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:


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:


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


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


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. Click here for more 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! Click here for more Comments

Sunday, September 28, 2008


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! Click here for more 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.
Click here for more 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):


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.


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!


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! Click here for more 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! Click here for more 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! Click here for more 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! Click here for more 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
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? Click here for more 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! Click here for more 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! Click here for more 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!

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??

Enjoy the game. Click here for more Comments

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!

ENJOY YOUR SATURDAY, AND GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

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.


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


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.

ENJOY YOUR FRIDAY, and GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

From Bowling to Bowled Over: A Review

Happy Hump Day Cougar Nation. Hope you’re having a good week.

Well, with the exception of some stragglers, we had one of our better weekend of comments that I can ever remember. For the most part, you all offered some really strong insights and conclusions. One of your remarks that stood out for yours truly concerned Brinkhater’s not-so-nimble prediction that we would finish 6th in the conference and would head to our first bowl in several years.

Obviously, I was deeply wrong about that. But beyond my idiocy, the question is “why?’

So, let’s revisit my cwazy line of reasoning.

At the start of the year
, I reasoned that we would win a whopping 7 games. Our supposed Prey: An awful Baylor, a meek Portland State, a down UCLA and Oregon State, a woeful Stanford, a Lockerless UW, and a pitiful excuse for a Rainbow: Hawaii. In short, I predicted us to lose to every team that would finish .500 or higher and beat everyone who would be .500 or lower. Not that unreasonable in my book.

As of this writing, I have yet to be swayed about the fortunes of the teams that I thought we would beat. I thought they'd be bad, and from what I've seen, they look pretty bad.

Of course, that begs the most important question: What happened to US?

Well, when we offered our pre-camp predictions, there were several criticisms of us. And here they are:

We had no depth at DT and our ability to stop the run was a MAJOR source of concern.

We had no depth anywhere in the case anyone got injured.

Our kicking game was ranked worst in the conference.

IN relation to those criticisms, I reasoned that NONE of the above would prove relevant over the course of the year (silly Brinkhater). Why?

1) I reasoned that “the Roof” would provide needed depth and that Trent and the Safeties would compensate up the middle. I also believed that Mattingly and Mullenix would provide sufficient pressure to draw the attention of the defense. Obviously, Roof was expelled, the M&M’s have melted in the hands of every OT they've seen, and our play at DT and Safety has been absolutely abysmal.

2) Our quarterbacks HAVE been the worst in the conference as predicted by Ted Miller and Benedict Bob Condotta. Of course, my reasoning for why we would be at the top instead of the bottom was because we had 4 starters returning on the O-Line, had two terrific receivers returning with one gem in the balance (Willis), as well as two FANTASTIC running backs to set up play action.

3) Wulff ran our kids into the ground. Of course, he needed to. And, of course, he should not be held responsible for Anderson’s hernia or the rest of the onslaught to the WR corps. Nor can Wulff be held responsible to the miserable injuries that affected the O-Line during camp, or the shuffling that had to take place between Weeks One and Two. In any case, all of the nice constants I thought would be there with the line and the receiving corps? No where to be found. In fact, the instability and injuries to the WR corps and the line have made our suspect QB play even worse. Moreover, those injuries crippled our development and made our performance between Week One and Two not only non-existent--it actually made us REGRESS.

4) Our kicking game is still awful. We missed a PAT in game one, had a worm burner returned for 6 against CAL when we were still "kind of" in the game, and the punting (in Game One) arguably cost us our first competitive game of the year. While I know that our kicking game hasn’t come into real play yet, if we were nearly any good, it would cost us and cost us dearly. I thought we’d be almost reliable this season, but we still have to say 20 Hail Marys even before a dog gone PAT.

So what does this all mean? Where do we go from here?

Call me cwazy, but I honestly believe that this season can be salvaged.

It may not be great, it may not be pretty, it may not be impressive, but I do think that there are 4 wins (out of six winnable games) that are there for the taking. And yes, 4-9 at this point would be a SERIOUS moral victory.

Of course, based on our play and decision making so far (yes, this does mean you coaches), there are also 10 more losses that we can easily siege!

But, here’s my recipe for making the more positive outcome happen THIS YEAR:

Pray for health for the Offensive Line.
If there’s ANYTHING that I am certain of it is that Wulff can coach an O-Line. If this group can stay healthy, they’ll develop. Given the fact that they were previewed as high as #5 in the conference, you know that they have talent in that group. So, if they develop as expected, the talent at the skill positions WILL become apparent just like Brinkhater foresaw at the beginning of the year. You saw some clues last week that things can and will get better as the WRs started to run the correct routes with more consistency. With health at O-Line, we will start to move the ball. But we really can’t afford more big injuries.

Play both Quarterbacks.
May sound sacrilegious, but this team was MADE to follow the Leaf-Dixon combo that Oregon employed a few years back. Start with the guy who can scramble to offset the blitz early (Lopina) and then mix it up the rest of the game by inserting a guy that can really spread the field horizontally and vertically through the air (Rogers). In my book, alternate the two every couple of series until one guy gets the hot hand (or not). Then ride that dude into the 4th. I actually think both guys can learn better by doing and watching anyway and I think it will make us effective over the course of a season (and yes, 10 games qualifies as a season my book) while also avoiding a split locker room.

Move to a 3-4 or 3-3-5.
This is beyond a no-brainer in my book; and I, more than anyone else in the nation, am qualified to make that very statement because I, in fact, have no brain.

In Brinkhater's world, there is beyond 100% justification for Wulff and company to stick to their guns regarding their philosophy on offense. But where the defense is concerned, sticking to their guns makes no sense whatsoever. For one, NOTHING that they want to do with the 4-3 is so complex it can’t be taught in the spring and pre-season. For two, the current scheme does not play to the team’s strengths. For three, we CAN NOT become even remotely competitive with the status quo. For four, we are NOT as slow as we’ve seemed thus far. From what I’ve seen, we just look that way, cuz EVERYONE on the team is diving toward the center on each play to compensate for the fact that our DTs are the worst ever in school history.

To be sure, the addition of Hicks and the return of Jackson will help some, but where it will help is 7 yards down the field after the opposing teams’ tailback has picked up 8 on first down to make it second and two (instead of 1st and 10 following a 50 yard gain). I mean, I know I don’t know much, but when the other team has second and two most of the time, you gonna lose.
So, the return of Hicks in and of itself will mean NOTHING for our fortunes.

Moreover, given the fact that we have NO TALENT or depth at DT but have PLENTY at Linebacker, why in the WORLD would you sit that talent and start some fat, slow scrubs when you don’t have to?

It may not be this week, but I’d be SHOCKED to not see a change in Defensive scheme by the Oregon game. If we make the change, I like our chance to stay in games (assuming that the offense improves) with that game (the Quack) and the USC game as exceptions..
And I’d REALLY like our chances if they’d move Mattingly back to LB.

But what do I know, right?

Anywho, where this week is concerned, we will win and win handily, so you all can take a chill pill and relax--at least for this week.

Our first REAL test will be how we line up against the Quack in a couple of weeks. Granted, even without Roper, we’re gonna get blasted. But, it is the improvement we make in THAT game which will determine our fate for the rest of the year.

There are six winnable games left on our slate.

Lets get #1 this weekend.

ONE final note - Bellevue High School, the #1 AAA school in the state, and WSU recruiting target Jamal Atofau will play in Qwest Field this weekend. It's called the "Best of the West Classic".

It's a full day of high school football, featuring teams from California and Washington. Here's a synopsis:

Bellevue High School will host four football games Sept. 20 at Qwest Field, highlighted by the Wolverines playing one of California's top teams. The Best of the West Football Classic will
feature seven Seattle-area teams, with host Bellevue playing California High School from the Bay Area (San Ramon), a team that was 11-2 last season, at 7:30 p.m.
Kamiak and Shorewood will open at 10:30 a.m., followed by Woodinville and Eastlake at 1:30 p.m. Redmond plays Bothell, last year's runner-up in Class 4A, at 4:30 p.m.
Bellevue will play its third California team in five years at Qwest Field. The Wolverines, one of this state's perennial powers, beat De La Salle in 2004 and Long Beach Poly in 2005. All-day admission will be $7 for students and $13 for adults.
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Monday, September 15, 2008

Faced With an Entire Grove of Lemons, Longball Tries to Serve Up a Vat of Lemon Aid.

That, Cougar nation, is Gladys the cat showing her disgust as Amieable and I play a board game called Sink The Titanic. Discovered deep in Papa Longball's closet, Sink the Titanic is a relic from the 1970's, a magical era not burdened by political correctness, or good taste. It is also an apt metaphor for what our 2008 season has amounted to so far... high hopes on the maiden voyage of the HMS Wulf, only to spring a gaping leak and quickly begin sinking, uncontrollably, downward into the abyss. Glub, glub, glub...

As my friend, and former Cougar special teams dynamo, Joe would say, "We're all going over Niagara in a barrel full of swords." But not so fast, my friends. Unlike the Titanic our Cougs are not going to settle permanently into the cold, dark depths, never to rise again. On the contrary, while our play on the field has been abysmal in an unprecedented and unnerving fashion, there are many signs that brighter days are ahead. The brightest sign of all? This...

This is the crib of my soon-to-arrive niece, Keelin. As you can see, she is already a dyed-in-the-wool Cougar fanatic! Now do you hear a peep out of her about the struggles of our offense, or the gaping holes in our defense, or the staggering set backs on special teams, or the countless turnovers? Nope. In fact if you ask her (and if she could answer), she'd say Coach Wulf and company ought to have things turned around just in time for her first ever game at Martin Stadium.

With Baby Keelin in mind I took in our first home game of the season with an eye to the future. Its a good thing too, because the present was forgettable at best. On her first trip to "Ol Martin, not only will baby Keelin see an exciting team with a quick strike offense and ferocious, ball hawking defense, she will see a pristine and picturesque facility where she will never have to face the indignity of a trip to the Honey Bucket! When she first arrives she will be greeted by a giant bronze Cougar lurking over the crowds in the Northeast concourse. The statue hasn't been installed yet, so for the benefit of our imaginations, Keelin's future auntie Amieable stands in for the beast...


Now legend has it that as the Titanic sank, the band played on...

And despite the absence of all hope, the Cougar Marching Band was in the field house giving it their all. I can't wait for Keelin to do her first shark attack!

On this day the old folks in the South stands mostly failed to show up (I guess there were some partially cloudy conditions on Snoqualmie pass and a 2 for 1 special at Granny's Buffet in Spokane. Who can compete with that?), but the North stands were packed, much as I imagine they'll be when Keelin first lays eyes on the assembled Crimson Nation.

If you think Jahvid Best had wide open spaces to run through that day, you should see all the room the students had as they grazed the concessions behind the North stands. Baby Keelin will never know the thrill of being slowly crushed in a massive wave of putrid, drunken humanity pressing forward relentlessly towards a lone concessions attendant who will sell his last hot chocolate in the souvenir mug right before you finally get to the front of the line.

Now while the upgrades to the stadium don't seem to be helping us out much when it comes to turnover margin, or total yards, they sure make losing more comfortable. And while we shuffle from our seats, to the expanded concessions and the new restrooms and back in slightly less nauseating discomfort then we are used to... the ongoing construction reminds us that this is a work in progress. Just like Martin stadium, with its missing statue, and other rough unfinished edges, this football team still has a LOT of work to be done. But just ask baby Keelin, it will be done, and just in time.

This week, we should be able to take a bit of a breather from all the heart wrenching disappointment and eek out a narrow, but thrilling win over Portland State. Don't miss this rare opportunity to do some serious high fivin.

As always, Go Cougs!
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When All Else Fails....

Three games in, and nobody's happy. Obviously there are issues, and they are plenty. But don't fret, as you are not alone in your unhappiness. Coach Wulff is right there with you, and because of the inept performances thus far, changes are a brewin' on the Palouse. And rightly so. Per Bud Withers in the Times today:

1) Xavier Hicks is back. You may remember him from his off-the-field, uh, slip-ups. But the kid is a big-hitting safety who only started three games last year, but had 53 tackles and some huge hits that separated man from ball. UCLA remembers him, I'm sure, from last year's 27-7 win:

Hicks coming back means that the secondary will likely do some shuffling, with potentially Chima going back to corner, and Alfonso Jackson moving back to safety. Remember those two had switched positions, but due to injuries and other issues, it wasn't exactly working out. Go back and watch the first play vs. Cal, when Jahvid Best took the ball 80 yards. Look at the last line of defense on that play, and see the safety who completely whiffed on the tackle attempt. That's just one example, but it shows that a change needs to be made.

Having Hicks and Jackson in the middle of the field makes a heck of a lot of sense. Jackson had 65 tackles as a safety last year, and even though he's been beat up this year, he just didn't look like corner was the spot for him in that first game.

2) Myron Beck, who did a fair job as a safety, has been moved to linebacker. Makes sense. He's shown a nose for the ball and with his quickness, he could be a pretty good, quick outside linebacker. He's well-built at 6-0, 210, so it could be a really good move for him as well. And with all the issues we had trying to slow down Baylor's running game - QB Robert Griffin had over 200 yards himself, remember - Beck is probably going to eat into some of Kendrick Dunn's playing time at weak side LB.

