Sunday, November 30, 2008

Brinkhater and Beavs Bite It


Tonight, the Beavs lost their token chance at the Rose Bowl and Brinkhater lost his perfect season of Cougar prognostications, as the Cougs turned in a frustrating 24-10 defeat.

Overall, the defense looked quite inspired and Levy showed in my book that he is the man of the future. IF you saw the kid run and saw his arm strength, you know that he HAS to be the guy moving forward. He really does have the stuff to develop into a fine winning Pac-10 QB.



Here's what I saw via the online streaming option from the island:

  • Turpin had a really nice sack on Alexander late in the 4th where he blew off the center and guard and then chased and caught Alexander on the sideline. Very impressive.
  • The D actually looked really good. We obviously still have problems in the secondary, but the linebackers in particular looked really fast and we shot the gaps well.
  • We had a cool (almost) 3-8 look on defense in the second half where we were stunting guys all over the place. We were fast and aggressive and were actually quite fun to watch.
  • I think we'll really miss Trent at times next year, but watching Bland and Mattingly yesterday was quite exciting.
  • That said, the offense still lacks so much imagination although there were a lot of missed opportunities. Levy has the happiest of happy feet right now, but as I noted on the post, he has good Pac-10 speed for the position and has the type of arm strength that Brinkhater has been dreaming of for the last five years.
In reference to someone's comments tonight, we DID have a chance to win that game. Levy missed Gibson by 7 inches for six in the 3rd on a go pattern. We missed recovering a fumble on a punt that would have made it a 7 point game late, and Levy overshot Norrell on a surefire touch late in the game.

Plus, Giles' fumble following the blocked FG was beyond ridiculous.

Final notes: Tardy again ran like a champ--really, really hard. With a healthy Ivory, Mitz, and Montgomery entering the fold, expect more ball control next year. That said, if you saw the action on the play action with Levy in the game, it makes you wonder what could have been.

You can all be proud of the effort they put into the contest. In the end, they bought in.

Kudos to the defensive coaching staff for bringing the boys along in the last three games.


The offense, meanwhile, needs a whole lot of work.

Thanks for sticking with us through this season. Click here for more ...plus Comments

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Last Call for Seniors

Hoping for TV coverage of the game tonight? If you are on the islands you are set, but you are out of luck if you are in the greater 48. What's weird is how ESPN had the game on it's schedule as part of the ESPN Game Plan. It was listed all week as one of the options.....until yesterday. SEE!?!?



However there is a streaming option via the web, if you feel so inclined. It's showing as available tonight via something called Oceanic-Time Warner, an outfit that streams UH games. Tonight's game is listed at $12.56, not totally unreasonable.

Now for the bad news. It's not exactly a slam-dunk that you will be able to get the game, even on the web. From someone named "RosiesBoy" on Cougfan, some valuable information has been passed on:

I think some people who are planning on buying that stream might be setting themselves up for disappointment. There have been at least two games with problems this year, one meant both the island and mainland feeds on cable and internet pay per view customers missed the entire 1st quarter. The company refused to refund the 10,000 customers who were affected in that instance and said they weren't responsible since the overload on the system was caused by the Fresno State fans.


Oceanic claimed no fault because the outage "was on the Fresno side of the ledger," vice president and operations manager Norman Santos said. "Our position is we delivered substantially the whole game," Santos added. "We controlled what we could. If we're looking at the end of the game it's a whole different scenario. That would have resonated."

"The only thing off the table is a full refund," said McNamara.


http://209.85.173.132/search?q=cache:5AhDNqKcTGYJ: www.starbulletin.com/columnists/davereardon/200810 07_oceanics_answer_not_our_fault.html+hawaii+footb all+streaming+requirements+oceanic&hl=en&c t=clnk&cd=8&gl=us

Another PPV problem: Associate athletic director John McNamara said a resolution has been reached to compensate PPV purchasers for the problem at the beginning of today's telecast that blacked out the first four minutes of the UH football game against New Mexico State.UPDATE: McNamara said purchasers will be refunded 1/12 of what they paid for today's game via credit. No calls required.

http://blogs.starbulletin.com/uhsportsextra/anothe r-ppv-problem/

So, if you DO decide to fork over the cash for the feed, just be prepared in case something doesn't go quite as planned.

On the game tonight, whether you watch it, listen to it or follow it online, one thing lost in this bad season is that this is the end for some pretty good seniors. Greg Trent has been playing regularly since early in 2004, taking over for an injured Will Derting in the fourth game that year. After some serious growing pains, he evolved into a pretty good tackler, albeit a bit undersized in the middle. We'll never forget how hard Trent played, no matter the situation.

But the biggest "headline" senior has to be Brandon Gibson. In what was regarded as a real boost to the team last year, Gibson decided to return to WSU after being informed he was a sure 2nd-day NFL draft pick (rumors had him pegged for the 4th or 5th round). It's easy to forget how big Gibson was in 2007. He led the PAC-10 in receiving yards per game (107.3) and had a team-high 1180 yards, as well as nine TD's. This year it's been a different story:

2007:
Catches: 67
Yards: 1180
TD: 9
100-yard games: 6, including the last 4 of 2007.

2008:
Catches: 56
Yards: 655
TD: 2
100-yard games: 1

It obviously hasn't gone as planned for Gibby, for one reason or another. I think back to the very first game of the year and wonder if things could have been different? You don't want to over-react to how things go early in a season, but the team showed some fight vs. Okie State, even with some horrible special teams play. They never gave up and rallied for a couple of scores in the third quarter to make it somewhat interesting. But then there were those drops.

Gibson had at least one deep ball that was flat-out dropped, and another that he probably could have had. Both catches could have changed that game. And who knows how his season could have gone from there? Maybe it helps loosen up defenses, knowing they have to respect the deep ball from Gary Rogers to Brandon Gibson? Maybe Gibson's confidence gets even better and he uses that opener as a springboard into 2008? Instead it's been one frustrating week after another.

That said, it's hard to fault Gibson for 2008. We saw FIVE different QB's play for WSU this season - Gary Rogers, Kevin Lopina, Marshall Lobbestael, JT Levenseller and Dan Wagner - after basically one guy started for 3 1/2 seasons. So how could anyone develop any continuity? Besides, several WSU receivers opposite Gibson were hurt from the get-go, like Jeshua Anderson, or others were far too young to have any impact, like Jared Karstetter or Kevin Norrell. And you can't forget tight end Devin Frischknecht and his bum ankle. Frischknecht was set up to have a big senior year, at least I sure thought so, after showing some real upside at the end of last year. He had a huge Apple Cup in 2007, five catches for 88 yards and two TD's, and you could see that he might have been a big boost to the passing game this year. But it just wasn't to be.

The best news for Gibson is that he's now the leading WR in school history, passing Jason Hill's career yardage record. So even with a tough final act in 2008, he will still have a secure place atop the WSU record book. Here's hoping that Gibson has one last big performance tonight to cap off an excellent four years at WSU!

ENJOY THE GAME tonight, and GO COUGS! Click here for more ...plus Comments

Friday, November 28, 2008

Football Friday Week XIV - Letdown Style

Brinkhater Addition Edition: Update 11:26am Saturday

Greetings Cougar Nation. Hope you all have had a joyous start to the Holiday Season.

On my front, I've got family galore in town. So, this post is going to be especially uninformative and brief.

Nation, as you all know, today I am playing for my second consecutive national championship. With a correct prediction today, Brinkhater goes a perfect 25-0 over the last two football seasons. Add to that only 2 losses last year in basketball (blew BOTH Arizona games) and you can see that its time for some serious streak breaking! Thankfully, I have two really, really great games to test my final mettle.

Nation, in my mind, both contests today are either going to be blowout losses or major upsets won with great moxy and execution.

First, on the basketball front, while I was too late to predict our win yesterday, I am not too late to predict our shocking upset of Pitt today. Obviously, Taylor is going to have to play much, much, much better than he did yesterday. And Mr. Thompson is going to have to play even better. But, as we've noted here before, our little Ole Pack defense is just really hard to figure out if you haven't seen it before. And, as we've seen so far this year, no one seems to have figured us out yet, and I think Pitt becomes another victim of T-Bone's genius.

Cougs make really nice statement for the Selection Committee as November Ends thanks to clutch free throws by Rochestie down the stretch:

Cougs 59 Pitt 55


Now onto football.

Nation, we have seen many a GOOD team finish badly over the last few years. From the 2006 Washington State Cougars to the 2007 Oregon Yucks and CAL Bears (and maybe the 2008 Arizona Mildcats), sometimes a good year just falls to pieces down the stretch.

And with that in mind, Brinkhater believes that the opposite may be true for us this season. While this group will always represent the worst WSU team of our lives in my mind, something tells me this group is headed to 3-10 for some of the same reasons Sedi noted below.

Simply put, I think our Defense is going to be stout. I think we're going to keep the turnover ratio down just like last week, and I think that our running game and emergent short passing game is going to be enough to pull off this ball-control shocker.

WSU 25 Hawaii 24

Elsewhere:

Beavs 38 Oregon 30. You don't win last week at AZ if you don't win the whole thing. Its in the Cosmos, Beavs head to Pasadena as Canfield comes off the bench to rally the Beavs from a 20-7 halftime deficit.

SC 24 ND 3. I really don't like SC's O, but I really, really like their D.

BIG ONE:

Clay Bennett University 41 Clay Bennett State University 30

Enjoy the Game


Ah yes, Hawaii. The only state in the union that good 'ol McLovin would actually pick for a fake ID. "McLovin? One name? Who are you, Seal?"




McLovin, the 25-year old Hawaiian organ donor. FANTASTIC.

SO, for this week, Hawaii. After a desolate season of seasons, the end of the road is finally in sight. As Paul Wulff has said for several weeks now, the moment this season is over this will be a much better football team (no disrespect to the current seniors who will ride off into the sunset). So clearly a lot of people, coaches included, have been anxiously waiting to turn the page of 2008.
What do we know about this game? Here's just a few things:

  1. It's REALLY important for Hawaii to win this one. At 6-5 and a bowl bid on the line, they must get to seven wins to guarantee post-season play. A check of their schedule shows #16 Cincinnati coming in next weekend, and in reality Hawaii will be the underdog in that one. This game is circled as "must win", big-time.

  2. What will be left in the Cougar gas tank? Last week was, let's face it, the epitome of dropping loads of emotion on the football field. It's awfully tough to get it cranked back up on the road after such an emotional home experience over your in-state rivals.

