Friday, October 31, 2008
In making his decision, Mr. Jackson cited Grippi's loyalty to "old school journalism" as the primary tipping point in his decision.
The news appeared to overwhelm Grippi, who upon hearing the news, promptly stormed the podium and ran out of the room with the 2001 Sears trophy that accompanied Mr. Jackson to the event.
Elsewhere, Mike Price declared his support for Bud Withers on Thursday.
In his statement, Price described Withers as a "Great Coug" who "you can always count on for well-researched, straight stories that never include my drunken binges at the Sports Page."
Neither the Moore-Yanity ticket or the WSU Football Blog picked up any major endorsements.
Both declined to offer any public comment, although a person close to the WSU Football Blog called the day's events "crushing."
Meanwhile, the final Gallup Poll showed a two-way race emerging as the Polls open:
Grippi-Blanchette polled at 35%, followed by Condotta-Withers at 25%, Moore-Yanity at 22%, and the WSU Football Blog at 18%.
Polls are open through Tuesday. Read more ...plus comments
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Well, before we get to this week's contest against the mighty Trees, I thought I'd give my rejoinder to posts on this Blog regarding the future of Washington Husky Football.
First, for my favorite Puppy in our comments, "Medina Booster", I'll start off by stating the (obvious) positives regarding the now vacant position of Head Coach at U-Dubya:
1) Its a good job (thanks, Woody)
2) It pays a lot (thanks, Woody again)
3) The job is located in a very nice city in the beautiful Pacific Northwest (thanks, Woody three times)
4) The University of Washington is a top 20 University nationally and therefore gives recruits confidence that their (general studies) degree would involve a certain amount of prestige.
5) The Stadium holds nearly 72,000 crazies even when the team sucks.
6) The school is on the quarters system which gives players the first two months of the season (training camp in August and the month of September) to focus on nothing but football.
7) The school has a CO-National Championship that they can market to kids who were in uetero when it happened.
So, there you have it, the seven positives that you and the Tyee brass will offer anyone of formidable football stature that is willing to listen... Word has it, that if you repeat those seven things while being held down under running water for 14 hours, you may actually believe it..
Of course, every Husky fan in the universe is drinking that Kool-Aid.
And, as Medina showed, they are not only looking to, they are also EXPECTING, a return to the glory days of the Dawg Father with this next hire.
Unfortunately for Dawg fans everywhere, it simply isn't going to happen.
Between 1975 and 1993 which includes all of the Rose Bowls of the Don James era, do you know how many Pac-8 and/or Pac-10 schools played in Pasadena on New Years day?
They were USC, UCLA, and the UW.
When you look at the rosters of ANY of those teams during that era, you will notice that USC, UCLA, and the Puppies made the vast majority of their football hey by recruiting the living Ba-Jesus out of both So Cal and No Cal and complementing that base with talent from everywhere and anywhere else.
Of course, if you look behind those obvious facts, there are a few more hidden gems for Husky Fans to consider as chief components of their previous success:
1) After 1978 when the two Arizona schools entered the PAC, over 1/2 of the Pac-10 went on probation over a period of two seasons. During that same span, the Huskies were able to take advantage by recruiting layers of depth from California that helped lead the Dawgs to back-to-back Rose Bowls as well as the venerable Orange Bowl winning team.
Of course, two years later, the Dub took a major step back when they got THRASHED by Alabama in the 1986 Sun Bowl. Roll Tide Roll.
2) Few Dawg fans want to admit anything differently, but the trashing by the Tide in El Paso caused the Dawgfather to change his approach to recruiting. Obviously, he changed his approach to focus on the fast and furious. But, in so doing, he also went illegal. And the BLATANT lack of institutional control occurred whether he was "explicitly" aware of it or not.
Of course, the result of those shannanigans was a run nearly as impressive as USC's most recent set of titles:
A) Three straight Pac-10 titles (and Rose Bowls)
B) A national championship, and--
C) If not for a colossal let-down against UCLA, the Dawgs could have won back-to-back
But alas, they CHEATED to get there (and they'll have to cheat again to get back)
3) Also, during the 1990's the NCAA reduced the maximum number of scholarships available to each program. As a result, the big three could no longer sit there and stock pile All-Americans five deep. And, not surprisingly, the rest of the Pac-10 began to catch up.
Of course, it sure did help the rest of the Pac that Washington went on probation
and USC took a temporary nose dive.
But, when you combine those transitions with the changes in scholarship regulations, you get this amazing, amazing fact.
While there were THREE teams to capture a conference title between 75 and 93, do you know how many Pac-10 teams have won or shared a conference title since 1996?
1996:ASU - 8-0
1997: WSU/UCLA - 7-1
1998: UCLA - 8-0
1999: Stanford - 7-1
2000: Oregon/Oregon State/Washington - 7-1
2001: Oregon - 7-1
2002: WSU/USC - 7-1
2003: USC - 7-1
2004: USC - 8-0
2005: USC - 8-0
2006: USC/Cal - 7-2
2007: USC/ASU - 7-2
That's right, Nine.
Since that time, WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY--a team that many of us thought would never go to one Rose Bowl--appeared in two and had three straight Top 10 finishes.
Even more shocking, the doormat Oregon State Beavers have a top 3 record in the conference over the last decade and are now a near lock for bowl play each year.
Moreover, the University of Oregon--once only meddlesome to other Pac-10 foes-- is now considered a major national player and recruits top talent each and every year--especially from the California hotbeds that the Huskies used to call their own.
The University of California-Berkeley --which is a better academic institution that the University of Washington--is recruiting All-American talent out of both Northern and Southern California and has high quality talent three or four deep.
Stanford University currently has the #2 rated recruiting class in the conference and holds as many conference titles as the UW over the past decade and offers THE premier academic experience in America.
On top of that, both Arizona schools also have top 3 finishes nationally in the last ten years. And while Arizona is having a good season and ASU is not, still, both easily have a deeper talent base and broader recruiting reach (Texas and California) than UW right now.
Despite our woes, we have a coach that has deep recruiting ties in this state, has a gimmicky offensive system, and will probably win the recruiting battle for the 3 star, high character guys in the Washington for the years to come.
