-conference honors, completing 59 percent of his passes for 1,351 yards with 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
The exciting thing in all this is that, two weeks ago, the QB conundrum was a tough one. Here was one QB in Rogers, a senior, who was clearly struggling to pick things up. But even if Rogers stayed healthy and had a decent year, where would that put the program for the future? Would his success hold back the development of another?

The other QB, Lopina, showed a little more success than Rogers, but really not by much. Lopina might be viewed as the better fit in terms of the short passing game and more mobility, but he's also shown a penchant for the interception, now five in just about two games of playing time. But Lopina is a junior, so even if he does flat-out grab the job, it still might be a full season of lumps before he could really click in 2009. But then he'd be a senior, and the clock would be ticking. Would his success hold back the development of another?


But now, due to injury, here's Lobbestael, a redshirt-frosh with so much ahead of him. He is something to build around, something tangible to point to in the future. He's been a success in his high school career, a leader and a winner who won a state title. Most of all, a down season can be turned into something at least somewhat positive if the down times are learning experiences for a very young program, a very young QB and leader the team can rally around. Just like 1999.

One more thing - if Mike Price had it to do over again, he would have given Jason Gesser more starts in that lousy 1999 season. Gesser would have to learn under fire in 2000, but by then he was already a sophomore. He would have some high points in 2000, such as a win at Utah and at Cal. He would also put up some big numbers in a couple of OT losses to Arizona and ASU. But Gesser would be lost to a broken leg at Oregon State late in the year. So really, it wasn't until 2001, Gesser's junior season, before he really put it together, and would lead us on the best two-year run in school history. But again, if Price could do it all over again, he would have used that frosh year to put him into the fire and take the lumps while also getting him true playing experience. Maybe 2000 could have been another story in his sophomore year. Maybe those OT losses could have been victories, and a 4-7 season could have been a 6-5, bowl-eligible year?

Anyway, just something to chew on for the rest of 2008. With Rogers now done for his senior year, and Lopina already bruised and battered, it sure doesn't seem like a bad idea now to give the ball to EIGHT RED and see what shakes. At this point, what do they have to LOSE? Read more ...plus comments

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fun with Ducky Tears; Marshall P-O-W?!?

This has been making the rounds today, if you haven't heard/seen it yet. Just listen to the announcer for the Oregon broadcast. I guess if you pulled some yahoo out of the stands and said "call the game" it would probably sound like this.



Now, they will probably kick our behinds this Saturday, but still, this is funny. Probably sounds a lot like if you asked KJR's Dave Mahler to actually call a UW football game?

Finally, breaking news - can YOU name the Pac-10 offensive player of the week this week??



Nice job LOBSTER! Read more ...plus comments

Time for "Little Moxie"?

I know people are excited about Marshall Lobbestael. It's hard not to be, given the start of the 2008 season and the flat-out inept offensive performances we've witnessed thus far. I'm right there with you. Efficient, effective, smart, he was the whole deal on Saturday. A 48-9 victory, and the team really seemed in synch with Marshall. Wulff likes him too:
Asked what Lobbestael's strengths are, Wulff said, "We're still finding that out. He got so few reps in the spring; Gary and Kevin got most of them, and the same thing in the fall. But you can tell he's got a little moxie."
Hmm. I know everyone is looking for a nickname for this kid (Lobster?). The red hair more or less fits with the Lobster. But how about "Little Moxie"? You know, because he shows a little moxie? It's a stretch, I know. Whatever. I just hope the kid can keep playing like this.

BUT, alas, there's the question. CAN he continue to play like this? After all, this was an off-the-bench moment against a mid-range Big Sky team. No offense to Portland State, but they aren't exactly the Oregon Ducks secondary is it? If Little Moxie gets the call on Saturday, he can expect coverage to be a lot tighter, the pass rush to be a lot more fierce, and it's doubtful he'll have a running game in his back pocket that was able to get 5.5 yards per carry whenever it wanted to. No, this Saturday will be a much different deal. And oh yeah, Oregon is PISSED after kicking one vs. the Boise State Donkeys. Really pissed.