  3. Hawaii struggled early with their QB situation, but now that they finally settled in with Greg Alexander, they are playing closer to the Hawaii team we are familiar with. They still can drop 40 or more points on a lot of teams, scoring 49 last week vs. Robb Akey's Idaho Vandals and 42 the week before that against New Mexico State. Alexander is hot, 118 pass attempts and counting since his last INT. Things are clicking all of a sudden, and this is not the best week to play them.

  4. You cannot forget the WSU defense. Yes, it's been better of late. A lot better actually, holding our last two opponents under 400 yards of total offense (398 to ASU on the road, 323 to UW at home). There really has been a sense of improvement since the overall change to the three-man defensive line, as well as the return to action from Toby Turpin, the big lug in the middle who has been making some plays at nose tackle.

  5. We know the Cougar offense will have some issues moving the ball, as we always seem to do on a weekly basis. Even with the big pass play to Jared Karstetter that will go down in Apple Cup lore, Kevin Lopina was hovering in the low-100's in passing yardage. Not good. But maybe something clicked last week with the running game? For the first time all year, they stuck with the run into the second half, and it worked, with a season-best 171 yards rushing (discounting the Portland State I-AA game). The run was the key to that win in the second half and in OT as well.
    The bad news for the Cougar O is that Hawaii starts NINE seniors on defense, so they are experienced. Linebacker Solomon Eliminian is a machine, now over 400 tackles in his career. When it's all said and done he will go down as one of the greatest linebackers in WAC history. They play well in front of their fans, as they get an extra jolt from the home crowd. Like Paul Wulff said earlier in the week, you can feel like you are down 14 points before you even take the field against these guys in their house.
So there's the basics. On paper you can see why Hawaii is such a big favorite, opening at 28 points and actually moving to 29.5. There is one thing I think about, however, one shining light, that might make this a much better game the odds-makers are saying. I think the WSU defense will keep this one interesting. Seriously. Why? Because of the run-n-shoot style Hawaii will throw out there plays into the strength of the WSU defense.


In 2008, "strength" and "WSU defense" haven't always existed in the same sentence. Except when headed by "lack of".......but when you think about the Coug D, you don't think about size. If you do, you think SMALL, not big. They are a smallish, speedier defense that has trouble against the power running teams who get five yards on every single rushing attempt. But against the pass, the Cougs are respectable, giving up 185 yards per game through the air or #5 in the PAC-10.

I know stats can be misleading, and several games earlier in the year, the team was so far behind early that opponents barely threw the ball down the stretch. But moving Andy Mattingly back to linebacker was a big boost in the pass defense last week, and he should be even better this week after a full game of getting familiar with the position. Don't forget what that guy did in 2007, and a lot of his success came as a 3-4 linebacker. And Louis Bland played with the heart of a lion last week, making huge plays all over the field. He is a rising star by all accounts, and having him team with Mattingly and Greg Trent makes the linebacking corps our best position BY FAR on the football field.

And with the three-man front, that scheme enables them to drop more into coverage and handle the passing offense like Hawaii will roll out tomorrow night. The three-man front in football was basically invented to better handle passing offenses like the west coast offense, or even the run-n-shoot. Clog up more passing lanes with more bodies back there who can run, and it could be interesting.

In the end, I think Hawaii has too much on the line to let this one get away. They are one game away from getting back to a bowl game, and they won't let the opportunity slip through their fingers, especially at home. They are playing much better with Greg Alexander at QB, and they should keep it going this week. I do believe the Cougar D will come to play, and keep things interesting, but I just don't think we can bank on much from the offense. Combine all that with the emotion letdown that is likely for these young kids, and you can see where this one is headed. While I don't believe this will go exactly the way Vegas believes, I do think Hawaii wins it by a couple of scores. I'll go Warriors 31, WSU 17.

Other games:

Oregon 31, Oregon State 28 - The Rose Bowl dream comes to an end. The Beavs escaped big-time last week, and they are doing what "teams of destiny" tend to do, and that's find ways to win games when all appears lost. But Oregon has had an extra week to get ready for this one, and with the Beavs minus Jacquizz Rodgers, one of the best impact frosh running backs the PAC-10 has ever seen? I just think the Yucks break some hearts in this one.

ASU 35, UCLA 20 - ASU can still salvage a bowl game, even after their terrible start. They are at home, and clearly the better team here.

USC 47, Notre Dame 13 - Are they really going to buy out Charlie Weis? I heard Beano Cook say earlier this week that after talking to some of his sources, Weis is in BIG trouble. The players hate him and will lay down this week to grease the skids out of town.

BIG National game:
Oklahoma 42, Okie State 38 - Great match-up of exciting offenses in a rivalry game. It's at Okie State, but Oklahoma is probably the hottest team in the country right now. Let the BCS bitching begin.

ENJOY YOUR DAY, and GO COUGS! Click here for more ...plus Comments

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy T-Day Cougs

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and to all, a great day of feeding your faces.

GET SOME EA! Girl's gotta eat, even if it's on TV.

But even with her scarfing down what looks like your typical foot-long hoagie(?), well, we still love EA for simply standing somewhat close to the WSU flag.

We love her A LOT, actually. As the latest polls have shown:

Not sure how a poll can be 98% - 3%, but whatever. Close enough. It is what it is (fake).

Oh, and we wish our friends in Oklahoma City a very happy T-Day. You know, Oklahoma City? The "major league" town that now boos their beloved, hijacked, 1-win OKC Thunder? Have a bucket of KFC with extra skin and a nice warm Bud on us.

But at least they won't have PJ Carlesimo to kick around anymore.


Moving on, Hawaii. Thought it might be a good idea to think about this week's game and try to put last week behind us(in honor of Ted Miller, a 16-13 win).....hard as that is to do. We remember Hawaii from their unbeaten season in 2007 and Sugar Bowl wipe-out vs. UGA. We remember yards and points from Colt Brennan and all those WR's in the run-n-shoot. But what do we know about Hawaii in 2008?

After starting off a rough 1-3, including blowout losses at Florida, Oregon State and a tight one at home vs. San Jose State, they have circled the wagons a bit. Maybe not in the Oregon State style of circling the wagons, but still, they've been tough. Hawaii is 5-2 in their last seven games, including a win over then-#22 Fresno State to kick off their current seven-game stretch.

What's weird with Hawaii is how they are winning. It certainly isn't how it used to be, which was overwhelming yards and points through the air. Right now they are averaging 25 points and 364 yards of total offense per game. Not bad, but a far cry from 2007's 43 points and an amazing 512 yards per game. But however it's happening, they are still getting it done in the WAC.

QB Inoki Funaki is/was their leading passer. I say is/was because he's not the starter anymore. Ever since a 5-INT game vs. Boise State last month, his PT has been slowly disappearing in favor of JC transfer Greg Alexander.

Alexander was a big-time QB recruit out of Santa Rosa, CA, setting a national JC record with 71 TD passes in two seasons. Good size at 6-3, 230, and a decent arm, he's been very good since taking over after Funaki's 5-pick disaster in Boise.

Hawaii is 3-1 in their last four games with Alexander getting the majority of the action. After throwing two INT's in the season-opening blowout at Florida, Alexander has an 8-0 TD/INT ratio in just his last four games. Even better, he's now at 118 consecutive pass attempts without an interception. Sure sounds like the right fit in the run-n-shoot.

But Hawaii has had a weird year at 6-5. Included in some of their losses were the early-season home game vs. San Jose State, as well as a 30-14 loss at Utah State. Not to poke fun at Utah State......they've been a regular in the ESPN Bottom Ten with....uh.....WSU.....but that loss was a head-scratcher.

Anyway, Hawaii is still a winning program looking for another bowl game. Greg McMackin only had four starters coming back on each side of the ball for '08, yet they've been able to keep their heads above water. You have to respect how they turned things around after starting 1-3. They could have easily started to gripe about not having June Jones, but when smacked with adversity, the switch went on. And this is a program that is used to winning. Hawaii's been to five bowls in the last six seasons, and a win over WSU will clinch another bid for 2008. You know they'll come out firing.

That's it for today. We'll get more into it as we hit full preview mode for Football Friday.

ENJOY YOUR THANKSGIVING, and GO COUGS! Click here for more ...plus Comments

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wednesday Fun With Video

Well well well....look who's missing from this week's ESPN "Bottom Ten"? Or better yet, look who's #1?


Ouch. Never mind that we would probably be seven-or-more-point underdogs to at least half the teams on that list, but the point is we're no longer there.

Kind of a weird week, what with the holiday and all. So I thought we'd take a look at some of the video from this last week, and there is some great stuff out there. We'll look at Hawaii later, for our usual Football Friday, but for now, some video.

First, of course, the Apple Cup. Our own Hooty had a great shot of the game-winner, and the mad dash to the field. If you haven't seen it already, or would like to see it again, you can check that out here.

But there are others out there who got some video up as soon as that game was over. CougarChris624 had this great look at the game, with photos and actual video from the game (including the Wulff shuffle).



Sorry coach, I think Jean Claude Van-Damme's dance is better.

Image and video hosting by <span class=

Anyway, good work Chris. CougarChris624 is actually Chris Boyd, a 2006 WSU grad who has done some other excellent Coug video. We will likely do some things with him in the future.

Another clip, this one from KXLY. It has some good sideline shots, but the big thing here is to hear Bob-Rob & Jim call the winning kick.



NICE!

Finally, Saturday was ESPN's Gameday feature on the WSU flag. It's quick, only about three minutes and change, and they do make fun of us as being pretty bad. But still, hey, it's nice that they threw us a bone.



It's pretty amazing to think Crimson and Whitey have made the trip for 74 straight shows!?!? Always a source of pride to see it Saturday mornings.

That's it for a light Wednesday. Enjoy your day, and GO COUGS!

Click here for more ...plus Comments

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Paul Wulff Radio Show Recap - Week Fourteen

A light-hearted radio show last night, as you could probably imagine. I'll keep it brief and to the point, at least I'll try to. Here we go:

  • Right out of the chute, of course, they talked about the feeling of winning the Apple Cup. Wulff said it was simply a "great day for everyone" and that he was so happy that they found a way to win the game. It wasn't pretty but they found a way. Wulff said it was great for the fans and that they deserved to celebrate when you consider all they have been through this year, and he thanked them for their patience. But he was especially happy for his seniors. All they had been through in their career and then this season, to go out and win their last home game vs. UW is very special, and a moment that will live with them for the rest of their lives.

  • Bud asked him about the dance, compared by some to the Tommy Lasorda dance when Kirk Gibson hit that famous home run. Wulff said he honestly couldn't remember what he did at that moment, and that he doubts he could re-create it! All he cared about was getting to the middle of the field to get to his players, and it was just a blur.