So, where does that leave the U-Dub?
In my view, I would be SHOCKED if the next coach did not restore the UW to regular mid-tiered bowls.
But, given the strength of the rest of the conference, the way that scholarships are allocated equally across schools, as well as the DEEP hole that the UW program is currently in, making THAT climb is going to be extremely, extremely difficult. Making an ascent to the TOP of the mountain, just ain't gonna happen.
In Brinkhater's mind, its going to be hard to provide a case that a player is going to win more games at UW than Oregon State.
Its going to be difficult to convince a recruit that they're going to get more flash, better facilities, or a better educational experience than the University of Oregon.
And its going to be very, very difficult for any coach to provide a more motivating and inspirational story than what they will hear from Paul Wulff and company--who happens to also be an alum of his school that has a distinct, but potentially profound appeal to urban students.
Now, add Tedford, Tricky Ricky Neu, Captain Comeback, and Pistol Pete to that mix as well the Big 12 schools that are still pulling at California's top shelf talent?? What you get is a very, very difficult challenge ahead.
And sorry, no amount of "Cougar, Homer Bias" can obscure that hard dose of reality that sits on your 0-8 backsides.
Now, back to our stinking game.
Cougar Nation, I really think that there's a chance that the rest of this season could witness some positive, if not victorious moments.
But it just is not going to happen this week.
Stanford is a team that doesn't have many significant strengths.
But, the Trees are a team that has strengths in the areas that exploit our significant, if not historic, weaknesses.
For instance, they have a good pass rush, we have a weak offensive line.
They can run the football, we can't stop the run.
They're pretty healthy, we aren't.
Moreover, our starting QB (Lopina) is lousy and offers no hope for our beleagured defense to stay off the field--which is our only hope to stay competitive not only in this game--but for the rest of the year.
And, while JT offers the sole glimmer of hope for the rest of the year, we should ALL know by now that freshmen QBs seldom play well in their first few games.
And they tend to play even worse in their debuts on the road.
In the end, the Tress walk in this one 48-6. We almost cover, though, so that should mean something.
And lets pray that JT does enough to get more PT in the coming weeks.
Having a chance at winning the Apple Cup depends on it.
Oregon 41 California 31. Quack is good despite fold job at USC a few weeks back.
USC 51 Washington 3. USC will pay attention to final scores now that Penn State has inside track to title game appearance.
Oregon State 31 ASU 21. Beavs continue their roll toward first Rose Bowl in 40 years.
Texas 41 Texas Tech 40. Big12 may be one of the most talented conferences of all time.
Enjoy the game!
Wow Brinkhater, that's one hell of a take on all-things-UW. A UW Football Blog in your future?? In all seriousness, an excellent analysis. I think we all can agree that for everyone to assume that UW will regain the top spot simply by throwing a lot of money at their next guy isn't paying attention to the rest of the world. Then again, let's be honest - Seattleites can often be guilty of thinking that life ends at Mount Rainier. There really is a whole big world out there.
Better said, this ain't exactly your "big brother" Huskies. But let them worry about themselves. I prefer to worry about what's in my own back yard instead of yukking it up over the neighbor who hasn't mowed their lawn in four score and seven years ago.....but that's another story.
I think facilities are going to be a huge deal for them. If they eventually get that dream renovation done, as well as the rock-star head coach, I think they can start taking back what they've lost from Oregon and Oregon State, the biggest monkeys in the wrench. A great place to live with a rabid fan base and dynamic coach can be a good sell to 18-year olds. Just please don't make me pay for it!
Enough of this Husky honking. But first of all, a moment of silence for the official death of the NBA in Seattle.
At least Oklahoma City gets to pay $2000 a game to sit court-side and watch a horrible basketball team 41 nights a year. Congrats. There's a good read in the P-I today about how people, and businesses, in Seattle are dealing with it. But put me in the "I'm done with the NBA" camp for now. Just tap me on the shoulder when they return to Seattle as the Sonics, and I MIGHT be interested again.
Now on to our game.
We have touched on Stanford earlier this week, and it's pretty basic - they run the ball on offense and rush the passer on defense, about as well as anyone in the conference. And that tells you one very big thing - they are good up front, on both sides of the ball. And if you've been paying attention this year, you KNOW that isn't a good thing for Cougar Nation. We've been outnumbered and over-matched up front, due to injuries, suspension (Mike Graise is now out from the defensive line rotation, thanks for the tip Kaddy). The damage that the weaknesses up front has caused the entire team is staggering. They have been pushed around at will by the opponent, and it's a pretty helpless feeling to watch on a weekly basis.
Now I won't bore you with deep analysis here, but just know that we are averaging 13.9 points per game.....and we're giving up 48.1 points per game. When you are AVERAGING a loss by 35 points, or five touchdowns?? And that INCLUDES the 48-9 win over Portland State in those averages!?!?
Sprinkle in a still-recovering Lopina at QB and a dash of young J.T. Levy running for his life on every snap, and you get the idea. HOWEVER, I am going against the grain here, and I will predict that we will play fairly well. I believe the bye week was a good thing for this team, and they are gearing up for a better than expected finish these last five games of the year. I am going to lean hard towards a UCLA-style of game here, where we'll put eight in the box to try and slow down the running game. I don't think Stanford has the big-play ability to score quickly enough to light up the scoreboard. They will do what they always do, and that is based on their scheme of grinding it out. And I think our offensive approach will be to try and run the ball as well, and attempt to keep the defense honest as well as the heat off the QB's. Of course it won't be enough to win, but, I have a feeling this one will be closer than the rest believe.
In the end, I'll go Stanford 31, WSU 12. And it will even be an interesting game headed into the second half. Remember, in the Oregon State wipeout, it was 24-13 at the half. And it was 14-3 in the third quarter against UCLA. HOORAY. So we'll see.
California 34, Oregon 23. Oregon steamrolled ASU last week, but Cal is tough at home and Tedford has handled the Quacks three of the last four times they've played.
USC 58 Washington 2. They didn't play for Willingham before his firing. Think they'll turn it up now?? Neither do I.
Oregon State 48 ASU 20. The wagons have been circled in Corvallis, as usual. Wins in four of their last five, including the USC game, and the only loss the choke job at Utah. Coming off the bye week, and against a fading ASU, this one will get ugly.