The sad part of this story is that it appears the career of Gary Rogers is over. I guess he could potentially apply for a medical redshirt and try to get another year of eligibility, but that seems like a stretch at this point. He's out of the hospital now, but has to recover from a break of the seventh bone from the base of the skull.

The best news is that Rogers was able to move his limbs, and left the hospital under his own power. It could have been much, much worse than it turned out to be. But unfortunately, we can now file Rogers in the Mike Pattinson category. You know, good guy and a QB who hung around and hung around, then finally got his shot, only to have it cut short in his last season due to injury.

We will always wonder what could have been with big Gary. Who knows what he could have done with experience, a good offensive line, an NFL running back in Jerome Harrison and some NFL-type WR's like Jason Hill and Michael Bumpus around him. That famous drive vs. Auburn might have been brief, but anyone who watched it will always at least understand the kind of upside he had, and why so many people wanted to see this thing work out for him. Good luck to Gary, and get healthy!

Moving on, it's not exactly a lock that Marshall will get the ball this Saturday. Kevin Lopina's shoulder is bruised, so he's not exactly fit to start right now. But Wulff said they will monitor him all week, and leading on that if he's healthy, he will start.


Lopina's health is a big concern. Anyone who watched him early in that game on Saturday can see that his arm strength is a problem right now. He sure had more zip on the ball vs. Baylor than he did on Saturday, so maybe that sore throwing wrist is bothering him more than they are letting on? But wow, some of his throws were just terrible, some dying quails fluttering in the breeze. I had some flashbacks to.....never mind.

Lopina also really needs to clean up the turnovers. On both of his INT's on Saturday, they weren't just poor throws, but bad decisions to boot. The first on a roll-out on third down, where he threw it deep into an area where three defenders were waiting. It had absolutely no chance. The second one was basically a jump-ball to Gibson, thrown up for grabs, and fluttered away and right to the defensive back. Yes, it was only his second-ever start, and growing pains for him are expected, even if he is a junior. But that's now five INT's in roughly two games of playing time. We know how bad turnovers are, but for a team that is so thin and lacking experience in so many areas, the last thing we can afford is giving the ball away so much. And while we did get three turnovers of our own on defense, we STILL lost the turnover battle on Saturday, giving it away four times to Portland State. That just cannot continue.

Finally, major hat-tip to Michael Bumpus!

Bump hauled in his first NFL TD yesterday, making a diving grab of a Matt Hasselbeck pass in the end zone to get the Hawks their first score yesterday, on the way to a 37-13 rout of the winless Lambs. Bump only had two catches, and he muffed a punt that was recovered by St Louis, but still, great to see him score a TD. Who knows what the future holds, as both Bobby Engram and Deion Branch are expected to return - hopefully - after the bye week, so he may be headed back to the practice squad. But still, as an undrafted free agent to be playing in the WR rotation by the third week of the season, and contributing? GREAT JOB BUMP!

That's about it. Enjoy your Monday, a Monday after a WIN, and GO COUGS! Read more ...plus comments

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Final Thread - WSU 48, Portland State 9


Nice to get a W. Everyone around the team will feel good about it, just to get in the W column. And for someone looking for something, anything, to be happy about, well, I'm not going to piss-n-moan about this one. It wasn't great, hardly a masterpiece, but when you rack up 640 yards and 38 first downs? After the way we started the season, I wondered if we could do that against air, let alone another football team. I'll take it. Heck, there were some that thought this was going to be a nail-biter, if not an upset loss, but things went about how we thought.

The Good: The running game was pretty much unstoppable from the first play to the last. 279 rushing yards, on 5.5 yards per carry. The o-line did a decent job of opening up holes, and the combo of Ivory, Tardy and even Mitz all averaged between 6.4 and 7.3 yards per carry.

Devin Frischknecht looked good, his best game since the Apple Cup last year with over 100 yards and a TD catch. He's been hurt early this year, but he was finally on the field for an extended time for the first time this year. We liked his upside last year, and he might be a nice option for the QB to check down to as the season goes on.