But no matter what, we've GOT to stop the run, whether it's Beck's speed at linebacker, or if the tackles are going to be pushed out of the way, you better be strong up the middle in other areas with the safeties. Hopefully this change will help Trent man the middle of the field, because right now he's all we've had out there!

3) The o-line is going to shuffle again, and this time it might be for the better. Vaughn Lesuma will move inside to guard, and that could be the best for him. Lesuma isn't fully healthy, and even when he is OK, he's always had some issues with the speedier rush ends out there. He's a huge dude at 6-5, 330, so he might be better suited to be a road grater inside and lean on some defensive tackles with all that girth. Steven Ayers and Joe Eppele will fight it out for the left tackle spot. This is big news, as Wulff has mentioned in his radio show how high they are on Joe Eppele's ability as a tackle, but his knee injury has held him back thus far. It sounds as though he is now ready to compete, so, we might see him play for the first time this year.

4) At QB - even with the turnovers shown by Lopina - Wulff made it sound like IF he's good to go, he will start on Saturday. The wrist is sore, but it will likely be Lopina if he's ready. We all have opinions on the QB, and the question can't be fully answered yet if you ask me. I would be fine if they continue to split time this Saturday, and then see what happens. But in true foundless, blog-style rumor mongering.....we've heard a few things about the QB situation recently, and well, let's just say it isn't a shocker that Lopina is getting a long look.

Finally, Vince has a good round-up of the different positions Wulff spoke about yesterday. Check it out here (but you probably already have by now...)

So there you have it. If you keep failing at something, well, what do you do? You try something else. It's pretty basic. But now that we are three games in, the coaches have found out quite a bit about the players they have and what they do on game day. And most of all, how they fit into what they are trying to accomplish. It's been a tough three-game stretch, almost like a mini-NFL-preseason audition if you want to know the truth. But the first three games are now in the rear-view mirror, and these guys can now make some adjustments going forward. Let's see how it all plays out on Saturday. I'm sure as hell hoping they taste victory, for everyone involved! These guys need a win right now.

In other news, the postings might be a little light this week. Real life is more or less getting in the way this week of our massive output of daily content.....we'll try to stay on top of things, but it might be a lighter-than-normal week. But just know we aren't going anywhere. Sorry. :)

Enjoy your Monday/week, and GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Sunday, September 14, 2008

U-G-L-Y Day for the PAC

Well, at least we still have USC. But my goodness, what an UGLY day for the Pac-10.

We started things off with our Friday Night Whoopin' at Waco. But holy COW, what a down day for the conference. Of course we are top-heavy with USC, which looks like they could challenge the Cleveland Browns right now. But the rest? Eh, not so much.

Cal can go ahead and cancel their BCS championship parade, as well as the Heisman ceremony for Jahvid Best, don't you think? Speaking of BCS, for as great as they claim to be, Cal still hasn't even been to a BCS bowl in the Tedford era. Anyone else tired of Cal fans and their act of late? To hear them recently, after beating Michigan State and humiliating WSU that they are the greatest team ever assembled. But after losing to an unranked Maryland team, BZZT. Sorry.

TCU wiped out Stanford. I don't think that was too much of a surprise, and Stanford hung tough for the first half, but then were run over after halftime. But Stanford, geez, just 193 yards of total offense?

Oregon looked doomed, but then rallied to beat an unranked Purdue team in double-OT, and only after Purdue missed field goals at the end of regulation and overtime.

ASU lost - AT HOME - TO UNLV!?!? The same ASU everyone, including myself, picked to finish 2nd in the conference?? Unbelievable.

BYU absolutely smoked UCLA, 59-0. 59-0!?!? Worst UCLA loss in 75 years. I know we just lost 66-3 to Cal, but at least that's to a BCS conference team. But to go down 59-0 to a Mountain West team?? BYU's Max Hall threw SEVEN TD's, including six in the first half? WOW is right.

Arizona lost to New Mexico? Yet another Mountain West team beats the Pac-10. And Zona gave up 36 points to boot, while turning it over FIVE times. New Mexico was 0-2 coming into this one as well. Great.

Oregon State represented well, blowing out a bad Hawaii football team 45-7. Maybe we have some hope for 11/29?

Finally, UW. How ugly was it?

Even the fat Sooner fan with absolutely no life was apologizing for the wipe out.

Let's just say that 55-14 as the final score was much, much closer than the actual game. Oklahoma had 591 yards of total offense and 48 points....with three minutes left in the THIRD QUARTER. Stoops cleared the bench at that point, but that was as complete a domination that has happened in the Willingham era. In fact, the margin of loss was their worst since 2003.

So, yep, outside of USC? WE SUCK right now. All of us.

Happy Sunday! Click here for more Comments

Saturday, September 13, 2008

New Day, New Thread

Top of the Morns to you all, Cougar Nation.

Well, after last nights yuck-fest, combined with some off-color and out-of-bounds comments, we thought we'd turn the page.

So, in deference to a great comment by Atlanta Coug, here is the question of the day:

Given our HORRIBLE defensive breakdowns against the run the last couple of weeks, AS WELL AS our lack of depth at DT, AS WELL AS Mattingly's struggles at defensive end, is it time for us to take a serious look at playing a 3-4?

If so, would this be a good or bad week to implement such a change?

Fire away. Click here for more Comments

Friday, September 12, 2008

Game Recap: The New Beavs

Anyone remember the 23 years that the Beavs had a losing record?

Remember the days when we were a 3-8 team that would still beat the Beavs 48-7 every year?

Well, we are now those Beavs. The team that can take a whipping from even the worst in the country.

Seriously all. What did you all expect. THIS is exactly what happens when you fly near cross country and play in the HEAT in the same day.

That said, I think Rogers' rocket arm deserves a full play. So, if you want to play Lopina, fine.

But, with 10 games left, Rogers deserves a shot to develop into the NFL QB that he could become.

And it would benefit the program in the future as well.

Rogers should start next week. Click here for more Comments

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cougs Taken Behind, Inside, Atop and then Thrown off of Wood Shed; Longball Remains a Cougar Fan

First of all Cougar Nation, let me apologize for my absence, not that anyone missed me. I have been knee deep in a bottle of whiskey, replaying last week's embarrassment of a game over and over and over again in my head. It is a long, long hill we have to climb, but let me assure you all, when we reach the summit we will all look back at this week and say, wow... look how far we've come. It is going to happen, but it won't be any kind of overnight miracle. How can I be so sure? The answer is, our new coaching staff.

Like a lot of you I looked at this year's roster and saw names like Rogers, Tardy, Mattingly, Ahmu, Trent, Gibson, and well... Gibson, and thought, heck, we can be darn tough this year! Then I listened and read everything the new coaching staff said about this squad intently, desperate to hear them assure us we would stun the world and be a force to be reckoned with this year. But that's not what I heard. Initially I dismissed their lack of outright optimism as just an attempt to lower expectations, but now I understand - they have been telling us quite frankly since day 1 that this team just isn't very good.

First they emphasized the lack of depth and how we just didn't quite have the Pac-10 level talent they were going to need to compete. Then they emphasized the lack of "toughness" and how they just felt too many guys were letting the minor ailments that are a part of playing football keep them out of the action. If there is one thing that will assuredly keep you from overcoming a lack of depth, it is a lack of toughness. Basically the writing was on the wall long before we kicked off and while I am horrified by last weekend's result, I am not surprised. All summer I saw way too many guys who showed no obvious signs of injury, just standing around watching practice in between trips to the training room for massages and a dip in the whirlpool.

A lot of people get upset when you call out a whole team for a lack of effort, or toughness because after all, there are about 100 guys out there and surely they aren't all loafing around with a walking cast for their strained pinkie toe. I agree, we should continue to cheer our hearts out because most of these kids continue to give 110% on the field long after you and I have retreated back to our tailgate to drown our sorrows in gallons of Busch Light. I am not going to call out any individuals here, but the point I want to make is that Coach Wulff and his staff didn't just inherit a football team from the former staff, they inherited a culture, and that culture was not conducive to winning at this level. What was needed from the players was not being asked, plain and simple. What is the remedy for this? Again, coach Wulff and his staff have been telling us all along and for those of you wanting a quick fix, it ain't the answer you want: RECRUITING. They have been saying it loud and clear and they are putting their money where their mouth is. So far their efforts on that front have been mind blowing.

So Coug fans, we've been through this before. Well, 66-3 is something new, but hard times are not. As we huddle round the tailgate this year, drinking our cocoa and schnapps, cringing about all the celebrations we endure as players from the other team streak across our goal line, electrifying their tiny frigid contingent of fans in the East end zone - let these words warm your broken and weary hearts... We will get them. We will get them all. And it will be glorious.
If you were with us in 81, 88, 92, 94, 97, '01, '02, and '03 you know what I'm talking about and you know... it'll all be worth it. So hang in there Cougar Nation. CPW and crew know what they need to do and are going to get it done.

This Saturday... er scratch that... tomorrow... we will officially become the 13th ranked team in the Big 12. Right now we are worse than Baylor, and they are at home. Period. Lets just hope our guys get in and out of there safely and in good shape to lay waste to Portland State next weekend.

Until then, hugs all around and... GO COUGS!!!
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New Prediction, New Ted

Greetings Cougar Nation

By now you all know that we are playing tomorrow.

By now you all know that we are traveling to the game tomorrow.

By now you all know the outcome of tomorrow's humid-yuck fest:

If we come out strong, we'll die in the 4th quarter.

If we come out weak, we'll be killed in the 1st Quarter.
This was NOT a good idea.

Brinkhater's pick: Baylor 34 Cougs 21

Put this one on Sterk, big time.

However, lest you are feeling too gloomy, today did give us one pleasant surprise, and that is WE HAVE A BRAND NEW TED on

Today, we saw the end of the relaxed, gone-yoga-on-me Ted and now have the Clark Kent played by William Hurt version of Ted:

Of course, I like this Ted, but I am now particularly fearful that this Ted--as well as any other--may not be on this blog as expected in December.

In any case, Go Cougs.

"VIVA LOPINA!!!!!!!"

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Football Friday Week Three: Taco Time?

Happy Football Friday, Only on Thursday - Week Three Style.

Well, we now stand at the bottom of the abyss.

The question is, how long 'til we get out?

A year? Two? Three?


My sense is that our second or third coming will occur after we get a super star QB who was born, bred, and trained to run this complex, high octane offensive machine of Wulff and Sturdy.

But until we get that guy—be it a Bledsoe, Leaf, Gesser, Rosey, Ripp—the key for us is to find a solid, meaty, TACO that we can all sink our collective teeth into.

After all, remember the throwing Taco? He came out of nowhere, led us to a solid 6-5, then faded when Bledsoe came aboard. Of course, those who are true Taco fans know that Aaron transferred to Sacramento State, had a solid end to his college career, and then became the first All-World star in the Arena league.

And boy, do we need someone like Garcia right about now!

Fortunately for us, it looks like we’re going to get the full enchilada of a Storm on Saturday—so much that the game may not happen.

But if it does, we know it is going to be wet, wet, wet, windy, and ugly.

Usually, those games favor teams with the best skill players and the best tackling. In Brinkhater’s book, that team is us.

Of course, if the wind is blowing at 70 miles an hour, do you put in Rogers to try to combat “the breeze” or do you do the Lopina thing and go for the scrambler with short-mid range accuracy?

My sense is that Wulff will go primarily with Lopina and with good results.

Remember: teams who play each other in hoops ROUTINELY have lopsided finishes one meeting and more tightly contested ones the other time around. In our case last week, we got behind early and folded. Granted, we were outclassed, but the score was an aberration. If we played em again, it’d be more like 56-10.

Anyhow, if for some reason we play this game, I will put myself on the line. But when you look at what we have to lose: a loss against the 12th place team in the Big 12, more injuries to a thin roster, a needless 13th game, a quarterback situation in further shambles, and the potential for lost practice and class time if the hurricane impacts infrastructure, and well, THERE’S NO WAY THAT STERK WILL LET US LEAVE PULLMAN.

Brinkhater’s Prediction: Cougs catch first break of the year as the weather gods try to slow Brinkhater down by giving him a bye.

Other games:

Stanford v. TCU. Viva the weather gods!

AZ 38 New Mexico 14. Think AZ’s not for real? Not anymore.

ASU 41 UNLV 10 Yuck.

CAL 31 MD 21. Cal’s good, but not as good as they think they are after last week.

ORE 41 Purdont 14 Oregon is a top 8 team right now. Can’t wait to watch them turn 7-1 into 7-5 again.

BYU 28 UCLA 13. Nice try Rick, but Tennessee isn’t any good and neither is your offense.

USC 41 Ohio State 21. Nice game early, but USC’s D and speed too much for the visitors

Oklahoma 31 Washington 24. I don’t think the Big 12 is that good and I think the dogs have A LOT of fight in this one.

Enjoy the weekend.

We’re gonna win next week!