Texas Tech 44, Texas 38. Horns get hooked! And Brinkhater is right, wow, is the Big 12 something else!?!?
ENJOY IT, and GO GOUGS!
Read more ...plus comments
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
- Bud Nameck in the big boy chair this week, hosting the show. Leading off, Nameck asked how the bye week went. What did the coaches do? Wulff said that they were recruiting hard, with seven coaches hitting the road on Wednesday (the NCAA max you can have out at once is seven coaches). The coaches hit Utah, California, Oregon and Washington. Saw some high school games, saw some coaches, and continue to find players emerging in their senior year. They are still looking for kids who want to be Cougs. The more rocks we turn over the more we will find. It also takes a lot of work and effort in recruiting. But Wulff said he is "amazed at this staff's attention to detail on recruiting and the energy, the effort." EVERY guy is on the same page in regards to recruiting, and he's never been around a staff quite like this.
- They talked briefly about how the heck you keep all that recruiting information organized? Recruiting coordinator Rich Rasmussen uses a recruiting radar software program that keeps it all under control. It's also great for compliance and keeps a large database for recruits. It allows you to dissect information to get a read on the vitals of kids you are recruiting, etc.
- Bud asked about an update in recruiting, without getting specific in terms of player names (which he obviously can't do). Wulff said that they just got two verbals (you can see them here in Quayshawn Buckley and Jamal Atofau). But he also said that we are really close on a few more commits, and they should come shortly. But they are going to recruit, hard, all the way until signing day and you never know what's going to happen. Wulff also touted some of the great people within WSU and how much of a help they have been for campus visits. He even mentioned that June Daugherty and Donnie Marbut helped out this summer talking to some of the kids.
- Wulff was asked about Willingham, and what he thougth of the situation. Would he be worried about a new coach and the buzz that would create, as well as the chance to steal away some of WSU verbals? Wulff said you know, we're too worried about ourselves to worry about what they do. They will still recruit their own commitments hard, and if a kid backs out of a verbal commitment to go elsewhere? Then maybe they never really wanted to be Cougars in the first place and it's probably for the best. Wulff said they want the highest character kids they can find, and if they back out of their word too easily, then it probably wasn't going to work out. ("we didn't want them anyway", isn't that what UW message board types always say when WSU gets a verbal commitment??)
- A caller asked a tough question - you are now 2/3rds of the way through the first season. How would you grade your own coaches? Wulff said that while he wouldn't hand out letter grades or anything like that, he felt like they have done a pretty good job. Still, they can ALL DO A LOT BETTER (obviously). But Wulff also again talked about change, and the human resistance to it that can make it very difficult at first. Wulff also said that coaches and QB's go hand-in-hand, in that he believes that coaches get too much of the credit when things are great, too much of the blame when things aren't. They basically run parallel to each other. But he restated, again, that the coaches can all do a lot better, and while it's easy to second guess some things, he does feel that they are doing and will do a better job.
- Wulff talked about how the coaches are, still, getting to know the players and the players are getting to know them. It's not like you walk into their lives and suddenly everyone knows everyone else, knows their backgrounds or the things that make them tick. It's been a huge learning experience for the players, but also for the coaches in every possible way. He said they are still trying to figure out some of the players, and it is something that will come with time spent together. But overall, again, can they do better? Absolutely!
- Nameck brought up something Dennis Erickson said back in the day. Erickson said that after his first year at WSU, as a staff, they were a little surprised at the difference between Wyoming and the Big Sky compared to the PAC-10 and the schemes, etc. Wulff said that maybe back then it was an issue, but today, it's not so much of a big change. He said it's still football, still a lot of the same in terms of x's and o's. Or as Jim Walden says, "it's less about the x's and o's and more about the Jimmie's and Joe's!"He did mention, however, that he and the staff felt they saw a lot more things run against them last year at EWU than they have seen this year in the PAC-10. Wulff said it seems like this level is possibly even a little more simplified vs. where he was, and that it's a lot more "athlete driven" at this level. Some of the things just don't seem as complex as they thought. But overall they need to get better in matching up with the rest of the conference, because right now it's awfully tough (as we've seen!).
- A caller asked about how they handle the recruiting, in terms of the sheer volume of kids and how to figure out who to contact. Of course they are using the software, but Wulff also said it's all about watching tape on kids, and calling them, getting to know them. It's all about building up relationships and getting to know them, see where it goes. Wulff did say that the coaches will talk about the school's successful history, talk about their current situation and where that player might fit in, and most of all, where they are headed as a program on the field and facilities, etc. But it all goes back to the building of the relationship and how that all goes. Wulff said that you can tell pretty quickly if a kid is interested or not just in how some of the initial phone calls go. They have limited contact they can do every recruiting season, so, they don't spend a lot of time on kids that are not interested.
- Nameck brought up Stanford, and what they've been able to do so far with Harbaugh. Nameck mentioned what a boost the new stadium renovation has been for them in recruiting, and Harbaugh has done a heck of a job so far(Don't believe me? Check out Stanford's list of current verbal commits. There's a lot of star gazing going on right now!).
- The name of Toby Gerhart was brought up, about what a factor he's been for Stanford this year. One of the top running backs in the conference, if not the country, he's a tough, physical guy with deceiving speed. Wulff said they saw immediately on film that with him on the field, Stanford is a MUCH better football team, and without him, their level of play drops off. He missed some time vs. UW and only had two carries in that game, but he's been running well of late, with now three straight 100+ yard games. Nameck also brought up turnovers and how they've been an issue for Stanford, as they are ahead of only WSU in the turnover ratio department in the PAC-10 rankings. Wulff once again railed about turnovers, about how they can just destroy your chances at getting a win. He them went back to our own turnover issues, and how they just need to clean up that part of their game and things could really turn around. But we have to stop hurting ourselves.
- Nameck asked about the last week of practice, taking things indoors and all that. Wulff said they had a good week, and it was time to get away from outside distractions and resharpen their focus on the task at hand. They are sticking together and they worked really hard on a lot of things, and Wulff was happy with how it went. They are back outside practicing now, as the weather has been great to be able to do so.