And dare I say it, but have we found our QB of the future? Marshall Lobbestael was an efficient, productive QB tonight, 9-for-12 for 149 and a couple of TD's. An impressive 12.4 yards per attempt, and best of all, NO INT'S! That's a huge problem with the other two guys, obviously, and it was continuing tonight with three first-half INT's, until they were both knocked out of the game. I know it wasn't against a top-shelf BCS opponent, but still, he looked good.

There were a couple of throws that will stand out, too, in fact three throws to the tight ends that look promising. One an over-the-shoulder fade that he threw ON THE MONEY to Frischknecht, a play that big Devin took to the house for a 53-yd TD. But he also later found Frischknecht up the seam and laid it in perfectly in a spot only Devin could go get it. Finally, he had a real nice roll-out off play action and found Tony Thompson in the flat on a perfectly thrown ball to get the ball inside the 2-yard line. Really nice job, really accurate. I understand why people were excited about him when he signed with Doba and company a few years ago. The kid looks like he has some moxie, but most of all, ACCURACY out of the QB position is a welcome sight!

The passing defense handled the run-n-shoot pretty well. 238 yards passing allowed is an OK day at the office, but the real thing to look at is the completion percentage (20-for-49), third-down efficiency (1-for-13), and just 4.9 yards per attempt with one TD pass. Plus we actually had a couple of takeaways, with a fumble recovery and a couple of INT's (and ONE that was robbed by the replay official!).

The running defense was excellent, just eight rushing yards on 11 attempts. But we knew they wouldn't be able to run the ball, as they hadn't even hinted at a running game this year. So a good thing, but not a surprise.

The Bad: The offensive line better pick up the blitz. Other teams are going to bring the house against our QB's, whoever it happens to be. Not only will the QB's need to burn the blitz and get on the same page with the WR's, but the o-line, jeez. Both hits that knocked out the QB's were blitzing linebackers, and both guys came completely IGNORED by the o-line. And that's against a 1-AA opponent? I shudder to think what Oregon's speed and energy on defense is going to do to our offense next week. Shudder I tell you!

The pass rush was weak. I know we had three sacks, but they were usually the coverage type sacks. There were far, far, far too many times when the QB had all day to throw the ball. There were a ton of three-man fronts with eight dropping into coverage, which is a good strategy against a run-n-shoot offense, but wow, are we not good up front. Next week should be a real eye opener, as Oregon's o-line is considered right there with Cal as the best in the conference.

The Ugly: PENALITES. Same as at the half, but this was a dirty, ugly game. 18 total penalties, 10 by us. Lots of defensive fouls in the secondary, late hits, etc. It got pretty chippy there a few times, but you think about it - you had a BCS team in WSU told how awful they are, while you had a 1-AA opponent playing their one and only BCS team this season, so they came in loose and free and nothing to lose. So it wasn't a good situation. Plus there is no love lost between Wulff and Glanville, as Wulff mentioned a few times he was mad at Glanville last year for standing by the EWU sideline talking to his players before their game in '07. Glanville had defeated Wulff the last few times they met, so, there might have been a little bit of a grudge here.

The INT's were ugly, ugly, ugly. Lopina really threw some bad balls, the first INT right into the teeth of triple coverage, the second just a 30-yard flutter ball thrown up for grabs. Lopina threw the ball a lot better last week, but this week, forget it. His wrist was really bothering him, or he's just got absolutely no arm. I hope it's the former, not the latter.

Rogers too, the INT at the goal line was ugly. There was no need for him to force it, as they still had a chance at points at 2nd down, a time out and 13 seconds to go. He had done well up until that point, but then morphed back into slinging it into coverage.

Now that both QB's are injured, who knows what he's out with the neck injury, who knows what he'll be able to give us the rest of the way. It's going to be an interesting week. Oregon will come in pissed after losing at home to Boise State. And they are down to their fourth or fifth string QB's right now, so we'll see. They will clearly be a big favorite, and their running game is still fantastic regardless of who or what is at QB. We will still have to take tremendous steps forward on many levels just to stay in the game with them. But we'll see how the week goes.

Finally, ENJOY THE WIN! There may not be many more of these in 2008, so, feel good while you can. Have a good night. GO COUGS!