  • Wulff was asked about Hawaii this week. Wulff said that they are extremely tough at home, one of the best home field advantages around and they get up for BCS opponents. He said sometimes you feel like you are already down 14 points before you even take the field against them at Hawaii. But he said he is excited to see how his players handle it. He especially wants to see how his young players bounce back after such an emotional win, and that no matter what, it will be a good lesson for his young players. However it's NOT like a bowl game to them. They are not getting there until mid-day Thursday, so they will literally have one day, and then it's Saturday. They are approaching it as a business trip, and they are going to play a good game.

  • A caller asked about the progress the team has made lately, and suggested they watch tape of the Cal game, and then watch tape of the UW game to compare the efforts. Wulff said without question, as a staff they have felt that they were playing better. He stressed again that the scoreboard hadn't been showing it lately, but there were areas that they were coming along. It's hard to see it when the end-results have been so poor, but they finally took a step last week.

  • A caller asked about Jeshua Anderson's chest injury, and noted that he seemed to stay in a few plays after it happened and didn't look very good. Wulff said that Anderson thought he could shake off the injury and tried to play through it, but he just couldn't and had to leave the game. They will re-evaluate him this week. The caller also asked about getting another QB for this year's recruiting class. Wulff said right now they have one verbal commit at QB (he didn't name him but it's Jeff Tuel, a 3-star QB from Fresno). Wulff did mention that they MIGHT look at another QB for this class, but they have so many areas they want to address with their scholarships that they will likely just take one.

  • A caller asked why the PAC-10 has destroyed the tradition of rivalry week at the end of the season, and noted that all those games are now spread out over multiple weeks. Wulff said he agreed and wished it was like it used to be, and then hinted that something might be in the works? One thought was that the PAC-10 would move all the rivalry week games to the week of "championship week", when the BIG 12 and SEC have their title games. Jim Sterk was in the room and Bud yelled out "what's the deal Jim?" and Sterk just kind of shrugged and said "no comment". Maybe the cat is out of the bag? Anyway, they also mentioned that the WSU 2009 schedule hasn't been released or finalized in any way, so there might be some movement there.

  • A caller asked about the offensive line for next year, and how they are looking. Wulff said he was pleased with how the youth has played this year, thrown to the fire so to speak, and they are looking better and better. But he also pointed out that they only have ONE senior in their entire 12-man offensive line rotation, so 11 out of 12 will all be back next year. They also have some young players redshirting right now that they are really high on who will step right into the mix next year (Zach Williams?). Personally I'm excited to see how that o-line looks next year with another off-season of lifting and eating right, and a season of game experience under their belts. They might really take a big step next year.

  • The same caller asked about Gary Rogers and his attempt at a medical redshirt. Wulff said that Rogers has applied for it, but they really won't know until this spring if they allow it. They really don't know how it will go, but Wulff said he believes right now that it's a long shot at best. The rule is that if you lost two full seasons due to injury, you could apply for that sixth year, but that isn't exactly the case with Rogers. We'll see. On a side note, Jake Locker applied already for an extra year of playing time and UW sources said he was denied the extra year, based on the fact that he played a full month of this season, plus his other year he missed was due to a redshirt, not an injury.


    The caller asked about how Marshall Lobbestael is doing. Wulff said that he is doing really well in his knee rehab right now, and they are pleased with his early progress. However, he said that he will very likely not be available this spring as they want to take it easy. But they are confident that he'll be OK by fall camp. That is one of the hard parts of this season, losing Lobbestael so early in the year when it looked like he was going to get an excellent opportunity to learn on the fly. They really like him, and the kid has showed something to be excited about in the future.

  • A caller asked about the worst play in the playbook right now, the "jailbreak screen". Even Jim Walden howled about it during the broadcast, and why they were still running that play was beyond him. Wulff said he agreed, and the timing has to be perfect on a play like that. However "we didn't actually call that play this week." Turns out Lopina checked off into the jailbreak screen play, and it obviously didn't work out. It was a good read, as the defense was coming on a blitz, but it just didn't work. Wulff said that play is great against the blitz, but we honestly haven't been blitzed a whole lot this season.

  • A caller asked about the impact of having Dick Bennett talk to the team, and does Wulff use him at all as a resource? Wulff said that he does talk to him, and they talk about all sorts of things. But mainly they talk about the tough seasons in rebuilding, and what Bennett's experiences were compared to what Wulff has gone through thus far. Wulff then went out of his way to say that "when you are rebuilding, there are tough things that all programs go through. And you can't really listen to the outside criticism that always comes with it. Only people on the inside of the program REALLLY know what is going on." Kind of some sharp criticism from Wulff for all the crap that has been written about them this year? But Wulff said that's just part of the deal when you are trying to turn it around, and there will be some things they do that aren't popular. Wulff also said that Bennett has given him some great advice, as far as doing things the right way, staying on course with his plan, don't veer too far off the right path. But also don't be afraid to re-evaluate what you are doing, and always think about the things you are doing and their impact on others.

    Most of all, Wulff loves and respects Bennett because of who he is and what's he's been through. The guy is a "program builder" and has been through exactly what Wulff is going through right now. He's a tremendous resource. Look at where the hoops program was when Bennett showed up? Look at it NOW? I know it's apples and oranges, hoops to football, but it's still about turning around a culture and changing the way things are done, from the ground up. The road isn't always a smooth one.

  • A caller asked about the D-line play, and how they seem to be stepping up their game a little bit. Wulff immediately pointed out the impact of Toby Turpin, and how well he's played at nose tackle for the third straight week. He has been a big part of them playing better. Not that they dominated, of course, and UW's offensive line was pushing on them all game long (and had about 50 pounds per man on each guy), but the line hung in there and fought hard all the way to the end. Wulff also said Ahmu, Mullennix and even Eichelberger did OK out there. Wulff also said that they really seem to like the 3-man defensive front! The players like it, and it also gives them a chance to get a little extra rest as they can rotate bodies in and out a little more by simply not having four defensive linemen on the field at once. Wulff did say that they will likely go back to a four-man defensive line next year, but they have taken to it pretty well this last half of 2008.

  • Bud asked about going for it on fourth and one and a half in the first OT. Wulff said that they not only wanted to get the first down, but they really believed they would get it. He wanted to keep staying aggressive in that situation and the sideline was happy they chose to go for it. Wulff wouldn't say for sure if that was the defining moment, but he did mention that it could be, and that all programs have that "moment where you can build off an experience like that, something they can look back to and think about in the future as to how they went for it and got it in a tough situation." Besides, Wulff also said "there was no guarantee UW was going to make their field goal, even if they didn't make it!" and that brought a few howls from the crowd at the radio show!

  • A caller asked again about recruiting. Wulff said that it's going well right now (they just got a new top-100 offensive line commit). But Wulff said that no matter what, he's never seen a coaching staff work so hard at recruiting. These guys are giving everything they have to find some new talent, and there isn't a coaching staff around who will outwork them in recruiting. They do believe there are some special players that they will get in this class, and that the hard work is going to pay off.

  • Nameck brought up "Cougar Pride" and how even in this tough year, it's still out there. There was a story of a soldier in Afghanistan who got up at 3 AM to try and listen to the game online. When the Internet connection dropped, he called a friend in Washington and sat on the phone with him for the last hour of the game! Very cool. Nameck also brought up how this is the first-ever time in the 101-year history of the Apple Cup that WSU has won four out of five in the series, and that Matt Mullennix is the first-ever WSU player to be on the team that won four Apple Cup games. No other WSU player has ever won it four times. Very cool. Mullennix's dad called into the show and thanked Wulff for the win, and that he was proud of Matt. His dad also said that it helped ease the sting of the 1975 game that WSU blew, where UW came from a couple of scores down late to win. That was a game in which Mullennix's dad played in. Ouch.

  • One last look at the UW game - Wulff said the two biggest things were 1) they stuck with the run in the second half, and they knew they had to do that or else they couldn't win, and 2) they didn't lose the turnover battle! Wulff said again that they talked at halftime and decided no matter what, they were going to stick with the run. And of course, the run was a huge reason they won. The big TD by Mitz, but there were other times where they ran effectively with Dwight Tardy in the second half and even in OT. The 171 rushing yards were the most since the Portland State game.


    And the turnovers, finally, they didn't lose the turnover margin battle! They only "tied", giving it away once, but they took one away themselves. It can be a drastic difference when you aren't giving the thing away three or four times a game, isn't it? That's one thing that was kind of lost in all the excitement, that they didn't play hot potato with the football.

  • JT Levenseller - he WILL PLAY this week. Wulff said they "want to get him as many plays as they can this week" and get him some solid game experience. They also brought up the idea of a redshirt in the future, and Wulff said that is certainly a consideration. Unfortunately he didn't get enough snaps this year and it wasn't an ideal scenario for burning his redshirt, but we'll see how that all plays out. He didn't flat-out say it, but I kind of got the idea that we'll see a lot of JT this week?

  • Finally, one last thing on Hawaii - Wulff said they have been running the same offense this year, and while they've played a few QB's, they are still doing pretty well on offense. But where he said they have improved is their defense. They start nine seniors on defense, and they have a very strong, experienced, active defensive front. Some of their key backups are also seniors, so there is a lot of experience there. Hawaii also has a lot riding on this game. Even though they are 6-5 right now, they have to win this game to be bowl-eligible. If they lose it, they will likely miss out on a bowl game, even though they would be at six wins. So Wulff knows they will be highly motivated this week.

That's about it for this week. A light-hearted show and a very appreciative crowd, and lots of congrats from the callers. Wulff still kept it in check, but you could tell he's still on a high from that game. And in a year like this, who can BLAME THE GUY for being happy with how that game went down? Like Wulff said last week, the day he took this job and the whole "Cougars hunt and kill" comment, well, that was said for WSU fans, and deep down he's a fan as well as the coach. He played at WSU and his Cougar pride runs as deep as anyone. So imagine how you would feel if you beat UW in double-OT?

ENJOY YOUR TUESDAY, and GO COUGS! Click here for more ...plus Comments

Monday, November 24, 2008

Now What?


It's Monday morning, and I think the fans are STILL ON THE FIELD.

As we bask in the glow of another Apple Cup triumph (now four out of the last five), even in this worst-ever season, it never gets old to win your rivalry game. The beer tastes better, food tastes better, hell, the mundane like going to work or school gives you a little pep in your step.