- A caller asked what the deal was with the APR and the eight scholarship losses. Wulff said that by the end of the academic year, things should be back to normal, and by next fall they will be allotted the full 85 scholarships. However Wulff said that in at least that first year, they MIGHT not be at the full 85. They might be just under it. But he said by the fall of the following year (2010), they will for sure be at the full 85-scholarship limit.
- A caller asked about the rebuilding plan, and if that has changed at all. Wulff said ideally they start out with the idea of redshirting every single player they recruit, and going from there. Obviously he couldn't do that this year, as necessity has so many young players out on the field. It is what it is. He also said that over the next two or even three seasons, you are probably going to see them play young players earlier than they would like to, again, out of necessity. But ultimately, you want to have your kids with years in the program, learning and growing before they are counted upon as true leadership within the team. By the time they get to be upper classmen, they are ready to be leaders and have experienced some difficult moments. They want to have that core group to have the whole team lean on when times are tough and who to look to during adversity. It will take time.
- Nameck then asked him about the Vince Grippi article, and if it was accurate. Wulff said it was "pretty good...but they left a lot of the details out." He honestly didn't sound all that thrilled with it (TAKE THAT VINCE!). He did say that it painted a solid picture of what they are trying to do, where they are headed, the overall plan, etc. But that was about it.
- Nameck asked the question of the week, of course, the QB situation. I know it's been reported everywhere already, but Lopina is going to start the game. But young J.T. Levenseller WILL PLAY this week. They have decided to burn the redshirt, but you most likely know that by now (and Wulff more or less broke that on last week's radio show, but it's official now). Wulff did say that they will likely play him in something like the third or fourth series of the game, and then they would go from there. The situation will dictate who plays or who doesn't and what things look like into the second half. He didn't get any more specific than that.
- Wulff talked about Kevin Lopina. He has really improved, to the point that doctors now say he's near 100% physically. Wulff noticed that he's moving considerably better in practice and looks a lot more fluid, not stiff like he was before. But Wulff also said that Lopina needs to build up the mental recovery aspect of it, and get that confidence back.
- Some other injury updates - Dwight Tardy is back, and will play. However Chris Ivory still hasn't been able to get over the hamstring, so he's out. Tardy will be in the mix for carries with Logwone Mitz and Chance Staden. Devin Frischknecht is still out with an ankle injury, and is at least two-three weeks away from coming back. Marshall Lobbestael will have surgery on his knee tomorrow, and then he'll be ready to go for rehab. They talked about the hydro works machine, the underwater treadmill, that will be used for rehabbing ankle and knee injuries. They REALLY are excited to get that thing going, and it's supposed to be ready next month. The O-line is looking OK, with Steven Ayers and Vaughn Lesuma both back this week. Micah Hannam is nicked up, but might be OK this week.
- Finally, Wulff talked about Stanford's defense. They are pretty tough up front, second in with 26 sacks, so they will be a handful for the offensive line. The QB's are going to have to play better too, so, hopefully they are ready for the challenge. But Wulff again brought up the focus, and intensity, and what they need to do this week. They need to see a much better effort by everyone, and Wulff said he has a decent feeling about it this week. He has seen some improvements. He really emphasized that they need to keep up the intensity and focus early, even if things aren't going well. If they can hang in there and not give in, then things will turn around.
Enjoy your Wednesday, and as always, GO COUGS! Read more ...plus comments
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Hartline, WA—"Hello Waterville-Mansfield-Almira-Coulee-Hartline Nation!" yelled a hoarse Brinkhater to the North Central Washington Senior Bridge Club convention at Almira-Coulee-Hartline High school.
"You know, when we announced our candidacy last week, I told you that help was on the way."
"And today, I am here to tell you that it is: We play the University of Washington in four short weeks!"
Despite the duo's on-going attempts at bringing some levity to their grueling 10 day travel schedule, the jokes were in short supply.
In fact, for the third straight day, both Sedihawk and Brinkhater tried frantically to be heard above the riff-raff.On this day, calls for "more soup and lobster bisque" seemed to constantly deride the ticket's message.
WSU Football Blog Campaign manager, Mr. Longball, was not happy with the day's events:
"I keep trying to tell the guys to keep it simple: Attack, Attack, Attack. But they just don't listen."
"I mean, Brinkhater, for example, had ONE stinking job to do today. And that was to accuse Bob Condotta of being bought out by Washington Lobbyists. I mean, how hard is that?"
"And what does he do? He makes playing Washington a good thing in his first stinking line of the day, which completely convoluted our message."
"I mean, I know that we're trying, but we've got to become more DISCIPLINED if we want to be competitive!"
In the meantime, despite no official word of a formal campaign, officials from the Moore-Yanity and Condotta-Withers camp began an offensive of their own against the WSU Football Blog—which further seemed to unravel the duo's darkhorse candidacy.
On Monday, officials close to Bob Condotta and Bud Withers released a statement accusing Brinkhater of representing the exact type of "Partisan Politics" that has killed competitive college football in the State of Washington over the past five years. The statement read:
"At this point, when the two Washington teams have one win between them, it is both pointless and juvenile to continue such sour grapes as we have continually seen from Brinkhater and his surrogates."
"What we need now is the type of post-partisan journalism that can bring people together and keep local talent playing College Football for the Washington schools."
"The WSU Football Blog does nothing to advance such possibilities."
"But given what we know now about the current State of the Program, how can you vote for someone who could be so tragically wrong and misinformed?"
Mr. Longball tried to counter the mounting twin offensives by noting Brinkhater's perfect record this year on his weekly predictions, noting, "All you can ask for, is for our leaders to make appropriate adjustments as new information becomes available. And Brinkhater has done that as well as anyone."
But off the record, several associates revealed what has become a mounting concern: Brinkhater's inclusion on the WSU Football Blog ticket has become an inescapable liability.
"You know, like Jim Moore, Brinkhater is very, very popular with segments of the base," one source said. "There are a group of devoted followers that really appreciate his early and honest critique of past decisions associated with the Doba era."