Half-time:
WELL, that was one UGLY half. Turnovers, penalties, poor line play. Lopina is probably out for the rest of the game, so it's Gary Rogers from here on out.

The Good: The offensive line has been run-blocking extremely well. Tardy with 54 yards at the half, Ivory with 33. Both guys combined are averaging almost 5 1/2 yards per carry. I'll take that. Decent balance overall, with 251 total yards. And Rogers looked pretty comfortable when he's had time to throw the ball.

The passing defense has done well, just 114 first-half yards for a team averaging almost 400 through the air. PSU can't run the ball, just 6 rushing yards, but they barely even pretend to run it based on their scheme. But the pass defense has done well, and Hubel's only averaging 4.8 yards per attempt (that's REALLY bad).

Good job on third downs too - 1 for 7.

The Bad: Even though the passing yards have been decent, it's a bit misleading. Even before Lopina's injury, he was throwing some real wobblers. And some poor decisions on both INT's, one he forced into triple coverage. Overall just 7-for-17, less than 50%.

Not totally his fault though, as the dropsies have returned. Gibson dropped three balls in the first half. Although at least two of them were poorly thrown, still, a player like Gibson has to haul those balls down.

The offensive line better learn to pick up the blitz, and fast! Lopina was just absolutely blown up by a linebacker who came 100% free off the edge. Nobody even looked at him, and Lopina never saw it coming. And Rogers has taken some big shots already. I know the O-line is inexperienced and some shuffling has something to do with it, but wow, they look terrible against the blitz.

The d-line has barely breathed on Hubel, but, we've shown a ton of three-man fronts. We're dropping eight into coverage repeatedly, and the passing defense numbers are good, so we can get away with it for now.

The Ugly: PENALTIES have been absolutely brutal. Eight for 90 yards, and they have come at the worst times. It's pretty "chippy" on both sides, really, some late hits and such from both teams.

The INT call that was overturned was just terrible. I don't know what the hell they are watching in the booth, but every FSN replay they showed never had the ball hitting the turf. That was a hell of a catch by Justin, with one hand, and for them to over-rule the ruling on the field on something like that, without clear evidence the other way, is baffling.

The INT thrown by Rogers right before halftime was awful. 2nd down and you are already in field goal range, 13 seconds left, and you have one timeout. Why try and just fling it near the goal line? The color commentator was right, that was an awful decision.

Enjoy the second half!



Not sure if you are at the game (and judging by the attendance, it sure doesn't look like it) but we've got a game about to start. Feel free to chime in with comments.

Interesting one with Oregon and Boise State. The Ducks were getting humiliated at home 37-13, losing QB's left and right. But put in the frosh QB (and fifth stringer) and stormed back to within five pts with 2 minutes to go. But the Donkeys hang on and shock the Quack in Autzen. They'll be nice and pissed next week when they come to Pullman, won't they??

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Good Morning Sunshine

This is actually from last week's ESPN Gameday.....but Erin Andrews and the WSU flag, how could we pass on that? Even though she knows nothing about WSU, other than our hoops coach is pretty hot....but here's a screenie from today:


Will and Stephanie Walker, doing their best every Saturday. Even in these worst of times, arguably the worst three-game stretch to open a WSU football season in recent memory, they are still at it. Great job, again. If you want to see their gallery of flag screenshots, check it out here.

I don't know if any of you watched gameday this morning, but they did a feature on SEC defenses. It's startling to see highlights of how these teams play defense, and their size and speed is pretty incredible. But the #1 thing that Tommy Tuberville and Nick Saban pointed out is the size, speed and depth that these SEC teams have on the defensive line that is just incredible. They are all big, strong, and can run sub-5 40's. I know it was an eye opener when we went down to Auburn in '06 and got a load of their speed in the linebackers and secondary, and the issues Alex Brink had in getting anything done through the air. But their defensive line was just another animal altogether, and it was a shock to the system. I shudder to think what an Auburn or LSU defensive line would do to our offensive line right now! You watch those programs, then look at us, especially up front? We've got a long way to go (thank you captain obvious!).