Sedihawk Says:

To me, this is the game of the year. Win this one, build some confidence, and next thing you know, if you beat Portland State, you can be 2-2. That said, while some of our fans might have circled this one as a "must win", what do you think Baylor has been doing the last few weeks? We are squarely in their must-win category as well, and after two games and 105 points allowed, well, can you blame them?

Two things jump out to me on this one. First, believe it or not, we aren't THAT bad. I know, hard to argue with the results, but think about it for a second. Week one saw some huge special teams breakdowns that shot down any hope of actually winning that game, and Okie State was able to break away late, but that game wasn't that bad. There were a few moments there where if we make one more play, who knows. Last week was one of those where not only are you outmanned physically, but you got absolutely ZERO breaks. NONE. Plus you literally gave away at least four or five TD's with the interceptions returned to the red zone, the two long runs with huge defensive mistakes, and the blocked field goal for a TD.

And I will also say this. For about a quarter of game time, we actually hung in with Cal. Crazy, I know, but if you haven't yet deleted the game from your DVR, go back and watch a little bit from when the game was 21-3 until late in the 2nd quarter. The defense got some 3-and-outs, the offense moved fairly well. Penalties on both sides of the ball killed us though, then the blocked field goal for TD, and the dam gave way.

Second, Baylor is fat-n-sassy after walloping Northwestern State. And make no mistake, that was a blowout. Baylor was up 30-0 before NW State even had a first down. Robert Griffin III looked like a young Vince Young, only not the crazy-depressed version. But after all that, they are still a 2-point underdog at home? Why do you think that is?

I'll give you one big reason - history says that Baylor is AWFUL, and the odds-makers use history in a big way when trying to determine the favorite. Want proof? Courtesy of Phil Steele's amazing preseason magazine:

  • Since Y2K, Baylor is a woeful 27-67 overall.
  • Included in that is an 11-23-1 mark as a home underdog. That's bad.
  • Baylor is the worst team in the history of the Big XII with an 11-85 record.
  • They are the only Big XII team that hasn't ever been to a bowl (since 1996 when the league became the Big XII). Only Vandy and Duke have had longer bowl droughts among BCS teams.
One more thing on the whole Northwestern State deal. In 2006, Baylor played them in their second game as well, and beat the heck out of them, 47-10, in very similar fashion as to last week. The week after that? They lost to WSU in Seattle, 17-15. Deja vu all over again?

The biggest concern for me this week isn't just the hurricane. Baylor might not be all that talented, but there is one area they are going to have an edge, and that is overall experience. They have four of their top five running backs returning from last year, and eight of their top nine pass-catchers are all back. But the biggest area to be worried about is their offensive line. Four of five starters are back from last season, and they are upperclassmen. As we have seen the first two weeks, we have had major issues up front in dealing with mature size and experience, and while the quality of the opponent will be less this week, it's still a big concern.

And that's just the offense. Baylor's d-line? Three starters back, plus a defensive end in Leon Freeman who is a senior and played a lot last year. Their tackles are big and experienced. Finally, LB Joe Pawelek and free safety Jordan Lake were both Big XII second-team selections last year. They combined for 219 tackles in '07 and, in watching them vs. Wake Forest in the first game of the season, at least one of those two seemed to be in on literally every play.

But the good news? The QB is a baby, and while we aren't who we used to be on defense, we can still do some things to make him uncomfortable. I would expect a big effort to confuse him and attack him, and put the game on him. Wulff said in the radio show, when talking about the game, the #1 thing that will be their approach to this game is to stop the run. Basically I expect us to load up at the line of scrimmage and make the kid QB beat us. Of course, I thought we would do that last week, and, uh.....well, you know.

Contrary to what Brinkhater thinks, we WILL play this game. Based on the weather forecast, the heavy stuff isn't going to come down for a while...

Or, at least not until the afternoon, once the game is over. Kevin Lopina and Gary Rogers split time, but in a move towards the future, Lopina gets the majority of the snaps. The defense improves, but the key will be the offense, particularly the running game. Lopina gives the offense some life, makes a few big plays with his legs, and we get an ugly, hard-fought victory in Waco. I'm going WSU 26, Baylor 20.

The rest of the story:

Stanford 23, TCU 16. They have moved the kickoff time up but they will play this one. Their record might not reflect it at the end of the year, but Stanford is going to end up as the most improved team in the conference when it's all said and done.

AZ 42 New Mexico 18. The best offense in the conference rolls on.

ASU 38 UNLV 17. Yuck is right.

CAL 34 MD 23. Hard to say a 34-23 win is a letdown, but Cal isn't THAT good...are they?

ORE 27 Purdue 17. Oregon is due for a tough one on offense, on the road, on grass. But the defense will win this one.

BYU 21 UCLA 10. UCLA's defense is the real thing, but the offense will be a mess in their first road game with all the new faces.

USC 30 Ohio State 23. Don't sleep on Ohio State just yet. People weren't impressed with Ohio State early in 2006, but they went on the road and won at Texas with an experienced team. As good as USC is, I think this will be a lot closer than some people believe.

Oklahoma 45 Washington 24. After watching BYU waltz up and down the field at will vs. UW, I imagine it will only be worse with Oklahoma's offense. The QB, the receivers, the offensive line, the running backs, Oklahoma is simply loaded offensively. Jake will keep them in the game early, but the defense just will not get the stops needed, and Oklahoma pulls away.

Enjoy the games, and GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Baylor Game in Doubt?

Sounds like high winds and rain may be much worse than originally thought. Today, Baylor officials announced that they are considering a cancellation of the game this Saturday. However it is ON for now, but the situation bears watching. There are other reports of potential tornadoes and gusts up to 90 MPH in Austin, so the whole area could be a mess. Plus you have likely a large amount of people heading north, away from the gulf, making the area even crazier. Safety should always be the #1 concern, and if fans are in any danger by just going to and from the stadium, let alone sitting out in the elements, then they should pull the plug.

The bad news is that they would not be able to re-schedule this game in 2008, so, the game would simply not be played. We'll see. Click here for more Comments

Wulff Radio Show Recap, Week Three

Before we get started on the radio show, take a look at our votes in the weekly Blog Poll Top 25, sponsored by the top NCAA blog around, Michigan's own MGOBlog. Agree/disagree? Cal might be ranked a little low.....

1 Southern Cal 25
2 Georgia 24
3 Florida 23
4 Oklahoma 22
5 Ohio State 21
6 Missouri 20
7 LSU 19
8 Auburn 18
9 Wisconsin 17
10 Texas 16
11 Kansas 15
12 Arizona State 14
13 Brigham Young 13
14 Oregon 12
15 Alabama 11
16 Texas Tech 10
17 Penn State 9
18 Wake Forest 8
19 South Florida 7
20 Utah 6
21 California 5
22 East Carolina 4
23 West Virginia 3
24 Clemson 2
25 Fresno State 1

Dropped Out:

We'll be voting the rest of the season, so the delta and dropped out portions will make more sense going forward.

Now, on to the radio show. I will condense things even more than before, and try to hit just the key talking points.

  • The show opened with Wulff saying they had a very good practice today. Then they talked about the poor weather they will likely see in Waco for the next TEN MINUTES. Looking likely they'll get a lot of wind and rain.
  • A caller asked Wulff about the JC transfers on the defensive line, and why we haven't seen them play yet at such a thin position. Wulff said that Josh Luopo didn't get his JC degree until it was too late, so he will enroll in January. With Jessy Sanchez and Bernard Wolfgramm, they have decided to redshirt both players. It hurts the d-line situation right now, but Wulff pointed out that they have three seniors at d-tackle right now who will all be gone next year, so they have to think about the future as well as the present.
  • Wulff then went into their philosophy on JC's. He said they will approach things differently with their JC players, and instead of throwing them into the fire right away, they do want to redshirt them to give them a year to acclimate to the program, hit the weight room, all those things. He said in his past, they had too many times with JC's where the players would take half a year or even sometimes a full year to really adjust, and then pfft, you've lost one full season of eligibility waiting for them to get ready. Then you only have them for one senior season, and that's it. Instead, they will do all they can to redshirt JC's and only play them unless there isn't any other choice.
  • Wulff did touch again on Wolfgramm, and he really likes what he's seen. He's very tempted to play him now, but they think he could be a really special player, and a year in the weight room could be a huge help for him next year.
  • Wulff was asked, flat-out, ok, so we hear about how thin we are. Where DO we have any depth? Wulff mentioned running back......and that was about it.
  • A caller asked Wulff about the lack of confidence right now. He said that goes hand-in-hand with lack of experience, and he touched quite a bit on the offense. He said that the QB had accuracy issues early on (he didn't mention Rogers by name). But he said they also had more issues with the WR's, out of position, running the wrong routes, you name it.
  • Wulff did touch on one thing. He said this offensive situation reminds him of EWU in 2006. Back then, EWU had youth all over the place on offense, and it was a struggle on offense the entire season. But then the next year in '07, they led the nation in total offense. So while there is a learning curve with the offense, have some faith that it will work.
  • They still aren't even using half the playbook, so there are a lot of things they would like to run that they just can't right now. Wulff also said that they spent a lot of time in practices just going over the very basic fundamentals, things that they had to start from basically ground zero with many of the players in terms of their basic stance, etc. It was that lacking in fundamentals, and there is still a lot of teaching going on. He said there are also some mental fundamentals they are lacking right now, just some real football basics, and that is a tough challenge as well. You don't have a good enough feel for what their "base" is for football knowledge, so it's still a feeling-out process.
  • Wulff also addressed the no-huddle, and that right now it isn't really effective. Part of the problem is that the offense hasn't really meshed, so, they are taking too long to get to the line of scrimmage and get the correct play called. Plus there are protections that the QB needs to be aware of, reading the defensive formation, etc. There's a lot that happens between plays that is on the QB's shoulders, and the no-huddle works best when the QB has it all figured out.
  • Talked briefly about the Cal game. He said in going back and watching the tape, we literally gave away five touchdowns in that game! The two INT's that were returned inside the 15 yard line, the two long runs where two guys were completely out of position and blew their assignments, and then the blocked field goal returned for a TD. You can't do that against anyone, but especially a quality, bowl-winning team like Cal. They will bury you.
  • On the topic of depth on both offensive and defensive lines, Wulff said that they will eventually get there, but it could take a few seasons. Wulff does believe that the O-line will come quicker, based on their youth now plus some good young recruits. But the D-line could take longer, based on their lack of tackles. He does believe the D-line could be decent next year with Kooyman and Mattingly at ends and Wolfgramm and Turpin at tackle next year, but they will still have some holes.
  • Wulff went out of his way to talk about the difference between Cal and WSU up front. He said watching the teams next to each other on the field, Cal's lines were considerably bigger and stronger than our lines. You could see it, and how Cal controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Wulff truly believes in getting in the weight room and that freshman and sophomores need time to put on strength and size to compete against juniors and seniors like Cal had out there.
  • Wulff talked about how they will approach Baylor on defense. They want to 1) stop the run. Felt they did a good job of that vs. Okie State until very late in the game, and they were overwhelmed vs. Cal. 2) Continue to tackle well. He said this is one area he is thrilled with the coaches and how they have coached up the kids to tackle well. That will be a staple of the program going forward, and he believes once they get a little stronger it will really pay off. 3) Baylor runs a different style of offense compared to Cal, and we might match up better with them. He talked about the talented Robert Griffin at QB, but that he's young and they will be ready for him. He also said that they really, really need some production on offense to help the defense out! WE NEED TO STEP UP ON OFFENSE!
  • Someone asked what they did with the Cal video. Wulff said they actually made the coaches and players watch it, because they need every second they can get with the kids and video of their performances. He also said that they will save this video, and use it in the future. They will never forget what happened and will use it as motivation.
  • Someone asked about the schedule. Would you rather open up against bowl-winning teams from last year, then play a Baylor and Portland State? Or would you rather open up against a Baylor and Portland State, then get the "bigger" named teams? Wulff said they would rather get the Baylor and Portland State games first, just to get some of their in-game experiences out of the way. He pointed out that Okie State and Cal were both bowl-winning teams from last year, and they returned experience UP FRONT, on both lines, so that was a big difference in what we saw early on.
  • Finally, the question of the day - who will start at QB? Wulff said you'll find out once the game starts. He said there are a few reasons here. First, they need some production, period, out of the offense. Next, they really want to split the reps in practice with the first-teamers between Lopina and Rogers. They want the reps to be equal between the two this week to see what happens. Then, Wulff was very "coy" about the QB situation, when he said "it doesn't really matter a whole lot who takes the first snap of the game" and that "don't be surprised if both QB's play". But Wulff also said that they really want to see what Lopina can do with the first-teamers in game situations. Practice is practice, but games are something else entirely, and sometimes you have no way of knowing what a kid can do until the bright lights come on.
  • Wulff also reminded people that Lopina just took his first college snaps EVER last week on the D-1 level, so, he might be a junior but he's very inexperienced. Same with Loebbestael, he just took his first snaps as a redshirt frosh. But they want them both to at least get some game action so they have some sort of base to build on.

That's about it. The tone, overall, wasn't as negative as you might have thought it would be coming off a 66-3 humiliation. But Wulff is hanging tough, which is what you need right now.