But as another source noted, "His negatives are really, really troubling. You know, if it was just Sedihawk, we might have a really good chance at winning this thing. But Brinkhater brings a really high liability to the ticket that is currently killing us. "
As the day ended, the campaign showed the convention a four minute campaign video of Sedihawk taking care of his cancer stricken Golden Retriever, Barkley.
As the lights came up, several seniors could be overheard saying that they felt like they had "seen a window into Sedihawk's soul."
The question remains, however, whether or not such soul searching will be enough to save what once seemed to be a promising campaign.
Time is running short. The polls open in only three short days.
Obviously UW fans are beyond frustrated. This was year four of the Ty Willie experiment, a year in which they had planned on taking a big step forward. They blew a few games last year in a 4-9 season, and it was sound enough reasoning to say that if they could have held on in the Apple Cup, the Hawaii game, and the Arizona game, all games they had at least a two-score lead, UW could have been 7-6 and a bowl team last year. So, sure, they would probably struggle early with a tough schedule, but after some lumps it would be the year it all turns around. But alas, here they are, down Jake Locker and a host of other players, sitting at 0-7 and staring at a certain 0-8 after they "bow down" to USC this Saturday. Willingham is 11-32 overall, just a brutal record. And I heard it was so bad during Saturday's blowout loss to Notre Dame that, during a commercial on the big screen featuring Willingham doing charity work with children, the fans booed. The masses are so down right now though, they could throw a picture of the Easter Bunny, Santa, and puppies on the big screen and they would get ripped. Tough crowd.
So here's a question for the WSU faithful - and I'm serious here - but is UW what it used to be? The KJR types are yakking it up about how they need to go hire a rock star head coach to return UW to prominence. But is it that easy? Can they ever get back to how things used to be? I don't care if they hired Nick Saban, Steven Spurrier, Les Miles, Jim Mora, Lane Kiffin or Mike Holmgren, right now this job is NOT what it used to be. Consider:
1) The record - Since Y2k - and this INCLUDES their 2000 season where they went 11-1 - UW is now 44-59. That is good for eight in the Pac-10, ahead of only Stanford and Arizona. This isn't a one or two or even three-year downturn. This is a disturbing trend, especially when you consider where they started the decade. For what it's worth, with UW's loss vs. Notre Dame, they have now clinched their fifth consecutive losing season. Their last non-losing season was 2003, where they went 6-6.
2) The facilities - You know the drill. They have been touting for 18 months how badly UW needs the work done on their aging old lady on Montlake. The place is literally falling apart. And yes, they have their hand out for $150 million in public funds. Good luck with that. For a stadium that would be used, what, 5-6 times a year? The track would be removed in their renovation, so they can't argue it would be used for that. And Qwest Field is already hosting soccer, so that's out as well. So let's see - in a major economic downturn, with a huge state deficit, they are paying Willingham $1 million alone to disappear, and they are saying they are going to go "big" on their next head coach, speculated to be in the $2 million per year range? AND they want public money to pay for half of their $300 million renovation, the most expensive college renovation EVER?? Whatever. Don't ask don't get, sure, but for them to cry poor mouth right now is insane.
3) The Landscape - While UW has struggled during the Y2K decade, guess who has climbed right past them in the NW? No, not WSU (although WSU has finished ahead of UW in the Pac-10 standings for seven straight years, and has 11 more wins than UW since Y2K....not that anyone is counting....but still). Check out what's been going on in Oregon. Did you know that outside of USC, Oregon and Oregon State are two-three in the Pac-10 in terms of record this decade? Better than Cal, better than ASU, better than UCLA. This isn't a mistake or misprint. The Oregon schools have taken off while UW has slid down the pole.
Why? Well, sugar daddies help. Phil Knight with Oregon obviously, and Reser has been a boost. But with the sugar daddies also came better facilities. And nobody can argue against the idea that Oregon and Oregon State have two of the nicer venues in the west. They both have built a strong donor base, filled with rabid fans who expect to win games.
And, when you combine success and great facilities as well as some excellent head coaches in the two Mike's - Bellotti and Riley - well, you can see how the Oregon schools have been heading off the California talent at the pass. Back in the day, when UW was winning Pac-10 titles, the flow of talent into Seattle was impressive from SoCal. Today, not so much.
The biggest thing the Oregon schools have done is to completely hurt the depth at a school like UW. Every school suffers injuries, even the USC's of the world. But they simply reload with all-Americans. With Oregon and Oregon State nabbing that talent that used to show up in Seattle, now, UW has lost their layers of depth that they used to boast as simply reloading, never rebuilding. They'll still get the Jake Locker's of the world, but it's what is next to him and around him that is just as important.
Now, I know, I know, I shouldn't throw stones from this glass house. But I'm really not. WE are in the middle of completely bottoming-out, staring at 1-win world right now. But guess what? We're actually one step AHEAD of UW in the process. I know that sounds crazy. But when you think about it, we are already a few phases into a stadium renovation that, when done, will be a pretty cool game-day setting that will only help in recruiting.
And despite the sniping this year from some of you with our big drop in quality, we already have our coach with which to rebuild. Wulff had an OK first recruiting class last year, but this year is off to an excellent start in the verbal commitment department. UW still has a facility headache on their hands, and, they need to get their next coach to start the process.
So there you have it. Willingham coaches out the rest of the year while UW begins the search for his successor. A weird end to an ugly era.
Enjoy your Tuesday, and GO COUGS! Read more ...plus comments
Monday, October 27, 2008
So that's all fine and dandy as Jim Harbaugh, the QB. What about as a head coach? Harbaugh's rise up the coaching ladder was a little unusual. Did you know, for example, that while still playing in the NFL from 1994 - 2001, he was also considered an unpaid NCAA assistant under his father at Western Kentucky? Serving as an offensive consultant, he scouted and recruited high school student-athletes throughout several states including Florida, Indiana and Illinois. He was involved in recruiting 17 players on WKU's 2002 D-1 AA National Championship team.
After a brief stop with the Raiders as an offensive assistant, Harbaugh got the head job at the University of San Diego in 2004, of something called the Pioneer League (NO, this is not a D-1 school). But he did outstanding there, with a 29-6 record, including 11-1 his last two seasons. Suddenly he was a hot commodity, and after Stanford punted Walt Harris after 2006, Harbaugh was the surprise hire in Palo Alto.