There are some links and such on gameday morning, and you know where to find most of them. Vince has a quick breakdown of the game today, and as usual, keeps it real. But I thought the Bud Withers story today was exceptionally good, and really dials in on what we were preaching yesterday - CHANGE. Everything is different this year, from what and how they eat all the way down to what you see on the field, and they are all still adjusting. But to think about it in real-world situations, here this organization went from a laid back, folksy type in a grandfather figure like Doba to a structured, disciplined, detailed system with Wulff.
"I've come into a situation that's no different than somebody else taking over a new business," he says. "There were some things internally that maybe weren't exposed. It's no different from any other major business. You evaluate it and you start building it and fixing."
Most have bought in to this change, but not all. And it's those who resist the changes as the ones who are probably struggling the most.
"It takes day-after-day consistency to really develop," he says. "Sometimes it takes a little tough love to get that across. But ultimately, that's what they wanted. The kids that really wanted to excel wanted that."
That's one thing that gets a little lost in all this. It's easy to look at these huge kids and think of them as full-grown men, but they aren't. They are still just kids, texting, playing video games, trying to deal with girls and maturing and getting passing grades. It's a ton of pressure on a regular student, but factor in all that is new in the football program, and you can understand it a little more. A lot of them deep down need the system, the structure, the discipline that maybe they haven't had before.

Let's go out and get a win today. We need it as fans, but think how much these players and coaches are dying to feel GOOD after a game!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Football Friday Week IV: Victory Numero Uno


Greetings Cougar Nation and Brinkhater Army!

Welcome to the 1/3 marker of the 2009 tilt.

Good news to you all: this week, we are going to win!!

Granted all hell could break loose, the skies could part to rain hot hail, the waters of the Snake River could part, the wheat in the Palouse could start singing Gregorian Chants, and we could lose.

But we won't. Not this time, anyway.

Why?

Our kids WANT to win, our kids are focused, and PSU is a mediocre Big Sky team that has FAR lesser talent than our struggling bunch.

We'll blitz, we'll sit back and cover, we'll hit, we'll alternate formations, and we'll get our offense on track.

The running game will work, DBs will struggle to stay within 20 yards of Gibson and Anderson, and the rest will unfold in nothing but happy ways.

Brinkhater WILL extend his (this time) HAPPY streak of successful Cougar Predictions to 16 games:

WSU 45 PSU 21

Elsewhere:

ASU 31 Georgia 30. Ya, the Crap-10 sucks, but now Georgia thinks ASU isn't any good and Erickson and the boys will be MAD. The key in this one is for ASU not to fall behind 17-0 in their typical fashion. If they come out ready to play, this will be a really nice, entertaining quasi shoot-out.

Oregon 35 BSU 21. Ya, the Quack lost their QB. Ya, BSU is stingy. But the Quack are too good and that D is REALLY good if it starts play after 12:00pm PDT (or PST).

Stanford 28 SJSU 21. If you pay any attention to this game before the Sunday paper, you have no life. In other words, watch this and you're worse off than Brinkhater. (In other words, Don't do it!!!!!!!!)

Arizona 41 UCLA 13. Think last week's yuck fest was an aberration? What til the Mildcats rebound against the pitiful Bruins.

Enjoy the games and GO COUGS!!

Longball Says:
I know most of you have your bookie on hold until you hear Longball's predictions for this weekend, so here goes..

The Cougs are going to officially enter the win column!

I know, not much of a stretch, but for this team I think this Saturday will provide a much needed whipping boy in Portland State. No doubt these guys are frustrated, but as they start to taste some success against the Vikings, i think all that will be forgotten for a couple hours and they will put the hammer down.

I am curious to see if we make the wholesale changes that have been discussed, or do we try to avoid tipping our hand too much to the Ducks? Frankly, we aren't beating Oregon either way so I say lets try some new stuff out now.

Cougs 38 Vikes 17

Wow, Brinkhater takes Sparky over Georgia! He makes a great point and almost has me convinced he's made the brilliant pick of the week, but... I say Georgia after being on their heels early, figures it out and rallies just in time to keep their BCS title hopes alive.

UGA 35 ASU 30

Other games of note:

Ducks 45 BSU 24. I think Oregon lays waste to BSU, plain and simple.