Enjor your Wednesday, and GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Jeshua Anderson Faster Than Robert Griffin

A bit of a light day in regards to WSU stuff out there, but we'll touch on a few things.

Interesting sub-plot this week to the WSU - Baylor game. Did you know that while our own Jeshua Anderson was winning the 400m hurdles in the NCAA championships back in June, a frosh from Baylor named Robert Griffin was coming in third?

Yes, this is the same Robert Griffin who was fantastic in his first-ever start last Saturday. Griffin was a hot-shot QB out of Copperas Cove, TX, a 4-star prospect rated as the #12 QB in the nation last year according to He was the top-rated prospect signed by new coach Art Briles, and landed Griffin over the likes of Tennessee, Houston and even Stanford. This kid is a BIG-TIME talent.

That said, he'll be making just his second ever start as a true frosh, and first against a BCS team. I know, we're down right now, but it goes without saying we'll be faster and stronger on defense compared to what Griffin faced last week in Northwestern State.....right?? Anyway, let's see what Jody Sears and Chris Ball can cook up on defense to confuse the youngster. Throw the kitchen sink at the kid! What do we have to lose at this point?

Speaking of Jeshua Anderson. Did anyone watching the broadcast catch what Jason Gesser said about Anderson's hernia? Anderson told Gesser that he has had the hernia for FIVE YEARS! He basically had this baseball-sized "thing" bulging out of his lower stomach area for five years. EWWW. But let me get this straight - he played football last year, of course, but also was winning track championships, as well as a true threat for the Olympic team with a hernia??

First of all, how did he do it all this time with this thing? And second, if he has had it all this time, how the heck was it missed by trainers or a team doctor or whatever during physicals? Strange, to say the least.

Have you seen the line for this week? Baylor is a 2.5 point favorite. Are you surprised? A close look at Baylor saw them blown out at home by Wake Forest in the opener, but whomping on a weak sister last week. Meanwhile we were in the game for while vs. Okie State, and if not for some major special teams breakdowns, who knows how tight it could have been. But then we were embarrassed like no other time in WSU history last week. All that said, I would have thought Baylor by at least 6 or 7, at home, against a team that can't get out of it's own way right now. But we've said it before, we'll say it again - Vegas USUALLY knows what it's doing. It's what they do.

I don't know how you can predict what we are going to see this week. Will we respond from the beating? Are we as down and lifeless as we looked on Saturday, both on the field and along the sideline? The coaches aren't already losing this team....are they? This entire week of practices is going to be very interesting to try and get a read on where everyone is right now.

Finally, Cougfan has a good seen & heard column up, as well as a Notebook. And they are FREE articles! In the seen & heard, they are on the side of another chance for Rogers, but also mention how Lopina could eventually be an effective option with his legs and mid-range accuracy. The notebook touches on the QB situation, youth and lack of experience on defense, particularly the defensive line.
So, the QB situation. It will be debated today, tomorrow and the days to come. Where do you fall in the debate? Rogers for another week, or is it time to go to Lopina?

Enjoy your Tuesday, and GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Monday, September 08, 2008

Worst Weekend Ever?

I know things are bleak right now. How can there be anything to feel good about after that happened? The losses are bad enough, but when you are losing in the fashion we just witnessed, well, you start to second-guess everything. Times like this make you wonder why you are even a fan. But as our own Hooty so aptly pointed out yesterday, yes, amazingly enough, the sun DID rise. Life will go on, with or without you. So nothing left to do but to rub some dirt on those wounds, get back up and get after it.

What an ugly weekend in the state of Washington football. First UW gets hosed on a celebration penalty that wasn't. Ok, well, I know none of you shed tears for UW, and for obvious reasons. But did anyone see that call?

Locker shouldn't have thrown that ball up in the air like he did, period. It is a rule, right out of the rule book, that if a player does that, he gets penalized. End of story. There is a whole new effort by the NCAA this year to tone down the unsportsmanlike stuff. In fact, there was even word that players were shown a video this summer that shows exactly what they cannot do this year, and throwing the ball up in the air as part of celebration was right there. As the refs said, it wasn't a judgment call because a player clearly violated the rule. And even Paint Dry said as much, in that no, there won't be any protest or anything like that, because it's in the rule book. It is what it is. But what a bitter pill to swallow.

Then of course, our worst-ever game. We don't need to relive it. I know Wulff has watched tape from that game already yesterday, but they should hold a ceremony where they burn the damn thing in front of the entire team. But the basic message should be to learn from their mistakes, work harder than ever, and live for today. Yesterday is gone, and it distracts from the present. I mean what can they do, hit the reset button and play that thing all over again? Doesn't work that way. Just like you might say to your five-year old, hey, it's ok to make a mistake. Just don't repeat it. That's how we learn.

Then you have the Seahawks. YEESH. Talk about flat and unprepared. Special teams breakdowns, unable to run the ball or even complete 50% of their passes with a young, beat-up WR crew. The defense held their ground for a while, but ultimately the flood gates opened.....sound familiar??

What an ugly weekend.

Some quick links:

We have a QB competition. I have to admit from where I sit, I'm a little surprised this is coming down now. I was more or less expecting Rogers to get the full month to get comfortable. And the offensive breakdowns can't be laid entirely at the QB's feet, can they? It's hard to imagine many QB's being able to execute with the new offense, new skill guys, overwhelmed offensive line, etc. But then again, we need a spark of some kind right now, and maybe the coaches have been contemplating this situation for a while. As Hooty pointed out yesterday, maybe Rogers is just not a fit for the type of offense we are running right now? I know it's hard to say that after what, six quarters of football out of Rogers thus far? But maybe they want a more mobile option back there, and there's no doubt Lopina moves better than Rogers. With the offensive line still in a state of flux, and the propensity to throw "LOOK OUT!" blocks, Lopina's ability to run away from pressure might be just what we need. But we'll see. Maybe Rogers responds from this adversity and takes a stronger hold on the job. Or maybe this is the chance to make the change.

If you are wondering about our next opponent? Baylor blew out their I-AA opponent on Saturday, trouncing Northwestern State 51-6. They rolled up 530 yards of total offense, scored on their first five possessions and didn't even allow a first down until they were up 30-0 in the second quarter. I know Baylor looked bad from what I saw of their opener vs. Wake Forest, but even though they played a bad team in NW State, they at least have a winning feeling now. They have gone out and schooled someone, so they probably have some new confidence we can only dream about.

The worrisome thing about Baylor right now is their already-improved QB play. Freshman Robert Griffin (pictured) came off the bench in the Wake Forest blowout and looked impressive in garbage time, and did so well he got the start vs. NW State. He was, in a word, dominating. 15-for-19 for 294 yards and three TD's through the air, while running for 42 yards and another TD on the ground.

Griffin is a really talented kid, a top-30 QB recruit for the class of '08 who enrolled early and participated in spring football. It sounds like they have their QB to build around under new coach Art Briles. Briles, if you remember, was hired from Houston, and he has a good track record with young QB's. Kevin Kolb was a true frosh in Briles' first year at Houston, and they ended up going to a bowl game.

That's about it. We'll recap the radio show tomorrow evening. Otherwise enjoy your Monday, and we're still saying it...GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Morning After

Good news, fellow Cougies! Despite what you may have thought as you went to bed last night, the view from my front porch provides conclusive evidence that the sun HAS indeed come up again today. Life will go on...

Of course life as we know it includes the stark reality that our beloved Cougs are probably a lot worse off than we thought they were. That was BIG ouch yesterday. Cougar Football '08 - It's a Re-Building Year!

Speaking of re-building this was our first look at Martin Stadium after Phase 2 of the renovation project and I must say, it was nice to pee in an actual bathroom instead of a porta-potty. A few years back, I probably would have been a little disappointed in this upgrade because we all know it's easier to mix drinks and smoke weed in the privacy of your own little phone booth full of sewage - but I'm an older, milder Hooty now and I appreciate not having to stand in a puddle of pee while I take care of business.

Hard to say if the new bathrooms and concessions in the east endzone will improve flow and wait times because the stadium was only 3/4 full yesterday but it definitely beats the hell out of the old setup. The next step should be to get some local restaurants to inhabit some of those new concession stands. A Sella's Calzone or a Cougar Country Drive-In burger to compliment my urine-free whiskey and Coke would have done wonders to my soul during yesterday's debacle.

For those of us brilliant enough to give up our seats 5 rows up from the field on the 50-yard line for the G-Rated family section, roughly situated 8 miles from the field on the Washington/Idaho border...I give you Supermegacougavision:

Sadly, the score of 0-0 was as close as the Cougs would get to Cal - and this was 2 minutes before kickoff. Approximately 2 minutes and 12 seconds later, the scoreboard started smoking. This is what it looked like from across Stadium Way on my way back to the RV lot:

I'd like to say that I actually toughed it out until 13:33 left in the game, but Mini-McBoob and I actually decided to go on a walkabout right after the blocked FG attempt for a touchdown that put Cal up 28-3 with 12 minutes left in the 2nd quarter. We did a walk-through of the CUB, which conveniently enough, is now home to The Bookie. The CUB remodel is very nice but I gotta say, it lacks the character of the old building. Maybe that's just me yearning for the nostalgia of an old, out-dated piece of my own past (I'm also one of 53 people who actually miss the Kingdome) but it just didn't feel like the CUB.
We did make it back into the Stadium for the tail-end of halftime and the salute to the 1988 Aloha Bowl team which was kinda cool. 1988 was my freshman year and as a kid from husky country, that was my first real experience with Cougar football. There have been a lot of highs and lows since that year but yesterday sure felt like one of the lowest of the lows. I am absolutely confident that Coach Wulff is going to keep our kids fighting this year and turn the program around in the years to come but for now, I'm wondering if that new scoreboard can handle triple digits when USC comes to town.
Hawk hasn't thrown in the towel on Gary Rodgers yet but after seeing that interception on our first posesssion, you have to wonder if he's too overwhelmed and/or too much of a fish out of water in this new offense. For so long, our ideal QB at WSU was the big, strong-armed pocket passer and we envisioned Rodgers being the next big thing. The reality of the new system is that it's simply not suited to that type of player. We need the next Jason Gesser - or dare I say - the next Jake Locker to make this offense hum. With the more mobile junior Kevin Lopina getting some PT yesterday, you have to wonder how long Wulff and Sturdy will stick it out with the senior Rodgers. Is it already time to look to the future?
I'm not laying this loss at the feet of our QB by any means. This was simply a matter of being over-matched in every sense. Our depth and overall talent level just aren't close to that of other teams in our conference right now. That's a tough pill to swallow but hey, the sun WILL come up again tomorrow.
Go Cougs!
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Now What?

So it happened, and it's over. Can't live in the past, right? Anyone who lives in the past and laments the present will never be a success. So it's time to plow forward. But clearly there are issues here, big ones at that, and they don't look like they will be solved overnight.

Now that we are two games in, it's time for some self-examination, fact-or-fiction style.

1) We don't have Pac-10 talent.

FICTION - First of all, let's clear this up right now. We DO have Pac-10 talent. What, is Brandon Gibson suddenly a Big Sky caliber receiver? The kid led the conference in receiving last year with over 1100 yards and nine TD catches. Is Andy Mattingly suddenly a bad player, not worthy of BCS-conference ability? Or do we just totally forget about his 91 tackles and eight sacks as a sophomore in '07? What about linebackers Greg Trent, Cory Evans, and Kendrick Dunn, each coming off an 80+ tackle season last year? Just toss it all out the window? There is talent here, and some of it of the all-conference type.

2) We don't have Pac-10 depth.

FACT - The problem is the same thing that's been an issue the last several years, and that's a lack of quality depth. Look at the offensive and defensive lines, and how beat up and out of position they are just two games into the season. Seriously, Matt Eichelberger and Adam Hineline are what we are relying on for plugging up the inside? Did anyone see the holes that were blown up yesterday? And there still isn't any semblance of a consistent pass rush from the defensive ends. Meanwhile, the O-line is just one big, shuffling mess right now that was just overwhelmed against BCS talent in Cal. Cal was dropping seven and even eight into coverage on many situations, and we still couldn't block them with five and even sometimes six blockers.

And how about the skill guys? We have Gibson, and Frischknecht, but after that? We are young and inexperienced at the worst possible time. Consider from 2007, we lost Bumpus and his 70 catches, Collins and his 52 catches, and even Charles Dillon, with his 37 balls for over 400 yards last year. That was a prolific offense, with an experienced, senior QB who threw for over 3800 yards and 26 TD's.

And to take it a step further, think about the youth and inexperience we are relying on, right now, to carry the load at the skill spots. Jeshua Anderson, Daniel Blackledge, even Michael Willis, all those guys have been beat up and/or out, completely, from practices. And when you realize we are trying to implement a brand new system, with a brand new QB, and these guys have only had spring ball and fall camp to figure it out? When half of them can't even get on the field at all, how can we expect anything other than the complete train wreck we've witnessed thus far?