Now, sure, no crowd has probably ever stormed the field after beating an 0-11 team.....at least I doubt it has ever happened.....but does it even matter? Look, if you are a Coug, you have suffered this year. You have been there debating on message boards and leaving comments about what is wrong today, how difficult this change has been on the players and coaches, and maybe even more so, you have dissected when and how it all went wrong. We all have our theories or sources or whatever. It has been that kind of year.

But all that frustration of 2008 came rushing out late Saturday afternoon. After all the hard work, all the embarrassing blowouts, all the local and national talk of WSU looking like one of the worst BCS teams of all time? That all went away - at least for a while - when Grasu calmly drilled his third and final field goal of the day.

Quick side note....what did I tell you about taking the underdog in a rivalry game?? Especially when the teams are relatively even in terms of record, etc. Said underdog has now covered the spread in seven of the last eight Apple Cups. It's no fluke. But I also have to raise my hand to say that yes, I called UW to win this thing, 17-16. ON a field goal by UW! Whoops. Never, ever been so happy to be so wrong.

Speaking of predictions. Brinkhater and I were talking, and decided to actually tally up our picks from 2008 Football Friday on Thursday, and how we stood up to the experts. And who better to compare ourselves against? How about the top local guy and national guy who do these things on a weekly basis, in the people's choice, Vince Grippi, and ESPN's Ted Miller?

Even if you aren't curious, here are the updated numbers, through Saturday's games (note that these are NOT against the spread, only winners/losers):

Ted Miller: 54-15
Vince Grippi: 53-16
Brinkhater: 52-19
Sedihawk: 51-20
Longball: 22-9

Note that we've picked more games than they have, as we usually make a national game pick outside of the Pac-10. But still, not bad for a few hacks in blogger-ville.

But seriously, now what? There is, after all, a game this Saturday night over on the island. Will coach Wulff get them excited to do more than hang out at the beach? It's pretty clear, at least what Wulff said yesterday in his Sunday presser, that he has his work cut out for him.

"It can be (difficult) if we don't handle it right," said Wulff, the WSU coach. "The other thing is, you come off a big, emotional game, then you go to a place that's historically challenging to play at for anybody.

"So yeah, this is going to be a tough, tough test for our psyche."

Maybe that's at least part of the reason they are a 28-point underdog to a 6-5 WAC team?? However, WSU has now covered the last three games, so we've got that going for us....but let's face it, college football is one of the most emotional sports on the planet. As Keith Jackson has famously said, trying to predict what 18-22 year olds are going to do on a weekly basis will drive you crazy.


That said, maybe, just maybe, this Apple Cup win, a game they pulled out in the face of adversity, will be a turning point? A game in which the team had so many chances to just give up, when it looked like UW was going to salt this thing away, yet someone kept stepping up to keep it close? Maybe, just maybe, some of these guys are starting to believe?

We'll take a closer look at Hawaii later this week, in our usual way. And the Wulff radio show will air TONIGHT, so we'll have our usual recap up tomorrow morning. As always, ENJOY YOUR MONDAY, and GO COUGS! Click here for more ...plus Comments

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What a Day!

My CFS (Cougar Football Saturday), started at about 8AM with an omlette and a few Bud Lights. It's now 10:30 PM and that means I have exactly 1 hour and 27 minutes left (I'm a really slow typer) in the best day I've had in a long time! Seriously you guys...this day is in my top 5...

#1 is the day I married the beautiful (and incredibly patient) Mrs. McBoob.
#2t is the day my best buddy in the entire universe - Mini McBoob was born.
#2t is the day my little ray of sunshine (with scattered thunderstorms) - Girl McBoob was born.
#4 is today.
#5 was the '91 Apple Cup when I broke the nose of the asshole husky fan (you know who you are) who kept spitting on my friend's future wife while "woofing" in her ear, as we sat in those wooden bleachers in the East endzone of husky stadium. Stay classy, montlake.

You know who thought it was pretty cool that her 21 year-old, beer-bonging, frat dick, apple of her eye, broke the nose of that asshole husky fan? My Mom. That's who.

You know who just reached her goal of going to the Apple Cup to cheer on her Cougs - only 3 months removed from surgery to remove most of a malignant brain tumor; and just a few weeks removed from more than one month of daily radiation treatments? You guessed it...my Mom!

Here's Ma McBoob, the critters and I in front of the new statue after the game.


Even better, here's Ma McBoob on the field before the game (thanks to one of the best friends in the world) with Coach Tony.

Here she is cooling down after meeting Coach Tony.


Here she is with one of her Cougar heroes, Mike Utley

Before she met Mike, she got to see this. Note to apathetic Cougs around the planet: If you can't get fired up for Apple Cup - even in a year like this one - you need to turn in your badges...


video

There are very few good excuses for missing an Apple Cup in our own stadium - because moments like this one are worth every ounce of abuse we get from our husky “friends” every other day on the calendar...

video

This “meaningless” football game turned out to be HUGE - for both programs.

If you don’t believe me, you need to watch (or maybe re-watch) the clips, sound bites and interviews from after the game. On the good-guys' side you have Wulff running onto the field like a maniac, fans pouring onto the field and Greg Trent making sweet, sweet love to the Apple Cup trophy. Wulff said it himself as he ran off the field: this kind of game, in a season like this makes kids finally BELIEVE in what they’re doing. All of a sudden, young guys like Louis Bland, Logwone Mitz, Toby Turpin and Romeo Pellum look less like stop-gaps and more like building blocks for the future of the program.

On the bad-guys' side, you have hundreds of annoying Husky fans going from chanting “Who’s house? dawg’s house!” - to just whining about being really, really cold, within a span of about 10 minutes; and then you have Ronnie Fouch who when interviewed after the game, looked and sounded as if he had just run over his own dog as he backed out of the driveway.

Both of our programs have nowhere to go but up and I’m looking forward to the day when we’re playing with bowl games on the line instead of pride. For now, we’ll take it: One monumental victory in an otherwise dismal season.

While the fight on the field is more pillow than prize, the fight in the fans is still intense and actually, a little stupid. After the game, everyone apparently had the same idea and rushed to the new statue for some snapshots. As I took one, I caught this husky jagoff (you know who you are) jumping up on the statue...

As you saw from the other picture, I was there with my family. When I realized what was happening, an angel dressed in white appeared on my shoulder, warning me not to do anything stupid in front of the kids - but in an instant, another devil dressed in Crimson appeared on my other shoulder and I guess I liked what I heard. It all happened in a split-second but I did what everyone else should have done - and ran up and knocked his ass into the garden behind the statue. Not wanting to ruin my chances for Dad of the Year, I later turned this into a lesson of respect for my children. Never disrespect others or other people's property - especially if you're a douchebag dressed in purple.

Truth be told, I'm more teddy bear than timebomb but something about obnoxious husky fans just brings out the worst in me - though I don't usually act unprovoked. A few years back in husky stadium, I was dressed as Santa Coug (a tradition I put on hold this year because the kids came with us) and some punk came up behind me and knocked off my hat. I bent down to pick up the hat and as I came up, I saw three guys laughing at their hijinks. I had no idea which one did it so I approached the tallest one and open-hand slapped him across the face. I then put my hat back on, turned and walked away, waiting to get jumped. Note: If you really don't like someone and would like to bitch-slap them in public without them fighting back, get a Santa suit.

Today my wife and I both had to walk through the gaggle of huskies in the endzone bleachers a couple times. One little lush had a smartass comment for me, so I politely told him to go fornicate himself. I accidentally caught another one in the stomach with my elbow. My wife had to go through them once by herself and she said they were giving her a ration of shit too.

I suppose I could have said "excuse me" instead of elbowing that guy, but otherwise, I don't think I owe any apologies...

If you need another prime example of husky smugness, check out the FSN postgame show and watch Angie Mentink, who even in defeat was able to get under Jason Gesser's skin. I guaran-damn-tee you that he would have loved to tell her to go fornicate herself after that final kick sailed through the uprights - but he apparently has more composure than I.

I certainly am not going to be doing any bragging about this game because I'm acutely aware that it could have very easily been another loss. But a football team is only as good as it's worst player and for today anyway, the worst player on the field was the husky kicker. That's not to take anything away from our Cougs though. They battled hard and never gave up - even as many fans had either left or had an eye on the exit for a quick departure. I myself, readied the family for such an escape two times: first on the play before the long pass to Karstetter and again when the huskies had the ball in the first OT. Instead we stayed inside and celebrated an incredibly satisfying Cougar victory.

The new regime has it's first signature victory and we can officially lay to rest the Mike Price/Bill Doba era. Of course one of the signature moments of that era was the 1998 Rose Bowl where the final two second mysteriously slipped off the clock and we were left wo wonder "what if?" Today in Martin Stadium, we got those two seconds back at the end of the 4th quarter when Kevin Lopina spiked the ball, making way for Nico Grasu's game-tying field goal with two ticks left on the clock. The Cougar world is back in balance.

Go Mom! Go Cougs!

Butch in the tunnel before the game

I actually liked the all-crimson lookSome good-looking Cougs in the student section


I knew it...

See you on Sundays, Brandon.

Click here for more ...plus Comments

Congratulations

What a finish, what a game. Who cares about how low both programs sunk to this year. Let the national media make fun of this game. Like we said earlier in the week, you can throw out the records and watch the kids compete, but it IS STILL the Apple Cup! It's a game that still means a hell of a lot to a lot of people, and in particular the players on both teams. So I think we all knew the kids would sell out today and play hard, and while not the prettiest game in the world, the effort on both teams certainly didn't disappoint.

We could try to break down this game, and look at what happened. But I don't want to get too deep into it, but for a few things:
  1. How the HELL does UW not score more than 13 points in this game? They had one running back in Griffin go well over 100 yards and almost had another with Dailey, and as a team they had a net rushing yard mark of 225 yards. Anyone watching that game knows that UW's front line, for the MOST PART anyway, had control of the line of scrimmage. And with that running game, they also dominated time of possession, holding the ball for over 35 minutes combined to just 24 minutes and change for WSU. So it was set up for UW to grind our young skinnies into the ground with their big fatties, but they just never seemed to be able to kick down the door.

  2. I was impressed by our ability, at times, to run the ball ourselves. 171 yards rushing is a good day. Dwight Tardy wasn't 100%, but he sure ran tough, 76 yards on 4.2 yards per carry. He came to play today. And Logwone Mitz, WOW, what a time for a big play! That 57-yard TD definitely got some extra juice in their step, no doubt, and suddenly it was a 3-point game. I heard Wulff on the radio after the game, and he said they really stressed the idea of sticking to the run at halftime, and that without it, "we were not going to win this game." He was right too. If they don't stay committed to running the ball, they probably wouldn't have pulled this sucker out.