Arizona 28 UCLA 10. UCLA defense finds some life after getting humiliated last week, but not enough to make up for not having an offense

Utah St. 35 Idaho 21 Akey's Army continues its version of the Bataan Death March.

Auburn 17 LSU 9 More than any other conference the SEC throws up a lot of baseball scores. Auburn gets the edge at home.

East Carolina 28 NC State 14 Are the Pirates the best story in college football this year?

Thats all for now folks, have a great weekend and GO COUGS!!!

Sedihawk Says:

Well, I'm back from the House of Mouse, but it was no play/all work. Ah well. But one good thing to come of it? I got to listen to Joe Theismann speak for about 30 minutes, talking about himself at length (what a shock).


I've heard a lot of things about Theismann. Things like Joe Theismann is the biggest Joe Theismann fan on the planet. I heard one radio show host say that the two biggest a-holes he ever met were 1) Joe Theismann before his leg injury and 2) Joe Theismann after his leg injury.

But there were some interesting tidbits in there - some good locker room stories and such. He talked about the name change (it's a true story btw, the Notre Dame AD demanded he change his name his senior year to rhyme with Heisman). He talked about how much he hates the Cowboys. He made the camera zoom in on his rings, one a SB champion ring, but the other the SB runner-up right. He says some people ask him why in the world would he wear a SB loser ring as well as the SB winner? It's to remind him of how they let down that game and to not do something like that again. He talked about how great they were that season, and still laments that Super Bowl loss to the Raiders. They went 14-2, losing only two games by the slimmest of margins. They set NFL records for points scored. They were simply amazing. But he also talked about how cocky they were that week in Tampa, how hard they all partied and thought hey, we've already won this thing once, let's enjoy the SB experience. Final score - Raiders 38, Redskins 9.

I've heard a lot of good speakers in the past, and he's somewhere in the middle I guess. I always try to take something from what speakers have to say, and he said one thing above all else that I'll remember - EMBRACE CHANGE.

And he's right. Change isn't easy in anything we do. When we are hauled out of our comfort zone, it's tough. Part of you wants to resist so you can be in your "happy place" or whatever, and it's a big reason humans don't like change. With change comes unpredictability, uncertainty, anxiety, you name it. And in the case of WSU and Paul Wulff, could there be any MORE change right now? Think about what these young players have been through. The Doba change-out, Wulff taking over with an entirely new approach and new staff, new routines, new plays, new discipline, new players in key positions, etc, etc, ETC. You name it, it's new.

Maybe that can help explain this lousy start. They aren't robots or videogame characters, you know? They are 18-21 year olds who are still trying to adjust in a major overhaul in their entire lives, and adjusting to that change takes time. But it's not just WSU. We pointed out in a comment earlier that since 1960, 29 Pac-10 teams coming off losing seasons have changed their coaches. Only five times the following season did that losing team actually post a winning record (Jeff Tedford's first year at Cal is the most recent example). But all the rest, in their first year, had losing records.

I know I have been trying to stay positive, where some of you have jumped off the bridge. But folks, it's THREE games into a monster changeover. Disappointed? Absolutely. But when you put it in perspective, you can at least understand why this will take a while. And at this point, as a fan/alum/whatever, you can make a choice. You can freak out, go crazy, call for Wulff's head on a platter and absolutely rip the talent on the field. Or, you can think bigger picture, realize what we're dealing with right now and where they are coming from, and just understand that this will take a while. You can choose to be negative about things in the glass-half-empty mode, or, you can look for some positives with the half-full approach. It's entirely up to you.

Ok, on to this week. I am going to fall in line with the rest of the blog brothers, and I'm going to call for a win as well. And for one HUGE reason - we will win the turnover ratio this week! I read an excellent article about turnovers, and what a huge impact they have on a team's success. In our season previews, we talked about Oregon State's successes of late, and how strong they have been in the plus/minus turnover ratio over the years. In our home humiliation to Oregon State last year? We were MINUS-8 in that game. And looking at our turnover ratio right now?? YIKES. We are dead last in the conference at minus-8. We are giving the football away at an alarming rate, with 10 turnovers in three games, while we have only taken it away twice. That, my friends, is not good. And in our history, turnovers are absolutely huge in our success/failure on the field.