It's a well-known thing that young skill position guys, particularly WR's, usually struggle initially due to the speed of the game and the complexity of the offense. In practice things are scripted, and vanilla, but when games come around, you are going against guys you have never seen before, defenses and coverages are disguised, blitzes come from all over, etc, etc, etc. When a young WR is out there thinking, he is a step, or more, slower. And therefore you don't get to see them use their athleticism and speed, and worst of all, there isn't any separation from the defensive backs.

3) Gary Rogers isn't a Pac-10 QB

FICTION - I know, I know. Two games in and this looks like a fact that he has no business being a starting QB in this league. But think about all that is stacked against him right now. First, he doesn't have game experience. Just two career starts, and very little playing time the last few seasons. Anyone who follows the game knows that there are always some bumpy moments early for a QB trying to get his feet wet, and it takes a few games to figure it out.
Next, think about who is trying to protect him. After a decent first week, the offensive line got absolutely whooped yesterday, in every conceivable fashion. Cal was unblockable at times, no matter what we tried. Rogers got the yips, no doubt about it, and on the times he did have time to throw, he was rolling away from pressure that wasn't really there.

Third, think about the young skill guys we are trying to get by with right now, as we addressed in point number two above. Young skill guys, who haven't practiced, in a brand new system. Wulff again admitted that players are lining up wrong, running the wrong routes, you name it. And that's with not even 50% of the playbook still in the fold.

Finally, and this point gets lost in the shuffle, but for the second straight week, absolutely NO semblance of a consistent running game. How many QB's out there, really, can be successful if they are always in third-and-long? There's a reason teams commit to stopping the run on first and second down. There's a reason they want QB's in third and long. When you get QB's in predictable passing situations, the defense will win that battle well over 50% of the time. All the stats in the world will back that up. And think of all the third and long that Rogers has had to face just two games into the season.

Bottom line - Gary Rogers still cannot be evaluated, because he simply hasn't had any help.

4) This coaching staff isn't Pac-10 worthy

FICTION - This is one of the dumbest things I've heard thus far, and I can't believe some people are slinging this on the message boards after just two games (and some good advice - when the going gets bad, do yourself a favor and STAY OFF the message boards! The idiot factor increases by ten-fold, and you have the obligatory UW-Oregon fans that love to "troll" and bait people into the idiocy. Don't do it.). These guys have been very successful at EWU.

Does anyone need a reminder of how difficult it is to win in Cheney? We hear Pullman is tough, all the time, but go drive out to EWU and see their facilities. Then realize Wulff built a winner at that program, taking them to the playoffs multiple times, and winning coach of the year honors three times. This isn't by mistake, or a misprint. Wulff and this coaching staff is the real deal, but as has been preached since day one, this is going to be a long, tough climb, and only the strongest are going to survive.

The other factor here is the timing of this whole changeover couldn't have come at a worse time. The APR mess is one thing, and the program was spiraling out of control as the Seattle Times pointed out in the spring. And that's just the off-the-field stuff. But to have such a drop-off in experienced offensive talent is another thing altogether. Not only are you trying to completely change the culture of the team, and that has been well-documented thus far. Not only are you trying to implement a no-huddle, multiple offense that is pretty complex and would have growing pains no matter how experienced you are. But you are trying to do all this with guys who haven't done it before, guys who haven't been able to practice what you are trying to implement. You are starting over in many, many ways, and to expect them to sprint before they can crawl is a huge problem.

So that's it. No sugar-coating things here. It's a mess right now, and I don't envy the job ahead for these guys in trying to do the right thing. They are trying to change things, but the deck is completely stacked against them. But who among us thought we would be 2-0 right now? Everyone has picked against us the first two games, so whether we lost 28-27 on a blocked extra point or 66-3 in a worst-ever wipeout, we're still in the same boat. I hope we've hit rock-bottom after yesterday, and it's hard to imagine anything worse than that.

Baylor is next, and instead of lamenting what just happened, let's hope they can look forward and seize the day as an opportunity to turn it all around. Let's hope we can take steps to get better.

Enjoy your Sunday, and hang in there. GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Game Recap

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Halfway to 70-6?

Whoopm, dare it is!

Obviously, this is not the game that any of us wanted.

It started off bad, seemingly got better, and then got worse: blocked kicks for scores, can’t get a 4th and inches, penalties after good gains or stops, yuck!

Overall, my take is that this team just came in overhyped at the same time that is brutally uncomfortable with what we’re trying to offensively. Still no pace, still no tempo, and utterly predictable. Obviously, that is NOT what Sturdy has in mind.

And, the loss of Ahmu was just brutal early in the game.

On the offensive side of the ball, Rogers has looked so-so at best, but I have noticed at least twice this half where he actually looked at a secondary receiver. I guess that means something.

The biggest disappointment has been the play of the Offensive Line. Cal is dropping at least 7 guys into coverage AND getting a rush. That has to make things hard.

Let’s hope for a bit of improvement as the game goes on…

And I'm talking about Jason Gesser as a commentator.

We look like a cellar dweller, that’s for sure.

But Reid Forrest Gump looks like an All-American!!!! Click here for more Comments

Flag-Spotting, Week Two

Another week, another appearance. Once again, a fantastic job. Hats off to "CougWill", Will Walker, for making the trip to Gainesville for this one. Just a great job, and another week of flag-spotting comes through to shake the foundation of ESPN Gameday!

Ok, maybe not shake their foundation, but still. In your face Lee! Speaking of Lee, I doubt he'll pick us as his upset special this week. As you probably know, he did pick us to win last week, and went out of his way to say "how tough it is to play in Pullman, and this one's in Pullman!" Just a week too early. I wonder if he knows Bill Doba, his old coaching buddy from Indiana, is actually not the head man anymore? Whatever. Hey, any time we're on ESPN, it's gravy as far as I'm concerned. Besides, Lee is probably fresh off another round of Hooters commercials, and you know his mind isn't where it should be about 90% of the time.

Moving on, nice to hear the talk about the 1988 Aloha Bowl team reunion happening today. Of course Coach Wulff was the center on that team, but man, that was one heck of an offensive line. Mike Utley and Chris Dyko were downright nasty up front, and Cal's own Jim Michalczik joined Wulff to form a strong middle of the line. Grippi wrote about this a few days ago, and the relationship between Michalczik and Wulff. Bonds formed in weekly battles against the opponent, it sounds as though Wulff and Michalczik are friends forever.

That '88 team was something special though. The 9-3 record in Erickson's second year. The upset of UCLA, where people on campus that day still say that right when that game ended, you could hear a collective yell throughout the area, with everyone basically celebrating at once when it was finally clear we were going to win that game. Of course, the thrilling Apple Cup comeback victory, 32-31, when Rosey ran it in. Here's a trip down video lane:

Rosey would have over 3400 passing yards that season, and actually got Heisman votes. Tim Stallworth had a huge season at WR. But maybe the biggest testament to that team's success was the running game. Steve Broussard had 1280 yards rushing that year, but Rich Swinton came off the bench to go for 1,018! We've never had two players go over 1,000 yards rushing in the same season. In fact, we've only had twelve instances - EVER - to even have a player go over 1,000 yards rushing in one year. To think that two of those times happened in the same season? Not only were they talented backs, but that was one hell of an offensive line.

Finally, the experts have weighed in. Have you seen anyone calling for the upset? Doubtful. But have you seen anyone even calling for a close one? Sportsline's Harmon Forecast has it at 10 points, 30-20, and that's about the closest I've seen from the national guys. However Grippi picks Cal, 28-23, and I think he's right. We might be in for a very close game today.

But most of all, the thing I'm hoping to take from today is IMPROVEMENT! A close loss would sting, no doubt, but this season is about getting better.

We'll be back during, and after, the game today. Enjoy your day, and most of all, GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Friday, September 05, 2008

EA Super-Sim - Cal Runs Away From Cougs

Maybe some of you are video game wonks, and have already simmed this week (nerd). But whatever. We thought it might be fun to get a sneak peak of tomorrow's game via the XBox 360 and see what happens.

All the depth charts were updated for this week's game, with key injuries and such taken into consideration. The sim was simply that, a feature in EA Sports' football games where you have the CPU play the CPU and see how it all shakes out. I know, it's pretty much worthless, and the game has some issues, but it's something a little different anyway.

The game was played at Martin Stadium, a 3:30 PM kickoff under sunny skies and 75 degrees. Here's the results.

First Quarter: Cal would take a 7-0 lead on a short 2-yard TD pass from Kevin Riley to Nyan Boateng. Cal was in complete control early, racking up an amazing 178 total yards in the first quarter alone. Javhid Best did his part as well, with 35 yards on seven first-quarter carries. This was looking like Boateng's break-out game at Cal, with six catches for 77 yards in the first quarter alone. Meanwhile WSU struggled, with Gary Rogers at 4-for-10 for 31 yards and an INT.

Second Quarter: Cal would continue to do what it wanted to, scoring on a 7-yard TD pass from Kevin Riley to Michael Calvin for a 14-0 lead just 1 minute into the second quarter. But WSU would respond, forcing a turnover as Riley was sacked by a blitzing Chima Nwachukwu who stripped Riley of the football deep in Cal territory. A few plays later, Gary Rogers found Brandon Gibson on a 14-yard TD pass, cutting the lead to seven. It would get even better for WSU, after forcing a Cal punt. On 3rd and short deep in their own territory, Rogers would hit Benny Ward deep down the sideline for a 77-yard TD pass, and suddenly the game was tied. But Cal had a long KO return after the score, and after a mix of Jahvid Best runs and short passes by Kevin Riley, Best capped the eight-play drive by running for a TD from four yards out.

Halftime: Cal 21, WSU 14.
Team Stats:
Total offense: Cal 367, WSU 185
Rushing yards: Cal 124, WSU 36.
Cal's Kevin Riley: 18-for-26 for 243 yards and 2 TD's.
WSU's Gary Rogers: 9-for-17 for 149 yards and 2 TD's, 1 INT.
Defense: Cal's Syd'Quan Thompson with 1 INT for 17 return yards. WSU's Matt Eichelberger with two first-half sacks.
3rd down conversions: Cal 4 for 10, WSU 2 for 8.
Both teams with 1 turnover.

Third Quarter:
WSU would take the kickoff and march into the red zone, but the drive would stall on an incompletion on 3rd down. WSU would kick a field goal, 21-17 Cal. But Cal would respond, driving right down the field with ease as Kevin Riley got hot, completing four of five on the drive, capping it off with a 23-yard TD pass to J. Ross, 28-17 Cal. After both teams exchanged punts on their next possessions, it went from bad to worse for WSU, as Syd'Quan Thompson would intercept a Rogers pass deep in WSU territory. Cal would settle for a field goal, but suddenly it's 31-17. WSU would then go 3-and-out on the next possession, and Riley would strike again, hitting LaReylle Cunningham deep for a 54-yard TD pass. The flood gates are officially open, as Cal ends the quarter with a 38-17 lead.

Fourth Quarter:
Both teams would sputter on offense, as Cal kept it conservative while WSU just couldn't get the ball into the endzone. Cal would add a field goal with four minutes to go, and that's it. 41-17, Cal.

Final Stats:

Total Yards: Cal 585, WSU 319
Cal Passing:
Kevin Riley - 26-for-41 for 343 yards, 4 TD's, 2 INT's.
Nate Longshore - 1-for-4, 6 yards.
Cal Rushing:
Jahvid Best: 27 carries, 178 yards, 1 TD.
Kevin Riley: 4 carries, 9 yards.
Shane Vereen: 8 carries, 45 yards.
Cal Receiving:
Nyan Boateng - 7 catches, 97 yards, 1 TD. 13.8 per catch.
LaReyelle Cunningham - 9 catches, 169 yards, 1 TD.
Cameron Morrah - 4 catches, 65 yards.
Jeremy Ross - 2 catches, 35 yards, 17.5 per catch, 1 TD.
Jahvid Best - 2 catches, 12 yards.
Michael Calvin - 1 catch, 7 yards, 1 TD.
Cal Defense:
Anthony Felder - 7 tackles, 1 for loss.
Zack Follett - 4 tackles, 1 forced fumble
Worrell Williams - 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss.
Derrick Hill - 5 tackles, 3 for loss, including 2 sacks.
Syd'Quan Thompson - 1 tackle, 2 INT's for 17 yards.

WSU Passing:
Gary Rogers - 17 for 40, 212 yards, 2 TD's, 2 INT's. 42% completions.
WSU Rushing:
Dwight Tardy - 12 carries, 45 yards, 3.7 yards per carry.
Chris Ivory - 13 carries, 24 yards.
Gary Rogers - 7 carries, 20 yards
WSU Receiving:
Benny Ward - 1 catch, 77 yards, 1 TD.
Brandon Gibson - 5 catches, 62 yards, 1 TD.
Devin Frischnecht - 4 catches, 37 yards.
Chris Ivory - 2 catches, 16 yards.
Dwight Tardy: 3 catches, 17 yards
WSU Defense:
Andy Mattingly - 9 tackles, 1 for loss including 1 sack.
Matt Eichelberger - 9 tackles, 2 for loss including 2 sacks.
A'i Ahmu - 7 tackles, 1 sack and an INT off a deflected pass.
Romeo Pellum - 6 tackles, 1 INT.
Chima Nwachukwu - 5 tackles, forced fumble.