  3. The little things just killed UW today, a microcosm of their season. Mitz's TD was great, but there were two UW players totally out of position on that play. And on the big throw from Lopina to Karstetter, the free safety made a horrible play on the ball. But both the safety and the corner bit incredibly hard on the fake to the flat, and Lopina pumped fake just enough to freeze the corner, and Karstetter got free.

    And the missed field goals, JUST WOW. You make any one of those in regulation, you probably win the game. But again, when it mattered most, they couldn't close the deal. It's the same thing as what went down vs. BYU, where they could have at least forced OT but had an extra point blocked. The situations were a little different, sure, but the outcome is the same.

To win games, you HAVE TO DO THE LITTLE THINGS (listen to me, like we're "used" to winning around here all of a sudden! :) But you can move the ball between the 20's all you want, the name of the game is scoring points. We used to be the kings of the 300-yard passing games and very little to show for it the last few years, so yes UW fans, we know of what we speak. Whether on missed field goals or sudden surges by the Cougar D, UW just couldn't get it done.

Anyway, enough of the over-analysis. Somehow, the Cougs found a way, for the first legit time in 2008. They fought through the adversity and when the chips were down, made some plays that did the job.

I think some hearty congratulations are in order, for many of these guys who never gave up.

TO Greg Trent, kissing that trophy in the pic above, congrats to you. You busted your butt all season long, you tried your best to lead with pride and passion, and even though the season was lost a long time ago, you never gave in. A team-high twelve tackles today to cap your career in style in your home finale. You deserve every accolade you can get this year, for you must have felt truly alone in the middle. You had very little help in front of you, as the defensive tackles were eaten alive from the first game of the year vs. Okie State, to even today vs. UW. You had converted safeties in Louis Bland and Myron Beck on each side of you at linebacker, both 200-lb youngsters just learning to play the game. But still, you stuck you neck out there and fought with all you had. So kiss that trophy, coddle it, change it's diaper. You deserve it.

TO Kevin Lopina, way to hang in there. A rough game by any standard, just 167 yards and again, no TD passes. But you never gave up, you took some huge shots, and you kept getting in there. That throw to Karstetter was FLIPPING MONEY. As "Atlanta Coug" said in comments, it doesn't matter what happens in the future or whatever, but you are now forever alive in WSU history. And speaking of Karstetter, how big a play was that for the true frosh? Karstetter had THREE, count 'em, THREE CATCHES IN 2008 coming into this game, yet he saves his best for last. They say he's got a big heart and that we are really going to like Karstetter's future, but way to step up and make a play when WSU nation needed it the most.

TO Nico Grasu, great job! A perfect 3-for-3 today, 2-for-2 on field goals and one XP. Grasu hadn't made a field goal since October 4th vs. UCLA, so to calmly step up and nail those big kicks from the right hash, just huge, huge, huge. GREAT JOB.


Congrats to coach Wulff. This season has been a nightmare in terms of injuries and playing kids who clearly weren't ready. But you also fought against the resistence of the older, lazy players who were used to floating around the pool at Club Doba. So you pulled your boys through, and you deserved to dance like a little kid at the end. Maybe, just maybe, this will be a turning point??

Finally, to the FANS WHO WERE AT THE GAME TODAY, CONGRATS
! It was awfully easy to decide to opt out and miss this game. The game was on TV, the weather forecast was awful, the teams were at historic lows, but yet you still made the trip and cheered these guys on to victory. You deserve to storm the field and celebrate. You played a part in this thing, so to you, congrats.

So there you have it. 2008 is in the books. That's now four out of five, the first time ever in the 101-year history of the series where WSU has done that well. And what do you know, for the third time in the last four Apple Cup wins, WSU came from behind in the fourth quarter to win this thing. So much for "cougin' it". Maybe it's more like "UW dawged it"?

ENJOY YOUR SATURDAY NIGHT! AND as always, GO COUGS! Click here for more ...plus Comments

Game On - Apple Cup '08

Here we go.


4:40 1st Quarter (Brinkhater): Iron Triangle is playing inspired football. Bland and Trent are shooting gaps nicely. Offensively, why either team throws is beyond me. Totally agree on the comment that Fouch v. Lopina is the worst QB match-up ever. We need 3 first downs on this drive!

1:34 1st Quarter (BH): 2 yard punt gives the Defeateds good field position. Too bad. This game really deserves to be 0-0 at halftime.


End of 1st: 1/4 of the way to a 0-0 Game. We can only hope

12:17 2nd Quarter (BH): The dream ends. 7-0 Dawgs. How we respond on this next drive will be crucial. You know you're bad when 7-0 feels totally out of hand.

11:43 2nd Quarter (BH): Game Time. Lopina shows he's in a league of his own--I've never seen a guy do a better pre-snap Peyton Manning Routine. Amazing. If D doesn't hold, we'll fold.

9:39 2nd Quarter (BH): See, see, see! 1-2-3 Kick! First three and out of the season. Meanwhile, I'm cramping up from typing. Someone get me off the field!

7:42 2nd Quarter (BH): Damn it, do NOT take Lopina out. 0 touches and 11 picks is not a large enough sample.

5:00 2nd Quarter(SH): Nice 30-yard screw-up by the refs. Aren't two knees down, uh, down? Yeesh. (BH). Time to start drinking...

4:00 2nd Quarter. (BH) Thank god Lopina is still in.

3:00 2nd Quarter (SH) Jeshua Anderson and Tony Thompson both out. Anderson with a chest injury. Walden ripping Lopina on the radio for throwing off his back feet!

2:00 2nd Quarter (BH) Thank god Lopina is still in. (SH) Nice fake. Get some points here please?

1:13 2nd Quarter (BH): Thank god Lopina is still in.

10-0 Halftime. (SH)AWFUL. Willie Griffin already at 87 yards rushing. Our defense is fighting but they can't hold up like this over a full game. They aren't getting any help at all at offense. Lopina is just off, there is no other way to say it. Someone asked if he was still injured from that concussion and there might be something to that. He does look off (even more than usual).

NOT looking good.

14:55 3rd (BH). Thank God Lopina is still in.

11:21 3rd (BH). Now, I'm really going to make my first drink. How Wulff and company justify Lopina's play is now beyond ridiculous. I would venture that every fan in Cougar land would rather watch JT lose 52-0 then watch Lopina's 31-0 suck fest.

9:00 3rd (BH). At least our D is playing hard.

6:41 3rd (BH). Ice Cold Martini in tow and now I realize that we're only down 10-0. We have a chance!

3:00 3rd (BH). I HAVE A DREAM, COUGAR NATION!!!!!!!!! PUT-IT-ON-DA-MITZ!

END OF 3RD: 10-7 DAWGS. What do you think will happen? At this point, I'm thinking a 14-13 win.

12:35 left: HUGE STOP on a 3rd and 2 followed by a missed FG by the pupps. WE have the MO, we have the MO!

11:30 left: MO, no mo....Bad three and out. Watching Lopina get blasted was painful. REEEALLLY Painful.

8:30 Huge 3rd and 2, completed to Daley. We MUST hold them to 3.

5:08. Tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock. Its getting REALLY late. If they get 6, we're done. If they get 3, we might be done.

3:24: Dawg kicker misses chip shot. WE'RE GONNA COVER!!!

2:56. Lopina throws a ball away instead of taking a shot or loss. Finally, PROGRESS!

2:02. Brinkhater's streak ends fittingly in a 5 yard throw when we needed 7. Classic end to a happless season.

0:56. Ball on 20, only 3 to tie

0:00 10-10 after K gets inexplicably behind the defense. We barely make a chip shot to tie as time runs out. Greatest Apple Cup of All Time

REMARK: UW FANS. YOU GUYS SUCK--simply because you are tied with us after 60 minutes--wow you are bad!!!!!!!! ALSO TOO: WSU. THANK YOU FOR SHOWING SO MUCH STINKING HEART. GREAT HEART. GREAT HEART. GREAT HEART!!!!!

1ST OT (O): Great call to go on 4th and 1.

1st OT (O): 3rd and goal from the 1 1/2. Go to a full set, please!!!

1st OT (O): Lopina blows an easy touch. Too bad. Lets go D

1st OT (D): Put 10 in the Box. YES! Now 3rd and 6.

1st OT (D): Now the field go attempt (We held).

START OF 2nd OT:

Both teams are so bad!!!!! Lets hope we're the second worst!!

2nd OT: HOW the hell does UW NOT score points with a running game like this? They get 5 YPC.

NO GOOD AGAIN! Mattingly almost picked it before, but NO GOOD! Hold your breath...

2nd OT (o): Cougs win. Brinkhater's streak lives.

Final Thought til Later:

This game was won for four reasons:

1) The heart of the defense and the Iron Triangle.

2) Great, clutch kicking.

3) Willinham's inexplicable T.O at the end of the game.

4) Lopina's heart

Congrats Coach Wulff, Congrats Seniors, Way to Go Cougs. Click here for more ...plus Comments

Apple Cup Primer


Still hanging in there, week after week. Great job Will and Stephanie Walker, yet again with the screen caps. There is supposed to be video of Don Pounds' interview with Gameday to come, and we'll try and link to that as soon as it's available.

So Apple Cup is here. Excited? There have been so many fantastic games over the years, even last year was a real shoot-out. But no matter what happens, I can't get 1992 out of my head. I watched some of the replay the other night from that game, where Drew Bledsoe absolutely cemented himself into legend on that crazy day.

The game was something else, with the snow and cold and all that. But one player rose above it all. Bledsoe, wow, just wow. Watching some of those throws he made in that game were truly remarkable. There was one deep 25-yard slant where he hit the WR right in the chest with an absolute bullet. And there was another deep crossing pattern in the end zone where he hit the WR in the corner for a TD with such touch and precision.

But the throw of throws, the catch of catches, was the Philip Bobo deep post, where he slid into the snow bank as he held on with one HELL of a catch. Who can forget that?



BRILLIANT.

The kid was in the zone that day. I mean we knew Bledsoe was going to make millions playing on Sundays, but to see him again on TV this week, after all these years, just stand in there and throw lasers, it really was something else. And even better, he still says to this day that even after the NFL career, the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowls, etc, the most fun and memorable game in his entire life was that Apple Cup.