And all things considered, it went fairly well in year one. Statistically, not so much - Stanford had the 98th ranked defense in the NCAA last year, and the 107th ranked offense - but he did coax them to a 4-8 record, including a 3-6 Pac-10 record. Not great, but after a 1-11 2006 season, 4-8 felt pretty damn good to the Cardinal faithful. And of course, we all know about the 41-point underdog upset of USC, still rated as maybe the greatest NCAA football upset of all time.
Now in year two, Stanford is most definitely on the upswing. They sit at 4-4, including an impressive 3-2 in the PAC-10. They have defeated Oregon State and Arizona, two of the better teams in the conference this year. And even in defeat, they have played hard, narrowly losing at Notre Dame in a big comeback (28-21) and a tough loss at UCLA (23-20). Hard to believe that this program went 1-11 in 2006, yet right now sits just two wins away from a BOWL game!
However, the bad news for Stanford - even though this week will certainly look "winnable" to the Cardinal - the last three games? NOT SO MUCH. In order, they go to Oregon on 11/8, they host USC on 11/15, and then the big game, Cal, on 11/22. So if they are to get to the magic six-win threshold and sure bowl bid given the PAC-10's bowl arrangement, well, they are going to have to beat someone better than them the last three weeks. But it's been done before, and who's to say they can't do it again??
The point to this rant is, what can Paul Wulff and WSU take from Stanford's current success? Is there a secret to what they are doing? Is there something we, as Coug fans, can look at in Palo Alto and hang our hopes on for a possible successful year next year?
The numbers are, to be honest, puzzling. Stanford isn't setting the conference on fire with their offensive prowess. The passing offense is, well, bad, at 109th in the nation in passing yards per game. And yes, believe it or not, that is actually WORSE than WSU's passing yards per game, where we currently sit at 102nd in the country. Weird. Defensively, also not great against the pass. They are, in fact, dead last in the Pac-10 in pass defense, and ranking a miserable 113th in the country through the air.
So it must be turnovers, right? Turnovers are, as they say, the great equalizer, and can make up for some poor statistics. In a word, NO. We all know how turnovers have helped contribute to this disaster 2008 season for WSU. But Stanford is right there with us. While WSU has a minus-15 turnover ratio, Stanford is second to last at minus-9. So forget about turnovers.
So they can't throw it, and they can't stop the other team from throwing it. How are they doing it? The GROUND GAME.
That was one of the first things Paul Wulff said about Stanford this year on last week's radio show. They run the ball well, they are strong up front, and that helps set the tone for what they are trying to do. They have a good offensive line that is big, experienced and physical, with three seniors and a junior among the starters. Senior center Alex Fletcher is outstanding, and SI named him a mid-season All-American. High praise for a conference full of very good centers (Alex Mack at Cal, Max Unger at Oregon, etc). They average an impressive 192.4 yards per game on the ground, good for second in the conference to only Oregon. And that's with teams knowing Stanford is going to run the ball, teams knowing that Stanford cannot do anything through the air. Impressive to say the least.
Toby Gerhart is finally healthy this year after going down with a serious knee injury in the second game of 2007, ranking second in the PAC-10 in total rushing yards with 779, and is third with nine TD's. Gerhart's a truck at 6-1, 228, and oh yeah, runs a 4.5 forty. Yikes.
Stanford is also strong in the red zone. They have scored on 22 of 24 trips inside the 20, tied with Arizona for number one in the conference at 91.7 percent. Even though they aren't a high flying offense, they do get the job done with the opportunities that present themselves.
Stanford's also tough rushing the passer, number two in the conference in sacks with 26, just two behind Oregon for tops in the conference. And against the run, they are fourth in the PAC-10. Not great, but good enough. But they are certainly strong up front, with their ability to get sacks and slow down the running game. One more quickie - Stanford is number ONE in punting, with a net of 38.2 yards per punt. That's a NET, which includes the return yardage. They only give up 1.9 yards per punt return.
So there you have it. 1) They run the ball, 2) they are tough against the run, 3) they get to the passer, 4) they are efficient in the red zone, and finally, 5) they play excellent special teams.
Ever hear what Paul Wulff claims they want to do as a program? Almost always, running the ball and stopping the run are two of the first things he will mention as things they want to do on a weekly, consistent basis. And oh yeah, get pressure on the opposing QB, and play strong, sound special teams. Sort of like what Stanford is doing right now, isn't it?
Now here's the thing that doesn't look real promising for a year-two turnaround from a WSU perspective. Harbaugh isn't profiled as some high-flying, no-huddle offense type. He's all about the three yards and a cloud of dust, punch you in the face football. This is what Stanford has set out to do from day one, and they are quickly morphing into what that program will be all about. Sure, they want to throw the ball better, but under Harbaugh these guys are going to be about running the ball and stopping the run, playing a very physical style of football.
And if the shoe fits? Stanford will always be able to get the strong, brainy, disciplined type of players, and not the super bad-ass elite speed guys that will flock to USC, Oregon, Cal and ASU. So this style of play suits them just fine, thank you. However, Stanford's model isn't what Wulff wants to do. I think it's clear that Harbaugh's transition to this style of play is an easier thing to do vs. where Wulff wants to take us, which is that no-huddle spread style of offense. It doesn't take a genius to see that the transition thus far isn't uh, working out....to say the least.
I know many of us have said all along to give Wulff time to turn it around. Let's see what happens after a few more of his recruiting classes get assimilated into the program, and the young underclassmen you see playing every week start to get bigger and stronger with some time in this new program. And I know I have been right there with everyone else, pointing to 2010 as the year that we could really see a leap forward. But in looking at Harbaugh and Stanford, I don't think there is much here for Coug fans to hang our hats on. Some fans are going to look at Stanford this week and say "See, Stanford turned it around quickly under Harbaugh! WSU can too, next year!" I just don't see a lot of hope for WSU 2009 while looking at Stanford 2008. Do you? The style of play is just so different as to what Harbaugh and Wulff want to do, so I don't think this is a very good comp. SORRY TO WASTE YOUR TIME!