So there you have it. EA sees a tight game for a half and into the third quarter, then Cal will explode. We'll find out tomorrow!

Some quick links floating around:

A'i Ahmu has been suspended for the first half tomorrow after failing to show for a court date. The team unity council decided with the coaching staff on what to do. No doubt, this hurts. Cal's running game is going to be a headache anyway, but to have your thinnest position, the defensive interior, weakened even further than it already is against this kind of offensive attack? Yikes.

In the good-news injury department, it appears both Vaughn Lesuma at tackle and Reid Forrest at punter will return to action this Saturday. Lesuma, obviously, is a key returner up front after the injury to Andrew Roxas has caused more O-line shuffling. Steven Ayers will slide back inside to account for the loss of Roxas, so, Lesuma's return is perfect timing. Outside of center Kenny Alfred, Lesuma might be the best offensive lineman we have. And Forrest is a welcome sight for some sore special-teams eyes right about now.

In the same article, the kicking job won't be decided until warm-ups. Wade Penner missed an extra point last week, and will be competing now with Nico Grasu and Patrick Rooney.

Enjoy your Friday, and always....GO COUGS. Click here for more Comments

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Football Friday Week 2: Too much to Bear?

Greetings Cougar Nation and Brinkhater Army.

Hope you all are having a great week.

So, on we march into the Crap-10 opener against CAL.

As we saw last week against MSU, CAL has reloaded with speed on offense, appears to have (not long) shored up their quarterback position, and is surprisingly porous on defense.

In spite of their vulnerability on the defensive side of the ball, this is a game that CAL should win easily when you take our performance last week at face value, and within, without reading between the lines.

What is fun about this game, however, is that we will see what if any of those hidden subtexts from last week show up this week.

For example, did anyone else notice that we were a perfect two for two in the red zone last week?

Does that portend anything for this week if we’re able to move the ball consistently?

I sure think so, but we’ll have to see.

Moreover, what is CAL’s mind-set coming into this game? On one hand, you know that Tedford will try to fire up his troops about the importance of winning ANY road games in the Pac. On the other hand, can you expect any 19 or 20 year old to take us seriously after watching us piddle to 190 yards of total offense while giving up 250+ on special teams?

I think that I would be HIGHLY prone to overlook us if I were on the other side.

So, in view of all of these questions, I find myself falling onto the ole clichés in predicting our fortunes.

After all, this season is about “process” and “improvement” and so this game figures to fall along the natural progression of a young team.

In that way, I think you’re going to see more upside out of us this week, but as a part of seeing more upside, we’re going to have to open things up more—and I think that will lead to more mistakes—particularly from my main man, Gary Rogers. Although I think Gary will play better this week, I don’t think that he will make sufficient progress to avoid the “lock-on-itis” that we saw last week. And that will be our Achilles heel.

Of course, if Rogers accelerates his own progress and if Anderson plays and is healthy, we could jump on em early and ride on to a shocking upset as a result.

Won’t happen, though.

Brinkhater extends his more-than-hapless WSU Football prediction streak to 14:

Bears 37 Cougs 22


ASU 28 Stanford 27. Devils have just enough to beat Captain Comeback

Quack 51 Utah State 10 Yuck.

Penn State 38 Beavs 35. This one should be real entertaining, even though recent history suggests that the Beavs will lose this one 70-14 (and then finish 9-4).

AZ 41 Toledo 18 Normally, this would be an upset special—especially given that the Mac looks up this year, but last week showed me a lot about the Mildcats. Sure, it was the spuds, but 70-0 is still stinking 70-0.

BYU 38 Washington 17. Fit to be Tyed? Montlake has all appendages in a clutter.

And, the Bandit Bowl:

Gators 41 Canes 17. Another lesson in how long it takes teams to come back after a Coordinator takes over as Head Coach (West Virginia, you’re next).

Enjoy the game, and SCREAM YOUR GUTS out if you’re going to be in attendance.

Longball says:

Greetings Cougar Nation!

Longball here with this weeks fearless predictions. Why "fearless"? Because after pulling a rabbit from my hat with last week's UCLA pick, I have clearly demonstrated my undeniable clairvoyance. Now, I hinted last week that I may be picking our beloved Cougs to pull the upset this weekend at a revitalized Martin Stadium. Apparently if I just type it here, it comes true. Right? Sadly Sedihawk informs me that ain't how it works, folks. Even if I called it for the Cougs it wouldn't be enough to help them overcome the Bears this week. Now this is not "da Bears" of Ditka, Sweetness, and the Fridge, but they do have something going for them... OUR special teams. There is just no way our special teams are going to let us win, or even compete in this football game. You can't win college football games with Pop Warner special teams. I am thrilled that the few brave souls who actually suited up for us last weekend fought hard and all that, but we are a long way from being competitive within our conference. I do think with the new coaching staff at the helm we will continue to make strides, especially on offense, but please keep those expectations where they belong for now... low. But fear not, Brinkhater, I will be there screaming my guts out and losing my voice just like last week.

Cougs 21
Bears 45

From around the country:

ASU 35 Stanford 10. If the Beavs turn out to be good again, Harbough may have quietly already pulled off his big win for this year.

Quack 42 Utah State 3 The Quack are playing D this year.

Beavs 28 Penn State 24 Last week the tables were turned as some trees cut down the Beavers. Was it a wake up call? Oregon State travels across the country to play in Beaver Stadium. How could they lose? This is the kind of information my picks are based on.

AZ 35 Toledo 24 I have no analysis for you on this one. Does anyone else find it hard to root for Stoops in non-conference games?

BYU 42 Washington 28. Locker's receivers actually hang on to some balls, but Husky D gets run over, thrown over and finally rolls over. I won't apologize for saying this, I like watching Locker play.

Gators 35 Canes 10 Hurricane season is here, but this wont even be a category 1. I hope Tebow washed his hands after performing all those circumcisions in the Philippines this off season. That has to rival the USC jock itch outbreak for the ickiest off season story that the ESPN guys won't stop talking about!

There it is. I hope I'm wrong and I see all of you at the page this Saturday night to drink some tubs and TURN THE HELMET!

Go Cougs!

Sedihawk says:

Greetings Coug Nation. Busy times these days, so we'll go after it.

First of all, fellow blogger Brinkhater might be a tad bit confused. See, it's not the Cal Ripken's we're playing, it's the Berkeley Bears. But as you can see, sometimes things get lost in translation:


Anywho, the Cal Bears. Are they all that after week one? Where are their minds coming into this one? Given our lack of "sexiness" as an opponent, it's probably on pole-vaulter extraordinaire, Cal's own Allison Stokke. Can you blame them?

But anyway, I'm with the others here, and concerned about how we will handle their team speed. They looked exceptionally fast on TV Saturday night, and after coming back from the Okie State game and watching Cal run up and down the field, they looked a lot faster than the Pokes. I know it's hard to tell sometimes, and that TV can make players look bigger/stronger/faster, but man, watching Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen carry the ball is going to be a breath-holding experience this Saturday.

But Cal has some young WR's, and this will be their first shot at starting a game in a hopefully loud, hostile environment. Much like UW this year, Cal has lost their top five WR's from last year, and this will be the first time on the road that they have to do some heavy lifting. TE Cameron Morrah and Jahvid Best are the leading receivers from last season at 13 catches apiece, but that's it. So, while I like Kevin Riley at QB as a guy who won't torpedo their own offense (compared to Nate Longshore), I have a feeling things will be tougher for him this week.

And speaking of Riley, did you know this will be just his third-ever start at Cal? And his first-ever start on the road? Yes, he's been impressive, but he's never had to get under center in a loud stadium as a starter and make things happen.

So, I think on defense we get after it. We will pack the box, try and slow down the running game, and make Riley and his young WR's beat us over the top. But if Cal can run the ball, they can also eat game clock and best of all, when you are on the road? Nothing takes a crowd out of a game more than a visitor running the ball at will, chewing up yardage on the ground as well as keeping the ball away from your offense. And I think that's exactly what Tedford and company are going to try to do.

One area that we have a shot here is the passing game. In my mind, it seemed as though Michigan State had a little bit too easy of a time throwing the ball. They had an experienced QB, and a potential breakout star at WR in Mark Dell who went bananas on their secondary. Now that the game one yips are out of our young WR's collective systems, I don't know, call me crazy but I think Rogers has a solid day. And given how Dell played in week one, and how disappointed Gibson was with his first game, don't you think they'll come out ready for a huge game? I do. But will it be enough?

Unfortunately, no, I don't think we'll be standing at the top of the hill at the end of the day. But I am going to say, here and now, that this will be a much, much closer game than some are predicting. Look, Cal is good, and they looked tough on Saturday, but these guys are NOT USC. And only USC has been such a big favorite at WSU in the last decade as Cal is this weekend. Plus, remember how everyone said last year ASU was going to kill us in Pullman? ASU was a nine point favorite coming in undefeated, but we were a missed field goal from going to OT in that game, and a controversial call from possibly winning it on Brandon Gibson's TD catch that was reversed via replay.

I think people are over-reacting to week one, which is a very, very easy thing to do. You are never that bad, but you are also never THAT good either. Things will come around, and we will be pleasantly surprised by what we see. Paul Wulff already said that he's expecting an extremely hard-hitting, physical game, and we will respond with some true toughness. I'm calling Cal 27, WSU 23.

Other games:

ASU 31, Stanford 16. ASU is really good and Stanford was a bit of a mirage in week one, outgained by almost 200 yards by the Beavs. Rudy Carpenter will not make the same mistakes made by Lyle Moevao. Reality arrives via Erickson and company.

Oregon 49, Utah State 7. What can you say? Stat game, all the way.

Oregon State 34, Penn State 28. I'm with Longball here. Oregon State moved the ball at will vs. Stanford, and they won't make the same mistakes in week two. Sammie Stroughter makes them far, far better on offense than they've been in a long time.

AZ 35, Toledo 17. Tons of offense, again, out of the not-so-Mildcats. They can't possibly keep up the pace they set last week vs. the Vandals...can they??

Washington 27, BYU 24 - Shocker of the weekend. Everyone has written off UW, and it seems as though the Willingham era is kaput. But somehow, someway, I see UW pulling this one off. Locker will be better, but not by a huge margin. The big difference here will be how effective UW is in running the football. I think the UW offensive line plays a much better game against a BYU defense returning only three starters from last year. And BYU might be good, but they don't have the same athletes as the Pac-10. I see a very similar game like Boise State last year, a team everyone said was going to kill UW. But in watching that game, while Boise State had some talent, they clearly had trouble on the road against Pac-10 athletes. The gap between BCS and non-BCS conferences has closed, but there is still a difference. I know UW is down, but, I think they respond.

Thug Bowl - Florida 31, Miami, FL 20 - Brinkhater is right. Miami with Larry Coker is yet another example of what happens when you promote the old coordinator to head coach. The long-term damage can be too much. And Brinkhater is right, West Virginia, you're next!

There you have it. Remember, it's still early. We will likely see some wild swings in performance, by many teams in the country. Don't fall into the trap of placing too much value into what you see the first week in the season, because it can all change on a dime. Did everyone write of Michigan last year after they lost to App State and Oregon, at the Big House? They ended up winning nine games, including a win over the Tim Tebow's in their bowl game. Everyone thought Cal and Oregon were Rose Bowl contenders given their hot starts, but both teams faded badly down the stretch. So you just never know. There's a TON of season left!

Enjoy your Thursday, and as always, GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Pac-10 Roundtable: Week One Edition

Smiles everyone, smiles.

Lots of reason for smiles at UCLA these days, as the Rick Neuheisel era has arrived with a bang. A thrilling, emotional win that not many saw coming against the big, bad SEC's Tennessee Vols, they are the biggest story of the week in the conference.

Which leads us to a new feature - every week, a few Pac-10 blogs will be participating in a "Pac-10 Roundtable" on Wednesdays. Five key questions will be floated, and the various blogs will weigh in. You can thank/blame Addicted To Quack for this idea, but, we thought it would be fun nonetheless.

For the record, Oregon State will be represented by Building the Dam. Oregon with Addicted to Quack. UW with the newest SBN blog, UW Dawg Pound. California Golden Blogs checks in to represent the Bears, and Conquest Chronicles and What's Bruin, Dawg? corner the SoCal market. Finally, Pitchfork Nation comes to us from the hot state of Arizona.

For links to everyone's responses, check out this week's Roundtable hub at their site.

Here's this week's questions, and our own WSU Football Blog take:

1. Not a lot of people predicted UCLA's upset of Tennessee. UCLA was something terrible last year, and with major losses to graduation and and very unresolved quarterback situation, it wasn't unreasonable to expect them to hover in the bottom half of the conference. While the offense had its problems (only 29 yards rushing and four picks), the defense was phenomenal, holding the Vols to a smidge over 300 yards, picking up two turnovers, and blocking a punt for a touchdown. Is UCLA for real? And can they be in the mix with ASU, USC, Oregon, and Cal for one of the top four spots in the conference?