The other cool thing about that game was what Don James said, after the fact. He said flat-out that WSU was the better team that day, they beat UW, no excuses. But also something else. This was only years later in an interview, but he said without a doubt, the way Bledsoe played in those conditions, the level at which he stepped up his game? It is probably the greatest individual performance in the history of the Apple Cup. Very, very cool indeed, to hear that come from him.

One other thing to take from that game? The size and strength of the athletes, on BOTH sides of the ball. To see those athletes with their speed and strength, some of those guys were just ripped. Maybe that's where both UW and WSU have fallen a bit, in terms of their size and strength? We know we have stepped back, but UW as well. Just take the "eye" test today while watching the game, and you'll know what I mean when I say that.

Anyway, great memories. I hope we get something special today as well. You never know, it is the Apple Cup after all, and things just seem to happen in rivalry games. Most of all, I'm just going to have fun with the game today, root for my Cougs, and hope they can pull it out and ease the sting of the worst-season-ever.

That's it for now. We will probably have a game thread, for those of you not at the game, so drop by if you feel so inclined. ENJOY THE GAME, and GO COUGS! Click here for more ...plus Comments

Friday, November 21, 2008

Football Friday Lucky Week XIII: Crapple Cup


"I was dreaming when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray..."

"But when I woke up this morning, could've sworn it was judgement day..."

Greetings Cougar Nation! Welcome to Football Friday Week 13--Crapple Cup style.

Nation, I have to admit that I am both excited and on edge about this one.

I am excited because it is the 101st Birthday of the Apple Cup!

And if you're a Coug, who in Holy Hell doesn't get excited about this game no matter what our stinking record is???

At the same time, I am on edge because, for the first time in about 365 days, my streak of perfect Cougar Football projections is squarely on the line. Win this one, and I head to Hawaii with a second consecutive National Championship squarely in sight. Lose and I become a veritable BCS also-ran.

In terms of the game proper, I have to admit I am a bit at a loss. After all,I haven't seen our team play in just about a month. So, given the fact that I haven't seen what I haven't seen, I am really left to guess about what will happen at 12:00 this Saturday. But, here is what I am looking for:

1) Washington's Size versus our Iron Triangle.

As was noted in today's Seattle Times, many a person in the print media has remarked that you can tell a WSU Football player anywhere simply by their lack of size. Conversely, while the UW lineman may be dumb, bad, AND slow, they sure are BIG and fat.

Of course, our defensive line is anything but(t). And our lack of size, strength, and depth may wind up being a really, really, really big problem for us once again.

Fortunately, there is many a tale about slower, less talented football teams that have won big games. Normally, those upsets are not only about getting the breaks, they're also about how Team leaders inspire their teammates to believe--not that they COULD win--but that they are going to win the stinking game.

And this is where our Iron Triangle comes into play:

Nation, it is not only the performance, but the swagger and commitment that Greg Trent, A'i Ahmu and Matt Mullennix bring to this game that will be a HUGE deciding factor. If these three seniors adequately inspire the others on the defensive side of the ball, we will be squarely in this game--especially with the 3-3-5 which will WRECK the U's pathetic passing game.

2) Play Makers Making Plays:


When your combined record is 1-101, it is easy to conclude that there are NOT very many playmakers on either roster. After all, if there were such play makers, then neither team would be 0-10 or 1-10...

For the UW, we know that they have burners at the receiver spot, injured but capable RB's, and a QB that has a gun a la Dick Cheney in the fields of Texas. Powerful, yet erratic.

Where we are concerned, we have a QB with ZERO Touchdowns and TEN interceptions, two capable albeit erratic RBs, an All-American type receiver, an NCAA track champion at the other wide-out, and an honorable mention-type All-Conference tight end.

In other words, both QBs SUCK. And, with a balmy 43-degrees and rain in the forecast, you can bet that the passing game is going to look about at bad as Bad can get:


That said, with a TIE out of the question, somebody on one of these teams is going to have to make a play, right?

3) Homer Delirium and Turn-Overs

I was telling Sedihawk a month ago about watching an exhibition game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Sacramento Kings. For the past couple of years, I would occasionally talk up the upsides of Petro, Wilkins, Weezie, Collison, and company as I would dream about a resurgence of our then-Seattle SuperSonics. But, as I watched this basketball game, the TRUTH became horribly apparent to me:

THOSE GUYS ARE STINKING AWFUL PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYERS!!!!!

So, where our Cougs are concerned, it is really hard at this point not to wonder about whether or not our version of BAD is in an entirely different league as Washington's. I tend to think not, but a 31-3 loss is not out of the question in my book.

4) Turnovers

Washington is really bad and they don't turn the ball over much. We're really, really bad and we turn it over a TON. Last time I checked, we're -237 in turnover margin this year.

Obviously, for us to be able to hang in, we're going to have to be AT WORST -1.

FINAL ANSWER:

I've gone back and forth on this one, Nation. But here is my bottom line:

1) I think we want it more than them.

2) They're playing to not be "defeated" which is the same as playing "not to lose" in my book.

3) I think our leaders are stronger and better leaders than theirs.

4) I think that our players want to play for our coaches MUCH more than the other way around.

5) Both ground games will be mediocre and quasi-effective.

6) The rainy weather will take away the long passing game.

7) The game will be decided by the short passing game.

8) Our TE and WRs are better.

In the end, we head into Hawaii the worst 2-10 team of all time.

Cougars 24 Defeateds 21

Elsewhere:

Zona 38 Oregon State 37. Riley loses FANTASTIC bid for the RB with a late failed two point conversion (Put the Beavs in the RB if they win this one. NO WAY the Quack beats them next week if they escape).

Stanford 24 CAL 21. Poor QB play spells doom for the Bears, AGAIN.

BIG GAME;

Texas Tech 41 Clay Bennett University 35. Ever since the cheap chop block by the Defeateds, Clay Bennett University has gently headed south defensively. Texas Tech moves on to lose in the Big 12 Title Game--setting up another BCS Title game with a team that couldn't win their own conference (Texas)

Enjoy the games. AND GO COUGS!!!!!

Sedihawk says:

Another year, another Apple Cup. First of all, a moment of appreciation for Alex Brink. The only WSU QB to hoist that Apple Cup trophy on three different occasions, no matter what history will say about the kid, he was always strong in this game. Last year was flipping fantastic, 27-for-40 for an AC record 399 yards and FIVE TD's, including the game-winner in the final minute. And hey, Brink did become the top-ranked passer in WSU history in nine different categories. He never got to post-season play, but he sure got the most of what he had. Alex Brink, we salute you.

NOTE - if you would like to see a video of that final TD drive from 2007, check it out here.

But alas, it's 2008. Although we can all agree that this is being talked about as the worst ever in the history of the series, and uh, yeah, it's hard not to agree with all these assessments. The facts are facts, and have been painstakingly laid out for you here, there, and everywhere over this last week. It's not a slump, it's simply two teams that are, well.....
I can also say that, at least in my opinion, this WILL BE the lowest point for both of these programs. We are already assured that the 2009 Cougars will be better than the 2008 version, given the issues of experience gained from this year in so many young players, as well as some true quality talent currently stashed away in redshirt-land. It's not blind homerism, but the 2009 Cougars will be better than 2008.

And even this Coug can honestly look at UW and say if the right coach gets in there, they could be walking into a situation that is, believe it or not, ready to win NEXT year. Not a PAC-10 title or anything like that, but one that could flirt with bowl-eligibility. Laugh all you want at our defeated brothers to the west, but when you have a junior-to-be QB next season, who will have healthy legs and all the talent in the world in Jake Locker, and a ton of frosh and sophomores who have learned their hard lessons this year? It very well could set up to be a breakthrough 2009 at Montlake. I'm serious.

A big question though is who that UW coach will be? There was a hot-n-heavy rumor a couple of nights ago that Jim Mora will be the next UW coach, and even suggested some high-level boosters were told of this. However, our dialed-in UW source downplayed it, big-time, and basically said relax, Mora is still a very, very, verrrrry long shot. And the reality is the only two people who know who UW's next coach will be are Mark Emmert and Scott Woodward. End of story. They are likely to get their guy in early December, so ignore anything you hear right now until something official is out there. But in my own rumor-mongering, I do have a prediction as to who that coach will be.....

He was interested in 2004, and he's interested again, today. Does the idea of Jeff Tedford at Montlake worry you? At first I was worried. He's got an excellent reputation, he's blazed a recruiting trail to Berkeley where they are nabbing NFL talent left and right, and his teams are built around a strong running game and some dynamic offenses, while not being afraid to change defensive schemes to meet the demands of opposing offenses in today's game. Plus the guy has totally figured out that Duck spread offense, better than anyone else outside of Corvallis.

I think the more painful reality there is that he would take Jim Michalczik and Bob Gregory, both former Coug players from the 80's who have turned into some fine college assistants and would likely follow Tedford north to Seattle.

But then I thought "You know what? WE need to worry about OURSELVES, and not freak out about who is at UW." And I think, Coug Nation, that is the deal. No matter who they hire, whether it's Tedford or someone else of higher-than-high profile, RELAX. We've got a plan in place and our guys have been hard at work since last December to turn it around. It is being rebuilt the right way, and it will come. But as the old saying goes, almost nothing of value comes easy, does it? Look at your own life for a moment. Look at where you are today. How much of that came easy? How much of what you have today was just given to you, or just happened? Unless you were born into wealth or won the lottery, it's likely you are where you are today by paying some sort of price, through hard work and determination to make something of yourself.

And it really is the same thing in almost every walk of life. Think of the WSU basketball program. Not necessarily where it is today, as it looks again like Tony has a heck of a team for the third straight year. But think about the price that program paid to get where it is now. Think about Paul Wulff's journey. Look at what he's been through in his personal life. And in coaching, the guy started for free at EWU and lived in a small trailer at the beginning of his career. Think he doesn't know the meaning of hard work and perseverence in the face of adversity?? Nobody will outwork Wulff on the recruiting trail, and he and his staff are on the same page. They will do all they can to protect the current crop as well as add to this class as signing day approaches. But honestly, relax. We'll be alright.

OK, I've gone off the rails. Now on to this week.

This is a tough one to call, isn't it? I mean you have a team in UW that has been bad, but they were at least close to beating a decent team in BYU. They were outgained in that game by a wide margin, but if not for Jake Locker's penalty and the blocked extra point, they would have gone to OT. And isn't it almost always the best bet to take the team that came from behind to force OT, with all the momentum in the world, and playing at home to boot? That game could have easily gone to UW's side of things that day, and while it likely wouldn't have made much difference in their 2008 fortunes, well, they were at least CLOSE to a win over a pretty good team.