That's about it. Enjoy your Monday, and as always, GO COUGS!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Victory Bell (V.B.):
Gentlemen, thank you for being here.
David Gergen (DG) and Pat Buchanan (PB):
It's good to be here.
David Gergen, let's start with you. What are your thoughts about the current dynamics of this race?
Well, I think that the dynamics are obviously fascinating. On one hand, you have this lingering question about whether or not there even is a race and whether or not an award even exists. Three quarters of the parties involved haven't even acknowledged that there is a race, let alone announced any campaign.
But, the other fascinating point is how the WSU Football Blog has managed to turn this into an Italian Parliamentary Election. In American Politics, we're used to a two-team race where the victor has to capture the imagination of the majority of the electorate. But here, it's a four team race meaning that a ticket could win with only 25.1% of the vote.
Obviously, such math favors the underdog. So I think it's a very savvy move by the WSU Football Blog to frame this as a four team race.
I totally agree with David here. This is a brilliant move undertaken by a bunch of poised, veteran political operatives. If the nation didn't know about Longball yet, they do now. He is a tremendous force to be reckoned with as the manager of this complex, diverse campaign. What talent, what strategy!
Okay, so let's talk strategy. What do you see as being the main dynamics of this race?
Well, clearly you have to say that the structural advantage lies in the Condotta-Withers camp. They have the largest readership, are quite competent and professional, one of them blogs actively, and they also represent both the Huskies and the Cougars. Collectively, those factors give them access to an enormous share of the electorate and market share (if you will), so they should really win this thing handily. The key for them is to not rest on their laurels, because the electorate is still quite vulnerable to believing what might be construed as "baseless attacks."
While I agree with David on the last point, I don't think its right to underestimate the Grippi-Blanchette ticket.
With them, you have the second largest media market in the State, a dedicated and somewhat monolithic readership, and a host of experience.
They might just be content to let the others just go at each other, win the Spokane region, and walk home with the presidency... I mean, award.
So, David, what do you think about the Post-Intelligencer's chances?
I like them. They have a hardcore partisan in Jim Moore who really resonates with the Cougar Base. Molly Yanity is young, but she brings the gender card into the debate. Will women flock to her and Moore because of gender? That's a possibility and one that might make a big difference with a 25-30% threshold.
Plus, Jim Moore is not a beat reporter, so his record is not held to as much technical scrutiny as we would see in someone like Condotta.
But this is where I disagree with David. I think that the PI ticket is effectively toast.
The only meaningful cross-over that Moore-Yanity have is with Dog lovers.
And for that reason, I thought the WSU Football Blog's move to put a photo of Sedihawk with his dog Barkley on their campaign announcement was genius--it split the Golden Retriever vote right down the middle.
So, lets talk about the WSU Football Blog. What is their strategy and what are their chances?
Well, their chances are paradoxically good but small. On one hand, they have the problem of name recognition which is why you've seen an all-out publicity stunt from the start of the campaign.
But, from what I've seen, their strategy might prove to be effective. Basically, they know that the major markets are out of their reach.
So, what you see them doing is hitting small, rural communities that tend to be highly pro-Washington State University. Their thought is that securing the support of those towns will get them from 16 to 20 points which I think is what they are polling now.
But, even with that approach, they're still short about 9 points.
What they're doing is taking a page right out of Karl Rove's playbook. Each move they make is meant to take away the opposition's strength. So, they go at Grippi's methodicism because if they disarm that, Grippi has nothing to run on.
So, I think that you will see them take that bent at every turn that they can--especially against the Seattle papers.
Exactly. What I would add is this: What the WSU Football Blog wants is for the Seattle Papers to go at each other. If things get nasty enough, then places like Marysville, Tukwilla, Burien, and Spanaway may come into play.
And that may be exactly what the WSU Football Blog needs to steal this election.
Fascinating. Last question, what main political or popular figures are the campaigns targeting right now?
Great question, Liberty.
That's "Victory," Pat.
Whatever. I'd have to say that Jason Gesser and Mike Price are huge targets right now in this election. They carry so much weight with the WSU base. Gesser with the fantastic record on the field, Price carrying them to two Pac-10 titles. Their endorsements would be huge.
For me, there's no question about the man that all parties are actively courting right now: It's Keith Jackson. The man is a legend, perhaps the biggest name in WSU sports history. Whomever wins the support of Keith Jackson will win this election. There's no question in my mind about that.
Thank you, gentlemen, for your time.
PB & DG:
Thank you. Read more ...plus comments
Saturday, October 25, 2008
ONALASKA, WA--"Hello, Logger Nation!" exclaimed Brinkhater to a capacity crowd on Day two of the WSU Football Blog's campaign for College Football Sportswriters of the Year.
"Its good to be back in the place where all things that start off Purple and Gold grow up to see the light of Crimson and Gray! And on a clear day in Onalaska, legend has it that you can actually see Russia!"
According to campaign officials, the purpose of the Blog's swing through the battleground of Southwestern Washington was for Brinkhater and Sedihawk to present a set of talking points which they hope will lead them victory in November.
With that goal in mind, campaign officials hoped that the two might be able to construct a narrative around the three pillars of their campaign: Experienced Leadership, Trust, and Fiscal Responsibility.
"In this day and age, any Tom, Dick, or Sherry can start a blog" noted Sedihawk, the Blog's co-founder.
"You know that, I know that, and the American People know that."
"But I also want you all to know and remember that Brinkhater and I started the WSU Football Blog before those large newspapers even knew what a Blog was. So, I ask you: when times are uncertain as these times are, who can you really trust to advance the cause of Cougar Nation when you need things done right?"
"Also too," noted Brinkhater as the applause subsided, "You will hear all of the other candidates talk about their records of outstanding journalism and how they are worthy of your trust as such. But I ask you--I beseech you--how many of those other corporate, liberal media types have shown something even more important?"
What I am saying is, how many of them have adequately proven that they actually trust YOU?"
Amidst a chorus of boo birds, Sedihawk noted that other media outlets have made life miserable for those who wish to comment on their Blogs. Among the hassles he noted on opponent's web-sites were constant mandates to disclose e-mail addresses, names, addresses and zip codes, phone numbers, and dates of birth.