Remember that crazy 55-16 wipeout of Oregon in 2003? We had seven - SEVEN - interceptions in that game, a school record. Our two best interception seasons of all-time? 2001 and 2003. INT's returned for TD's? We had five in 2001, four in 2003, both marks are 1-2 in school history, both 10-win seasons to boot. In 1996, we were minus-10 in turnover ratio, and finished 5-6, with some close losses to USC and UW among others. What happened in 1997? Yes, Leaf went crazy and was third in Heisman voting, but the turnovers changed big-time, finishing in the "plus" category.


Remember the 1997 Apple Cup? We think of Leaf hitting Chris Jackson for those deep TD throws, but what about Lamont Thompson? Three INT's in that game by the frosh safety, and a gigantic reason we won it.

So, take care of the ball on offense, take the ball away on defense, and you can win a lot of games. And I think we'll be OK this week. PSU's QB, Drew Hubel, looks like a player, but he's young and INT's have been an issue for him from last season.



He threw nine INT's over his last two games in 2007, so, he's got a penchant for the turnover. He has thrown two INT's in two starts this year, so he's probably going to be better in that category, but still, there will be opportunities for takeaways given all the times these guys will put the ball in the air. Getting Xavier Hicks will be a huge boost for the secondary, and moving Alfonso Jackson back to the other safety spot will help everything calm down.

But more than anything, I believe our interceptions will be the difference. Let's remember that last week was Lopina's first-ever NCAA start, and it was on the road after a 3.5 hour plane ride. This week will be different. Portland State doesn't have BCS talent or BCS speed on defense, and they should be a welcome sight for our QB's eyes on defense. Plus, our receivers are starting to get more comfortable in this offense. Brandon Gibson had his biggest game last week, eight catches for over 100 yards. But Jeshua Anderson had five catches in just his second game of the year, Daniel Blackledge is looking better, and even Kevin Norrell almost had a TD if he didn't fumble at the goal line at the end of the Baylor game. In other words, if you look closely at it, you can see they are starting to improve as a group.

I also love the overall message from Wulff and company this week. They are fed up, more than any of us for sure, so they aren't sitting still. Three weeks of frustration should disappear as we get off the mat, 42-17-style.

The rest of the story:

Game of the week - UGA 22, ASU 16.

I still think ASU is legit. Look-ahead city last week, in a huge way. Meanwhile UGA has had a ton of hype thus far, but, have they really been very good? They walloped Georgia Southern and Central Michigan at home, but went on the road and squeaked out a 14-7 win over the Steve Superior's in South Carolina. And you have to consider when an SEC team comes west, and how that will factor in. We saw Tennessee lose to UCLA in crazy fashion, and consider that Georgia hasn't played a game this far west in FIFTY YEARS. However, this one will be won with Georgia's defense. They fly around and hit like trucks, and they will have a huge advantage up front against ASU's beleagured offensive line. They will make life miserable for Rudy, sacking him at least five times, and UGA will win it.

Ducks 34 BSJCU 13. Oregon's down to QB's #3 and #4 now with losing Costa and LIKELY Justin Roper. That said, Chip Kelly is the best offensive coordinator in the Pac-10, and it's more about the system than the individuals. But Oregon has elite speed at their skill positions, and that's all great. It's their O-line that carries the mail on offense, and they are right next to Cal as the best in the conference. They will strike a blow against the hated WAC!

Arizona 31 UCLA 17. Both teams looking to bounce back from bad losses last week. But I think Arizona reasserts themselves in the conference. They are just so loaded on offense, and this is a game they have circled as one they have to get. UCLA meanwhile crash landed in a monster way last week, and the projected issues they were supposed to have on offense sure showed up didn't they?

Stanford 24 SJSU 20. Agree with Brinkhater here. Just catch the score on the ESPN ticker.

Auburn 13, LSU 10 Agree with Longball here. This will be a bloody-knuckle fist fight, but Auburn wins it late to avenge their heartbreaker at Baton Rouge last year.

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