Now look in the mirror. Can we actually say the same thing? Quick, what is the closest we've been to beating a BCS team this year? If you said UCLA for 25 points, a WSU Football Blog T-shirt is on the way to you right now(not really). But think about that for a moment. The CLOSEST we've been to beating a BCS team is a 28-3 loss? REALLY? Good Lord that's bad.

That said, I'm not suggesting we don't have a chance here. We do. But I boil this one down to what it's always been about since week one, and that's the one thing this team has done better (or worse) than anyone else in the country - TURNOVERS. I know, I know, it's a bad word around here, but it cannot be ignored. I don't know our worst-ever turnover ratio in school history, but I have to believe that minus-25 with still two more games to go has to be in the basement. But it's not just giving the ball away all the time, but the lack of the ability to take it back that is also killing this team. And sadly, I don't see it suddenly turning all around just because it's Apple Cup. If they lose that turnover battle, they will lose this game.

All that said, I'm taking the underdog at home in a rivalry game. If you are ever unsure about a game like this, take the home 'dog. And the betting line has gone down slightly. As Bob Condotta pointed out at the Times the other day, the line is trending back towards WSU. And as Condotta also pointed out, when the line has moved away from UW, you've subsequently seen it reflected in that week's game. UW has actually played how the line has moved, if you can believe it.

In the end, I believe that UW does have slightly better players compared to the young skinnies we'll roll out there. We'll want it more, we'll play with more passion and intensity in front of the friendly Martin Stadium crowd, and it will be a very tight game. But I think Ronnie Fouch makes a couple of big throws, and Ryan Perkins, injured kicking leg and all, boots one through in the waning moments, giving UW a 17-16 win. Sorry. I didn't want to do it. I almost picked us to win this thing. But I simply believe they are slightly better. We'll cover the line at home, but I think they will pull it out.

Other games (weird that almost half the conference has a bye this week?):

Oregon State 33, Arizona 30. The Oregon State Rose Bowl express once again finds a way. But this is a very dangerous game for the Beavs. They have yet again circled the wagons in spectacular fashion, and haven't lost since choking away the game at Utah on October 2nd. And Arizona's defense looks to have lost some steam, giving up 28 to us and then 55 last week.

CAL 27, Stanford 23. Cal has lost a couple lately, including a bitter loss last week in Corvallis. But they have revenge in mind from last year's loss to Stanford. The Cardinal looked bowl-worthy a few weeks ago, but now wobble into this one at 5-6 and needing one more win to get to the postseason since Ty Willie roamed the Stanford sideline. It won't happen. Cal has more weapons and will make a few more plays, and that will be it. But this might be the last season for a while that Stanford misses out on the post-season. With Harbaugh set to ink his contract extension, watch out for Stanford in '09 and beyond.

BIG GAME:

Oklahoma 44, Texas Tech 40. The dream ends for the weirdo coach in Mike Leach. Oklahoma at home will get it done. And the debate really heats up for the BCS title game.

That's it. ENJOY YOUR FRIDAY, and GO COUGS! Click here for more ...plus Comments

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Paul Wulff Radio Recap - Week Thirteen

Hmm, lucky week 13 perhaps? We'll find out. But without further adieu, this week's radio show, condensed-version style. Bud Nameck in the host chair for another week:

  • Bud opened the show by, of course, going right to the quotes from his press conference last year regarding UW when Wulff took the job. Paul didn't exactly apologize for those remarks, saying "they were meant for Cougars", something he mentioned before in the press. But he said hey, I'm the WSU coach and also a former player and a big fan. I'm not afraid of it. So why hold back? I don't know about you, but I think he endeared himself to a lot of Cougs when he said what he said. It was, at the time anyway, a nice change from the "oh, golly gee" and a departure from the whimsical, folksy stylings of one Bill Doba.

  • Bud asked him about the practice and routine for this week, and knowing that it is Apple Cup week, are they doing anything different? Wulff said that they are trying to stick to the routine and the normal practice and preparation, but the veteran players know that it's a special week. The rookies and other players who haven't been in an Apple Cup don't really understand. Even Wulff said he himself didn't really get it until he played in one. Things are definitely dialed up a notch. And once you actually play in an Apple Cup, it's truly an awesome event and you never forget it.

  • He said as far as their preparation, it is still a football game in terms of the x's and o's. But it is such an emotional game that it is always something on the coaches minds, about how to channel those emotions in the right way. However Wulff did say that overall, in the Apple Cups he was a part of as a player, they were relatively clean games. He said that the fans more or less get after it a little more than the actual players do!

  • Bud asked about the 12 noon kickoff and if that was an advantage or disadvantage? While the fans don't exactly like it, Wulff likes the idea of getting up and getting ready to play right away instead of waiting around for the game. Another thing to consider is that they have invited some recruits in for this week's game. Because of the early start time to the game, the coaches will have plenty of time to spend with the recruits AFTER the game. If it was a later start, that wouldn't necessarily be the case and they could feel rushed, but not this week. A quick check of this week's visits show Lynnwood's Geoff Meinken, who has switched from WSU commit to "soft" verbal and is getting big love from Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. Might be a good move to get as much time as you can with this kid?

  • Bud asked about practice and the injury situations. Kevin Lopina practiced on Wednesday, so he is all set to go for the game. Andy Mattingly practiced again, and while he was a little bit limited, he is still probable to play. Tony Thompson is back at tight end, and should be set. And Tyrone Justin should return to the secondary. Not exactly magic healing waters with the Apple Cup looming, but there are some kids coming around.

  • Bud asked briefly about the ASU game. Wulff said right off the bat that they did a good job up front defensively and getting pressure on Rudy Carpenter. He was quick to point out that Toby Turpin is a big part of it, and that he has really improved as the season has gone on. The trickle-down of his return has allowed Ahmu to slide outside, and they clearly have found their best three defensive linemen. It sure sounds like it will be a three-man attack again this week, as they finally seem to have found something, ANYTHING, that actually works this year.

    Wulff said the hardest part about that game was the early missed opportunities. They had some decent drives early in the game, but couldn't come away with anything. The missed field goal hurt their momentum, and they also had several dropped balls that could have turned things in their favor. But overall he was pleased with the defense, holding an experienced offense to 24 offensive points (remember seven of those were on a fumble return for TD).

  • Wulff touched a bit on the kicking game. Right now it looks like the job is going to go back to Nico Grasu. Wulff said they have wanted one of their kickers to rise up and flat-out grab that job this year, but it just hasn't happened, at least not yet. But Grasu gets his chance this week.

  • A caller asked if Wulff and the rest of the coaches do any type of visits to other programs in the off-season, or even visits to NFL teams? Wulff said yes, without a doubt they will do that. They had always done that at EWU and they will do that again this year. Proximity was nice when the Seahawks trained in Cheney and Wulff used to watch their practices all the time, and took some things that they would do and use it for himself.

    Wulff said that without question, you can't learn enough in this business, and the best way to learn is to look at what others are doing. He has a goal of taking at least one fundamental thing from these visits with other coaches and use it or adapt it for themselves. He also said that they are going to try and bring in some coaches to WSU and meet with them that way, therefore eliminating some distractions the coach might have if WSU coaches were visiting them. But they will definitely do that this year.

  • A caller asked about the high frequency of injuries this year, what's the deal?? Wulff said they have a belief that youth and inexperience leads to a higher level of injuries. Mainly the idea is that the younger the player, the less physically prepared the player will be to handle the rigors of the PAC-10. When they are lined up across fourth or fifth-year players who have been in their programs for several years, lifting weights and eating right, they are often times over matched. Young talent needs time to develop properly, and to throw a young kid out there against that kind of size and strength can lead to injuries!

    Wulff then went again into the idea of building "layers of depth". Having fifth-year seniors, fourth-year juniors, and third-year sophomores are his goal of the kinds of players he wants playing in games, and you build it out that way. Fifth, fourth and third-year players are usually more fit, strong and mature vs. the teams that play a ton of youth. Get the kids physically ready to play, the injuries should decrease in a big way.

  • Wulff was asked about the outcome of this game, and what it really means to the program. Wulff said something similar to what he said earlier this week, in that in reality, the outcome of this game won't drastically alter either program. One game never makes or breaks a program. But if you win it, it can make you feel a little better in your gut! But Wulff went out of his way to say that the outcome won't have much impact on the program overall. He said at least in recruiting, kids will rarely pick a school based on the outcome of one game. If they do? They aren't the kinds of kids they are after anyway! Sort of like the school that is constantly changing their uniforms, and it gets reported that some recruits pick their school based on the uniforms or other things? Wulff said they aren't the types of kids they want to build their program with anyway.

  • Bud asked about the specialness of senior day, and how this is it for key guys like Brandon Gibson, Greg Trent, etc. Wulff said that it's different for him because he's only been here one year, but it is also very emotional because he understands the sacrifice many of these players have made in their playing careers.

    He has been there and walked the road before, so he knows what they are going through. It just plays into the feeling of how much they would like to get a win this week and send those seniors out right in their last home game.

  • Bud asked about the game itself this week. Wulff said that he thinks some people are going to be surprised, and that he believes it will be a very good game. He said that as always in a rivalry game, you can basically throw out the records (especially this year!). It's important to both teams, and to the fans. It should be a fun, exciting day with memories for some that will last forever.

  • Bud asked about UW's offense. Wulff said that without Locker, they are different. But Wulff said he has seen some decent things out of Ronnie Fouch on tape. He has a strong arm, and he's a redshirt frosh so he's been in the program for almost two years now. He says he has the arm to make big plays, with more than enough strength to throw it deep or even across the field where you might underestimate he can get it to a certain spot. Arm strength is not an issue with Fouch.

    But again, he is young, and has a lot of freshman and sophomore wide receivers he is throwing to. While they are athletic and quick, they are also young, prone to mistakes, and it's part of the reason they have struggled this year.

  • Wulff did have good things to say about UW's O-line. They are big and experienced, led by Garcia up front, so they have seen a lot of things. It will be a challenge for our defense to play well against their size. Wulff then talked about WSU's offensive line, and that he believes they have come a long way in recent weeks. He singled out Steven Ayers, BJ Guerra, Andrew Roxas, Micah Hannam and even Brian Danaher as all young players who have improved of late.

    As a fan, I have to say that I am pretty optimistic as to how the offensive line will come together in the future. There is so much youth that has been out there this year, but the core of these guys will all be returning next year and even the year after that. Another year in the system, eating and lifting and now some game experience, you have to believe these tough lessons learned this year are going to pay off.