"The only thing they don't ask for is your Social Security number," Sedihawk lamented to the crowd.
"But we at the WSU Football Blog have never done that!" Brinkhater interjected to thunderous applause.
"And we never will!"
"You have our word on that," the two exclaimed in chorus. "And that is why we are running for College Sportswriters of the Year!"
While the two were supposed to include additional discussion of their record of Fiscal Responsibility, they apparently forgot to do so. And, instead, quickly dove into the crowd.
In other developments at the event, the WSU Football Blog also announced that fellow blogger Longball was appointed Chair, Adviser, and Manager of the campaign.
In the first definitive act in his new role, Mr. Longball addressed reporters after the event.
"These guys are really something. You know, at first, I was just a lonely guy who posted on the Blog every once in a while. But then one day, they asked me to join the team. Next thing I know, I have a new job and I'm getting regular offers from Fortune 500 companies just about every week."
"So, the message we're trying to put out there is that these guys are more than just outstanding sportswriters, they've also got a proven record of creating jobs."
"So it's my role in the campaign to make sure that America sees that."
But sources close to the campaign suggest that doing so will be no easy task.
In only two short days, the trio has completely exhausted its limited budget and is struggling to find sources to supplement their weak cash reserves.
"The fact that Brinkhater still lives with his parents helps" a source close to the campaign noted, "but look what they're up against: three multi-million dollar corporations. And their name recognition is barely polling in the double digits."
Over the coming days, the trio plans to make their way up the I-5 corridor en route to traversing towns around the Olympic Peninsula including Hoquiam, Chehalis, Sheldon, Sequim, Quilcene, and Neah Bay.
"We will not stop until the entire state has heard our message." Sedihawk promised.
But there's only one week left. Stay tuned.
Friday, October 24, 2008
WASHTUCNA, WA - Professional sports writers beware. On Thursday, on a glorious fall evening in the greater Washtucna area, WSU Football Bloggers "Brinkhater" and "Sedihawk" officially announced their joint candidacy to be crowned top Washington State College Football Writers for 2008.
The two join an already talented pool of candidates that include the twin bills of Jim Moore and Molly Yanity of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Bob Condotta and Bud Withers of the Seattle Times, as well as the Vincent Grippi-John Blanchette conglomerate of Spokane's Spokesman Review.
While the two announced that more specific details of their candidacies would be announced in the coming days, Brinkhater used the initial press conference to go on the offensive. Vincent Grippi, the top scribe of WSU Athletics of the Spokesman Review, was Brinkhater's primary target.
"For too long now, WSU Nation has suffered the wrath of the stodgy, outdated ideas and journalistic methods of Vincent Grippi and his other colleagues from the State's major newspapers. So, after careful consideration and with the full blessing of our families and spiritual advisers, we are here to declare our intention to run for--and win--the state's top award for College Football Sportswriters."
Pundits were shocked by the announcement. Nobody knew that the award existed, that it was up for grabs, or that there would be any type of public election. But citing a need for change, Brinkhater's declaration "should serve as a warning for all mainstream media types that everything is on the table. And to my fans all over the globe, please be assured that help is on the way."
Meanwhile, reaction began pouring in from all over Cougar Nation. "I had no idea you could even do something like this", said Bud Nameck, WSU football sideline reporter. "But having said that, I can't disagree with any of it. Brinkhater and Sedihawk really are a breath of fresh air. Each week I let them into my home with their columns and predictions, filling the deep void left by the lack of mainstream media's ability to inform and entertain. I mean, I can read notebooks or get links to other stories about WSU pretty much anywhere. But I think that perhaps some of the old acts have grown tiresome. In these troubling times, we really need a change."
When reached at his palatial Tacoma estate last night, longtime WSU football announcer Bob Robertson said "I don't know who Brinkhater is, and quite frankly, I don't care for blogs, message boards or the Internet in general. But where Vince Grippi of the Spokesman is concerned, well, he has a long history of being an honest beat reporter who gets the facts straight. OK, so he blogs about his family outings with his Dad when the Cougs travel to UCLA and muses about problems at his apartment in Pullman during home games. But who doesn't want to read about that?"
When asked if his statement reflected his infamous dark sarcasm, Robertson quickly stammered into a play-by-play call of a three-yard gain by former WSU running back Frank "Magic" Madu, "weaving his way up the middle and lunging out to the 42-yard line!" When asked what he meant by the description of the Madu carry, Robertson replied "Who? What now?" before abrupty ending the call with his trademark "always be a good sport, be a good sport always" catch phrase.
In a prepared statement, WSU Football Blog contributors "Longball" and "Hooty McBoob" roundly endorsed Brinkhater and Sedihawk for the honor.
"Brinkhater has been an outstanding blogger on the WSU landscape for many wonderful years. And his record speaks for itself" said Longball. "We would be thrilled to see him and Sedihawk assume the top spot in WSU Nation."
Said McBoob: "Who else on the planet has been able to acquire an amazing 46-2 record picking WSU Football and Basketball games? Even though I hate the sport of basketball, I cannot deny Brinkhater's greatness. And Hawk, wow. Have you seen the stuff he's done this year? And in our worst year EVER? The daily content is better than ever! And as Brinkhater himself has said, this is a time for change. "
Throughout the press conference, Brinkhater continued to fire shots across the bow of the Grippi campaign, calling the self-described aging and balding former athlete "out of touch with his audience." Brinkhater then touted his own 46-2 record picking Cougar football and hoops games over the past two years. "I simply ask you all to look at the record, and compare it to Grippi's. I think that when people open their minds and review our respective accomplishments, the WSU Football Blog will become the people's obvious choice."
The Grippi-Blanchette campaign had no immediate reaction, perhaps because there isn't a true Grippi-Blanchette campaign. Vince Grippi appeared, like many others, to be completely unaware that there was such an award or that there would be an election.
When reached at his home late last night, after several moments of stunned silence, Grippi tabbed the situation as "outrageous" and refused to comment further pending a morning meeting with his Spokesman advisers.
Election Day is Tuesday, November 4th. Polls open for early voting starting the morning of Friday, October 31, 2008. Every vote counts.
'til then....stay Tuned. Read more ...plus comments