The WSU football blog take here is that one must define "for real" before answering. Our belief on UCLA was to be in the bottom-four of the Pac-10, and I don't think that perception has changed, even with the big home win. So, as a top-four contender in the conference, no, we don't believe UCLA is for real. And for a few reasons.

First, you have to look at the fact that it's just one game, and nothing more. Sure, they beat Tennessee, a team many believe will be a factor in the SEC this year. But it is so easy to overrate/underrate teams after just one game. But that is only one reason.

This wasn't nearly the David vs. Goliath match-up that the national media built it up to be. Remember Tennessee coming west to open up vs. Cal last year? Cal looked amazing, and we all saw them fade to a middling 7-6 record. And while the world weeps for UCLA's amazing losses on the offensive side of the ball, well, they do have a strong defensive scheme, and they do have good talent, especially in the front-seven. While the offense sputtered along early in the game with the four INT's, the defense kept them in the game. And with any early-season football game, a strong defense will allow you to hang around and keep it interesting. QB Kevin Craft got hot in the second half, the defense held their ground, and there you have it.

But again, it's just one game. There will be very few opportunities the rest of the year where you can get away with turning the ball over so much and still even hope to win. They go to BYU in a couple of weeks, then get Arizona and a strong Fresno State team in LA. Let's see how things shake out the rest of the month.

2. Meanwhile, its same old same old for the Washington Huskies. Washington was walloped by Oregon for the fifth year in a row and, with BYU and Oklahoma coming up for their next two games, its hard to see where a win will come any time soon. I don't see any games on the schedule that they should win and, other than WSU and Notre Dame, there aren't a lot that I'm even convinced that they can win. The defense is Swiss cheese, and, other than Jake Locker, there isn't even any real talent on the offensive side of the ball either.

Less than a decade ago, Washington was a prominent national contender. Now, they may have less talent than any other team in the conference. We're all aware of the rich tradition of Husky football, the question is how did things fall so far so fast, and how does UW get back to its customary winning ways?

This is a weird spot for us, as UW is our backyard big-brother rival. You rarely hear a good word out of WSU for the Huskies. But even we can take off the crimson-colored glasses and see that it might be damn near impossible to get UW out of this downward spiral.

First, they looked ill-prepared, to say the least, to handle Oregon's home-field wackiness. UW traveled 24 first-time players to Oregon, and started ten players who are under-classmen in that game. In a word, they are YOUNG. And to expect youth to do anything other than shake in their Nike's in an environment like Autzen, well, it was far too much to expect them to get a win.

But UW had a lot of hope coming into this game, and a belief that not only would the offense be better with the infusion of the young speedsters at skill positions, but the defense was supposed to be better with new coordinator Ed Donatell. But week one was a mess, and it will take time to see an improvement.

UW is a long, long way from becoming a winner again. Not only is Ty Willie now 11-26 at UW, the weight of the world is on his shoulders. But the Pac-10, as well as the northwest landscape, has changed dramatically since UW last won the Rose Bowl in 2000. Pete Carroll showed up at USC and we all know how that worked out. But up in the northwest, Oregon State came out of nowhere and now have first-class facilities and a recent winning tradition. Oregon is the most successful northwest program since the turn of the century. Even WSU is 11 games better than UW since Y2K. But maybe the biggest issue is that UW, with all their riches and tradition, have fallen behind in the facilities arms race. Oregon has Autzen, Oregon State has a spiffy Reser, and even little 'ol WSU has two phases done of a four-phase stadium renovation plan already in place. Meanwhile UW is down at the state capital, hat in hand, asking for $150 million in state tax money to help renovate their own facility.

There is just no momentum or excitement behind the stale air of Ty Willingham. The natives have been restless, and if they get to 0-3 to start the year, the clamour will be unbearable for him to just step down and end the pain. It's gotten that bad. So, only a coaching change at this point can get them going back in the positive direction.

3. The team that beat Washington, Oregon, looked amazingly good, especially on defense. Moreover, after last year's implosion following the Dixon injury, it was a third string quarterback who did most of the damage offensively. Oregon is talented and deep, but can finally live up to their promise and challenge USC for that conference title?

We felt from the beginning that Oregon was going to battle ASU for second place. After pasting UW, that view hasn't changed. Again, you can't get too nuts over one game. UW started tons of youth at key positions in that game, and even Jake Locker's hamstring was barking at times. UW isn't a very good team right now, but Oregon didn't even get their best shot.

That said, we agree, Oregon's defense looks to be the best they've put on the field in several years. Maybe the best since the "Gang Green" era. Speed and athleticism everywhere, and a secondary that can lay claim to the best overall unit in the conference, if not the country. With a defense like that, Oregon can get away with some offensive change-over for the first month or so. But the schedule looks like it could be too hard to get past USC. At USC, of course, on 10/4, but also a two-game tilt at ASU on 10/25 and at Cal on 11/1 will be too much. Still, it will all boil down to the 10/25 game in Tempe. That one will be for second place, and maybe even a BCS bowl.

4. California started off strong, exercising some of last year's demons with their 38-31 home win over Michigan State. The quarterback controversy appears to be solved, as Kevin Riley clearly outplayed Nate Longshore. However, 31 points is a lot to give up to a middle of the road Big Ten team, and other than Jahvid Best, there isn't a lot in the way of proven talent at the skill positions. Many Pac-10 observers have Cal ranked in the top four of the conference. Is that ranking justified give the collapse of last season and lack of returning starters offensively, or did Cal benefit from their reputation?

We never liked Cal to finish in the top four, and we still don't. Cal has a lot of speed, and their offensive skill positions are young, yet explosive. I love the combo of Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen, and Cal's O-line might be right there with Oregon's as the best in the Pac-10. And we really like Kevin Riley, as he's a smart, efficient QB who will avoid the killer mistake.

But on defense, 31 points is 31 points, and that is a lot to give up to Michigan State at home. The rushing defense was OK, but they allowed over 400 yards of total offense, including 321 yards passing. Sophomore Mark Dell, who had all of 20 catches last year, torched the Cal secondary for over 200 yards receiving. So, there could be some issues with the change-over to a 3-4 defense under Bob Gregory.

Here's the deal though. Cal is going to play with an enormous chip on their shoulder in an attempt to erase last year's disastrous fade. WSU's Paul Wulff is already saying that Cal is going to be a very physical football team this Saturday, and in his opinion from what he's seen just on tape, they are better than Oklahoma State, WSU's opening opponent. We might have been off in our pre-season look at Cal, and they could be better than we thought. A look at the schedule, and Cal could very well be undefeated heading into their 10/4 game vs. ASU. So, outside of USC, ASU and Oregon, they should be a legit fourth team in the pecking order.

5. Oregon State has a perception problem. Their long list of early season losses (Cincinnati, Louisville, LSU, Boise State, Fresno State, etc.), was followed up this year with an opening game loss at Stanford. A road game at Penn State this weekend has many pundits predicting an 0-2 start for the Beavers. However, in spite of their usually awful starts, the Beavers almost always turn their season around to finish in the upper echelon of the conference.

This causes a talk radio debate to rage in the state of Oregon. The Oregon Ducks are seen nationally as the more relevant program, mainly due to their very high highs (a legitimate late season national title contender twice in this decade). However, Beaver fans point out Oregon's semi-regular late season swoons, the fact that Oregon State tends to come back late in the season, and the fact that both teams have similar overall records over the last few seasons to make the point that Oregon State should be on equal footing with the Ducks, if not seen as the more dominant program based on two consecutive Civil War victories. Who is the more relevant program nationally, and do Oregon State's bad starts contribute to your perceptions?

Without question, Oregon State's poor starts have severely hurt their national perception. What's funny is that Oregon State has been the mythical "northwest champion" in 2004 and 2007, sweeping the other three NW schools. But those early-season out of conference games have killed them. That's the time of the year when anyone east of the Mississippi might actually pay attention, and the Beavers have come up short.

But Oregon has done it on the field in early-season out-of-conference games, and that has to be taken into consideration. Michigan last year and the "gift" win vs. Oklahoma in '06 have made the national media pay attention, like it or not.

But it's even harder to argue over the national perception of Oregon vs. Oregon State. Obviously the Ducks are the more relevant program for the ESPN-types. They are in your face with how they do things, from the Heisman billboards to games on cable TV in New York to Phil Knight and the relationship with Nike. Oregon State has Reser...and that's really it. Nobody self-promotes like Oregon. Combine that promotion with some recent success against out-of-conference heavyweights, and it's easy to see that Oregon is the more nationally relevant program.

Click here for more Comments

Wulff Radio Show Recap, Plus Links

A different feel/tone to this week's radio show, so, we'll get right to it in a condensed version:

  • Wulff said things still felt new after the first game, and there is still so much work ahead. We have one game under our belts, and obviously it didn't go how we wanted it to, but as always, there was good and bad with week one.
  • Good: the defense. Bad: Offense, in particular the passing game early, and special teams struggled on all the units.
  • Felt that we had serious jitters on offense from some new faces. Also spilled over to kicking and coverage issues. But Wulff also said to look around the nation and you'll see a lot of teams with special teams issues in week one (Cal blocked punt for TD, Missouri ran back a kickoff for a TD, etc). More on that later.
  • Wulff went out of his way to say how special Martin Stadium can be when it's packed and it's loud. All things considered, it is one of the tougher places to play on a visiting team, fans/noise/atmosphere can be a headache. Most of all, we NEED A GOOD CROWD this weekend!
  • Wulff was happy with the Seattle crowd. There were moments when it got pretty loud. But he also said their extremely slow start didn't really give the fans a reason to make a bunch of noise early.
  • Basically felt that the lack of maturity, youth and inexperience had big reasons to do with the loss.
  • Wulff felt the turning point was the long return for a TD after they cut it to a two-score game in the third quarter. Just like that it was back to a three-TD lead and it was an uphill battle.
  • But Wulff was also frustrated by some of the smaller things. For example, right after we got the INT to start the second half, we get a false-start penalty to start the drive. Also something about a personal foul penalty on Karstetter after a first-down run by Dwight Tardy earlier in the game. Just little things added up as well.
  • A caller asked why so many starters are on special teams? Wulff was clear that he felt the vast majority of special teamers should be backups, but, we just don't have the depth/talent level to get away with it right now. He said going forward, he wants his backups to be dying to get on the field in any way, shape or form, and he wants kids to be excited to play special teams. He pointed out that it isn't always an easy thing to sell to kids, to get them excited to play special teams when some of them believe they should be starting. He said it can be a hard, humbling experience for "high school stars" to come in and be on special teams. He also made it clear that in the future, they might recruit a kid with a tick less talent than the next guy, but if the character and heart is there, they want that kind of kid. That will help special teams.
  • Wulff made an example that they are already changing special teams, and Andy Mattingly has been moved to kickoff coverage. He said in practice Tuesday, Mattingly was the first guy down the field. He has the heart and character and wants to play, period. Wulff also said that special teams are difficult to practice. It's a very violent play, and it is always very hard to simulate in practice vs. what you see in games. That's why there are so many issues usually around the country in the first few games.
  • Reid Forrest very well could punt this week. He kicked in practice yesterday and looked good.
  • Also another injury good-news department- Jeshua Anderson practiced, albeit on a limited basis. Wulff felt that he's nearly ready to go, but the doctors haven't cleared him yet. He then said that the Baylor game looks "very promising" for Anderson's return. Personally, I say don't rush it and make sure he doesn't come back too early....but at the same, does that position need him right now!
  • Wulff talked about the deep balls and the lack of the ability to stretch the field. He felt the two plays with Gibson were balls that he probably should have had, but, they didn't work out. He also said that we will go deep more often as the season goes on. Also said that if Rogers ever sees Gibson in "zero coverage", meaning one-on-one without any apparent safety help, then check into something and go for it down the field.
  • Wulff was overall pleased with the offensive line, but he didn't exactly gush about their performance. He felt they can play much, much better. Bob pointed out that we likely started one of the youngest, if not THE youngest, offensive line in the country with four underclassmen and junior Kenny Alfred at center. Wulff also pointed out that losing Lesuma for now and also Rowlands hurts. But also not having Joe Epelle hurts the tackle situation. But Wulff talked to Rogers after the game and Rogers felt the line did a good job, and aside from a few shots early, didn't really get hit too much. Wulff stressed that they will get a lot better up front as the season goes on.
  • He believes that we have our hands full in a major way this week, and that Cal already looks better than OSU. He's very happy to get them in Pullman, and again asked for crowd support. He cited Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen as two of the fastest backs in the conference, hands down. Also likes the way Kevin Riley handles the QB position. Doesn't try to do too much, and avoids the huge mistake. Also said that their linebackers are excellent, four seniors with tons of experience. They are really, really physical and this game overall will be extremely physical.
  • Recruiting: Wulff talked about how hard they are working in recruiting right now. They have all types of contacts with high school coaches and are always getting tapes and updates from coaches. Right now, as of 9/1 they can call a recruit once a week. But they are also taking time to send hand-written notes and e-mails to players all the time. Also, the kids have every coaches cell phone numbers and can always call them. Wulff said they are also selling the idea of early playing time to recruits, and while they still have to come in and prove themselves, they will get a chance if they are better than what they've already got. Wulff cited that five true frosh will play this Saturday as Louis Bland will get in this week, and that proves that young talent will get the chance to play.
  • Biggest jump in improvement: Wulff said the game one to game two jump can be a little misleading, and he thinks it's more the first two or three games before you can start to see that improvement. He said health can be a big part of the early improvement, but also who you are playing, where you are playing them, etc, but generally he thinks it's two-to-three games before you might see a big leap forward.
  • Finally, Wulff was asked about the new clock rules, and the way Okie State handled it. He didn't feel that the clock rules had much of an impact on what they did, but going forward it could make it tougher to come back late in games. Adding those additional 15 seconds per play could really add up if it's in the 4th quarter and the other team is running the ball and milking clock. Might see fewer chances to come back. And, if you weren't at the game Saturday and didn't see it on TV, Okie State would come to the line of scrimmage in a quick fashion, and get set. Then, the entire team would turn and look at the sideline, and a player would hold up these huge flash cards for some sort of signal to either change the play or stick with what they called. Wulff said our defensive coaches should be commended, because they were ready for it and they did a great job of disguising what we were doing on defense. He said initially we wouldn't tip our hand in any way what we were going to run. Very much a cat-n-mouse type game. He again praised our defense, and how well they stood up given the situations they were put in. He felt we defended them basically as well as anyone did all of last year, so, it's a good sign.
Really quick, some other links. Chima Nwachukwu said that people will be surprised by how good we will be this year, and that forecasters are basically wrong.
"People are picking us last and next to last in the Pac-10. That's definitely not where these coaches expect to be and not where the players expect to be."
Love the optimism. And not a surprise, really. You would hope he wouldn't say "gosh, y'all were right about us!" But still, the defense did look better and I don't think there is much disagreement from anyone who watched the game. Get some more consistent offense, improve the special teams so we can at least keep the field position game under control, keep the defense off the field a little more, and who knows what can happen? But there does seem to be a bit of a swagger on D that wasn't there before.

In the same article by Howie Stalwick, the injuries were addressed. Andrew Roxas went down with a knee injury in practice, and Wulff said it doesn't look good in Vince's early-bird piece today. Yet more shuffling up front. But the good news is that Vaughn Lesuma returned to practice Tuesday, so that could be a huge boost by Saturday.

A good read on WSU recruit Geoff Meinken in today's Seattle Times. He looks like a real rising player in the state, and set for a huge senior year. We wrote about him before here, as he was the first verbal commit to WSU for the upcoming recruiting class. Smart and incredibly strong, probably the perfect "Paul Wulff" type player that we are trying to get. Let's hope we can stay on him and get his signature next February!

In national news, there's a new number one team in the land, and it's no surprise. But I guess the surprise is that USC actually moved up to number one. It appears that there is more thought being put in to the early voting, as SI's Stewart Mandel said in the article. Georgia and Ohio State dined on cupcakes on Saturday, while USC went to Virginia and just destroyed. Nice to see some teams getting their due if they earn it.

Finally, what did you think of the Pac-10's first weekend? The desert schools had layups, but Cal, USC and UCLA all scored good OOC wins. I guess we were the only team that lost an OOC game. I think coming into the year we thought the Pac-10 was going to be down, and many of the preseason rags saw a conference rated third, fourth or even fifth among the BCS schools this year. But maybe we aren't the weak sister of the BCS this year??

Enjoy your Wednesday, and GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Have Ya SEEN the Line?

Some quick things to get your week started after the holiday weekend.

  1. Have ya seen the betting line this week? Basically anywhere from 13 to 13.5 points in favor of Cal. Not sure if you follow betting point spreads, but to think the home team automatically gets three points out of the chute, they are saying that the action is on Cal winning by at least two TD's. I know we see some crazy early-season lines, but even with just one game in the books in which we looked pretty inept for 3/4ths of the game, this seems pretty out there.

    To put it in proper context, we have only been this big of a home underdog twice since the turn of the century. In 2004, we got an amazing 24 points against USC, but they still covered in a 42-12 romp in the sleet and rain. But in 2006, we were a 16-pt dog to USC in Pullman, and only lost 28-22. And if you really want to dig in, we are 6-2 against the number in our last eight home games as a home underdog.

    But, then again....Vegas seems to know what they are doing, don't they? They aren't in the business of losing money. And truth be told, they aren't saying that 13 or 13.5 is what they actually think Cal is going to win by. They are setting that number where they think they will get a lot of betting action on both sides of the line. So we'll see, but this bears watching as the week rolls on.

  2. Speaking of Cal, they looked impressive week one, but they aren't exactly USC are they? They did cough up 31 points at home to Michigan State, a Big 10 team that went 7-6 last year and returned only 13 starters, third fewest of any Big 10 team. However, MSU was bringing back their leading rusher and starting QB. But sophomore WR Mark Dell, who went off for over 200 yards receiving, had just 20 catches all of last year. If you are looking for something to feel good about offensively for this week, maybe this bodes well for Brandon Gibson??

  3. All the NFL stuff shook out over the weekend as final cuts were announced. Bumpus, as we thought, made the practice squad in a move that wasn't a big surprise. We also heard some good things about Jed Collins, and sure enough, he landed with the Eagles practice squad. Finally, MKB made the Jags practice squad.

    Not so good for Alex Brink however. He was released, as the Texans are keeping just two QB's, and at last report had NOT been signed to the practice squad. It's too bad, because initially the buzz was pretty positive that he looked like a guy who could have an opportunity to at least stick with Gary Kubiak's west-coast offense in Houston. But it wasn't to be. Hopefully he'll find his place in the NFL, but if not, well, good luck to the "BIG APPLE".

  4. How about that Rick Neuheisel?? Our own Longball went out on a limb and picked them to win, 28-24, missing by only a point, while I went with the rest of the national media and was convinced Tennessee would smother the Bruins. Sure enough, even though Kevin Craft had a miserable FOUR-INT first half, he played great after halftime and the Bruins snuck one out.

    Still, you have to wonder how many of these types of games they can actually survive. Just 29 yards rushing, only 288 yards of total offense, four turnovers and they still win? Maybe there's an issue with Tennessee opening up out west, where they lost for the second consecutive year (remember their loss at Cal last year?).

    UCLA didn't escape the game unscathed, losing three big-time seniors in Kahlil Bell, Marcus Everett and Logan Paulson. Basically their best skill-position guys on the team. But yet again, we see that there's actually a reason they play the games! Hardly anyone saw this coming, so, good call Longball.
That's about it for today. We'll be back tomorrow with a full recap of Coach Wulff's radio show tonight, plus some other stuff. Enjoy your Tuesday, and GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Monday, September 01, 2008

Is There Really That Much Improvement in Week Two?

For WSU, it's time to look forward. Saturday's loss is gone, and hopefully lessons were learned. The coach-speak of week one to week two will be on full display this coming Saturday, so, let's see what happens.

Speaking of week one to week two it actually true?? Mmmm, sort of. I looked back at the last five years of our games, starting with 2003, and in some cases it IS true, some, not so much.

2003: Beat Idaho 25-0 in Seattle, then lost to Notre Dame 29-26 in OT.
Note - They were sluggish at times vs. Idaho in Kegel's first start since 2000. Lots of field goals in this one as the team struggled in the red zone. This was Cody Boyd's first appearance and he looked great, blocking a couple of Idaho field goal attempts to preserve the shutout. Things were better early vs. the Irish, in a game they sprinted out to a huge lead but couldn't hold Ty Willingham's first game at ND, and, current Seahawk RB Julius Jones ran wild in the second half vs. a tired WSU defense. But overall improvement? Not really.

2004: Slogged through a comeback win at New Mexico 21-17, then lost to Colorado 20-12 in Seattle.
Note: Swogger rallied the Cougs in his first-ever start vs. New Mexico, throwing two fourth-quarter TD's. But the next week it all fell apart, as the WR's dropped an amazing amount of passes in the first half (reportedly 8 or 9 true "drops") and Swogger lost his cool. Brink comes in, gives them a spark yet also fumbles twice and throws an INT returned for a TD. Improvement?? NO.

2005: Struggled a bit with Idaho, winning just 38-26, but then went to Nevada and destroyed the Wolfpack 55-21 in week two.
Note: This might be the biggest example of how much better a team can look from week one to week two. The Idaho game was a weird one, with two TD's in the first three minutes of the game for a lightning quick 14-0 lead. But then Idaho snuck back into it and made it interesting before WSU pulled away. But the week two blowout on the road was huge. Brink went crazy, the defense made plays, basically everything went well. The other side to the coin? That was also Nevada's first game of the season, and they looked off in every way. What people forget is Nevada would go on to a bowl-winning season in 2005, looking absolutely nothing like the team we played in their season opener. Just a classic example of how different things can look from week one to week two. Improvement?? YES!

2006: Hung tough but blown out late, 40-14 at Auburn. Stormed back to crush Idaho 56-10 in week two.
Note: The end-result was great, sure. Week one was one of the worst-ever performances by Brink at WSU, just 11-for-24 for 67 yards (sound familiar to Gary's line on Saturday?). We looked overwhelmed by the SEC speed. Idaho's defense must have looked like statues compared to Auburn, and the results showed. We had over 300 yards of offense at the HALF, and would go on for an amazing 56 points and 637 total yards, including 344 rushing yards. But there is no other way to say it, other than Idaho was a BAD football team. This was Erickson's first season, and they had a lack of talent and depth across the board. And let's face it, that 2006 WSU team was one of our best non-bowl teams in recent history. Improvement? Yes.

2007: Hung tough with Wisconsin before getting blown out late, 42-21. Bounced back with a runaway victory in Seattle over San Diego State, 45-17.
Note: Just 328 total yards vs. Wisc but a whopping 654 yards vs. SD State, another huge offensive improvement. Brink had one of his best stat-games, throwing for 469 and 5 TD's, as well as a school record 38 completions. The WR's were unreal this day, as Gibson, Bumpus and Charles Dillon all went over 100 yards receiving, and made several spectacular catches along the way. Obviously the quality of the opponent has to be taken into consideration. Wisconsin was an excellent football team last year, while SD State? Still rebuilding, to put it kindly. And oh yeah, SD State's season opener was our second game, and they did not look good. Improvement? Yes.

Bottom line: Week one to week two, at least in recent times, does look promising. But the quality of the opponent and the timing of when you play them has to be taken into consideration. Cal is a quality, bowl-winning team from 2007, just like Okie State. This isn't Idaho or some other weakling to improve or shore up some issues. It's out of the frying pan, into the fire this week.

Plus, let's not get too excited after only one game. Beano Cook said it best on Saturday night, in that it is very easy to overvalue or undervalue things after just one game. You have to give it a few weeks and see how things settle down. Some teams look like world-beaters early on, but will come back to the pack over the next week or two. Meanwhile some teams look like they can't walk and chew gum at the same time, but things can change in a big way the next week. It happens every year, so why should 2008 be any different?

Speaking of this week, let's take a quick look at Cal to start off Labor Day.

Last week: Beat Michigan State 38-31. Offensively Cal was impressive, racking up 467 yards, including 264 yards passing and 203 yards rushing. Balance has been a staple with Jeff Tedford's offense, and this was no exception. Cal's young skill position guys were impressive, as both Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen went over 100 yards rushing. Vereen broke MSU's heart with an 81-yard TD run with just over 4 minutes left, right after State cut the lead to seven, and that was the ballgame.

Cal's QB controversy appears over, as Kevin Riley was in complete control with an efficient 17-for-24 for 202 yards and a couple of scores. Nate Longshore was 3-for-5 with 62 yards and a couple of INT's, including one in the end zone on a throw he tried to force into triple coverage. Expect Riley to go the whole way this week, other than maybe one or two series out of Longshore just to keep him fresh.

The Cal defense was less than impressive however. Cal has switched to a new 3-4 defense, and MSU looked pretty good, with 23 first downs and over 400 yards of total offense, including 321 yards passing. Sophomore WR Mark Dell lit up the Cal secondary, catching nine balls for 202 yards, averaging 22 yards per catch.

He almost had one of the best TD catches you will ever see, but upon replay, they took the catch away as he didn't quite have control of the ball. But he was unstoppable for much of this game.

One word of warning - Cal's special teams could be a huge problem. Jahvid Best had over 100 yards in kickoff returns, including a long of 35 yards. He's a home run threat anyway, every time he touches the football, but he's the last guy you want to see getting a kickoff and blockers in front of him. Plus, Cal got a TD on a blocked punt for the first TD of the 2008 season, something that really fired them up. Finally, the Cal punter, frosh Bryan Anger, was amazing, with a net of 48 yards on four punts, including three downed inside the 20 and a long of 59.

As we all know, special teams can be the tipping point in a tight ballgame. Let's hope things are cleaned up, fast, or else we could be in some big trouble.

Finally, hopes and prayers are sent our way towards the New Orleans - Gulf of Mexico area. Let's hope the levees hold up. Thank God they evacuated so many people in advance, and the lessons learned from Katrina appear to be saving tons of lives. Good luck to you all. Click here for more Comments