  • Wulff then went on to talk about his own struggles they have had this year. And the first thing out of his mouth? You guessed it - TURNOVERS. They have now turned it over 35 times, and have only created 11 takeaways themselves. Yep, that's a MINUS-24 turnover ratio, the worst in the nation and one of the worst in WSU history. Wulff said that he really believes it's those turnovers that have led to so many lopsided scores this year, where they are literally giving the opposing team 21 or 28 points PER GAME in simply giving the ball away in terrible situations. And of course we know the trickle-down from that, where the defense is on the field a lot more than it should be, it gets worn out, then suddenly it's a landslide. They MUST LEARN TO TAKE CARE OF THE BALL as an offense!

  • Wulff did clear up the Apple Cup "legend" about his appendix and playing in the Apple Cup. He hung it on Mike Price, who grew the legend himself. But in reality it was 2 1/2 weeks between the time from Wulff having the surgery to playing in the Apple Cup. Wulff wasn't sure, but the last he heard it, Price was saying it was the same week or 8 or 9 days, something like that. He was sorry to spoil this "legend" but that's the honest truth.

  • Finally, one last thing for this week. Bud pointed out that if WSU can win, it will be four of the last five Apple Cups in WSU's favor. Something that has never happened before in the history of the series. Wulff said he was well aware of that, and that they want to win this thing, bad!

So there you have it. Actually a pretty good show this week, with more energy and enthusiasm compared to some recent weeks. I couldn't help but come away from listening to the show that they are excited and also very focused on this game. Take that however you want, but it did seem different compared to what we've heard lately.

ENJOY YOUR THURSDAY, and GO COUGS! Click here for more ...plus Comments

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lopina's Show for Another Week

Looks like it's the K-LO show for the Apple Cup. Not that he's been cleared to practice or anything, as he only hit the weights yesterday. But they fully anticipate Lopina getting the green light for practice today, and well, if that's the case, then he's your man on Saturday.

Whether or not it's a wise choice to roll out a kid who has suffered a broken vertebrae and now a brain bruise? That's certainly not for me to decide. That's why they have doctors and trainers and coaches, adults who can make those types of decisions that are best for everyone involved. But while there have been a few slivers of hope from Lopina, thinking back to the first half against Baylor and doing an OK job against Arizona and even ASU in the first quarter last week, the end-result in 2008 hasn't been anything to move the needle. Who can get excited over 10 INT's to zero TD passes?

It's not entirely his fault though, I mean think of the young offensive line combinations he's had in front of him, the early-season injuries to the WR corps, the running backs going down, etc. The off-the-field stuff is admirable as well, considering he's one of the few who decided to speak up and call out some of the quitters and locker-room lawyers.

The other thing here is that for whatever the reason, the staff seems to have really taken to Lopina. We had heard from the very beginning of the year that they loved his work ethic, and he really busted his butt in practice. He practiced like he WANTED THE JOB, not like some backup who gets a handful of reps and is simply going through the motions, knowing he won't do much on Saturdays but wear a baseball cap backwards and hold a clipboard. Maybe it's pretty telling when you consider how quickly they pulled the plug on Gary Rogers, which was what, six quarters of football until Lopina was in for the 2nd half vs. Cal?

In other injury news, nice to hear that Andy Mattingly is coming around with the bum ankle. The Times says he practiced with a brace, and Wulff said that "after watching him today, I expect him to play." Now how much he'll play, and where he'll play, that's a whole different question.
Talk about a lost season. Here was a guy who logged 91 tackles and eight sacks as a true sophomore last year, in only seven starts. This year? Just one start, vs. Portland State, at defensive end. He has still managed 34 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss, but that's still less than half the tackles he put up last year. Granted, defensive end isn't a position where you are going to rack up tons of tackles. But just one sack in 2008 for Mattingly, compared to the eight logged last year? Not even close to what we were expecting.

On a defense that needs big, strong, physical players, Mattingly was regarded as one of the best on the team coming into 2008. He made several pre-season All-PAC-10 lists, and even something called NFLDraftScout.com had him listed as a future NFL draft choice at linebacker. I hope they are serious about exploring the idea of moving him back to linebacker next year and he closes his career on a high note. Right now, I don't think there is much argument out there that his move to defensive end has been a complete bust.

For the rest of the injury breakdown, Vince has a good run-down of the situation from yesterday. Check it out here.

From the "even more bad news" department, the Martin Stadium expansion on the next phase, you know, the one with the premium seats that we tout at the top of our page? Well, it's hit a bit of a snag, and it looks like there will be a delay. Howie Stalwick threw in this tidbit in his piece in the P-I today:

EXPANSION PLANS: Athletic director Jim Sterk said Tuesday the credit crunch likely will postpone the scheduled January start on construction of suites and other premium seating at Martin Stadium.

The Cougars have raised $5 million and need bank loans of $30 million to $35 million, Sterk said. He said a delay of more than "two to three months" on starting construction would push the completion past the desired date, which is before the 2010 home opener.

We had heard about this early last week, that barring a miracle, this thing was headed for a delay of some kind. Now we know. Damn recession. I blame President-Elect Obama. Where is this "change" he was talking about? My 401K is in the crapper, and I still have to pay my mortgage?? Whatever. We can start blaming him, right??? :)



Speaking of the P-I, the Go-2-Guy on his Go-2-Blog has some info on this Saturday's ESPN Gameday. They are actually going to interview the mastermind behind the WSU flag, Tom Pounds, who sees to it that the flag shows up on TV's across the nation, every freakin' week! Very cool.

That's it for a Wednesday. No, there was no radio show last night as the Cougs walloped Farleigh Dickinson last night, 55-33. The radio show will be tonight instead, and we will have a full recap tomorrow. ENJOY YOUR WEDNESDAY, and GO COUGS! Click here for more ...plus Comments

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesday Rip-Job

Apple Cup WOOOO! Poor thing. At least she doesn't need someone to hold her hair back. She's got it covered, thanks. "A" for effort anyway.

Moving on, there is SO MUCH out there in cyberspace right now about this game, so many ways to break it down, that it's tough to know where to go. We will hold off our preview until the usual football Thursday. So I thought it was a good idea to see what others are saying right now.

First, Sir Vince Grippi broke down the startling numbers for this one on both sides, pointing out the magic number 119, as in 119 division I teams. Among the eyesores:

Rushing offense: WSU is 115th in the nation (85.9 yards per game), UW 114 (86.4).

Passing offense: WSU is 104th in the nation (150.5 yards per game), UW 96 (177.1).

Rushing defense: WSU is 118th in the nation (266.6 yards per game), UW 116 (228.5).

Scoring defense: WSU is 118th in the nation (48.5 points per game), UW 116 (39.9).

Scoring offense: WSU is 118th in the nation (12.6 points per game), UW 117 (13.9).

Puts in in good perspective at just how poorly both of these teams have played this year. This isn't a one or two or even three-week slump, this is an entire seasons body of work.

Howie Stalwick does an excellent job of a positive-negative look at the state of Washington State under Paul Wulff. Some decent positives, and some honest negatives as well, so give it a look. I really like what Howie highlighted here:
3. Despite a disastrous season, Wulff has landed nine oral commitments, all of whom Scout.com ranks among the top 100 high school seniors in the nation at their respective positions.
Some of you have questioned pretty much everything about this change to Paul Wulff. I know I have been generally positive towards this regime, that despite all the pain right now, he's doing this thing the right way. Some of you have accused me of a "Pollyanna" approach, and maybe we don't look at things with an honest eye to what is going on. But most of the changes thus far haven't been tangible things that us, the fans, can see and experience. It's all been behind the scenes, where the real work happens on a day to day basis, and where the success or failure of a program is really determined.

But can anyone really blame the fan base for having more than a few WTF(!) moments this year? Can anyone argue that it's been nothing but a failure on the field? I certainly can't. This has been the rock-bottom season of seasons, and there isn't any way to get around that. But while the rip jobs have been coming left and right in message board and blog-comment land since mid-season on Wulff, well, what about the lifeblood of a college football program? What about recruiting? When it's all said and done, the reality here is that this *might* turn out to be the best recruiting class, in pure "star" ratings and rankings, that WSU has ever signed. Think about that for a second - the BEST recruiting class, in this season, perhaps the worst season ever? What does that tell you about the job these guys are doing off the field?

Combine the recruiting news with some of the other off-the-field things that this staff has done, staying on players to go to class, hit the training table for meals, get their work done in the weight room, implementing the team council for discipline, etc, etc, etc? I don't know about you, but I still believe that this is the guy, and this is the staff, to turn it around.

We heard from a good source last week that there are changes happening. Our source went to where the players eat their meals on a regular basis. Earlier in the year, he said the place was totally empty and you could just walk right in. This time? The place was PACKED, to where he had to wait to just get a place to sit. It was filled with players, and they were all loading up their plates with huge amounts of food. And the best thing is that it wasn't just football players. All the teams were in there, including what appeared to be the entire men's basketball team, all eating together. So perhaps Wulff is helping change some of the things in the entire athletic department?

But overall, this recruiting class could be exhibit 1-A of at least something we can glob onto in these dark days. Despite these unreal depths of 2008, these coaches are still out there working as hard as they can, selling this program and the university for all that it can offer a prospective student-athlete. Look at how hard they are working in the face of adversity. Instead of sitting back with their feet on the desk, they are working hard behind the scenes. Most of all, they are getting back to what made WSU successful in the Price era, by outworking the others and turning over rocks to find those talented, high-character types that want to be a Coug.

Finally, we heard a strong rumor late last week that suggested Jake Locker was going to be a gameday surprise from UW and actually play this week with a new cast on the broken thumb. Turns out that won't be the case. Sorry for the false alarm. Not that we WANTED to see Jake Locker play, as he could probably just take the snap, tuck it and run all afternoon and it would still be enough. So we'll have to get by with Ronnie Fouch vs. K-Lo or Jay-TEE.

That's it for a Tuesday. Enjoy it, and as always, GO COUGS! Click here for more ...plus Comments

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's Still the Apple Cup

What makes a rivalry game great? It's many things. Friends, co-workers and family members will gather to root for their side. But even in down years, this game is always circled, always in the back of your mind as a Coug/UW fan. And most of all, you just never know what's going to happen. In more recent years, WSU has been the better team, yet knocked off by UW. But in the past, even in years UW had a Rose Bowl bid on the line, the Cougs have returned the favor (1982 and 1983 ring a bell?).

But regardless of the awfulness of the 2008 records, you really can throw it all out on Saturday. That's what makes college football special, what makes it unique, are these rivalry games. You just never know.

Vegas has a handle on it, and right now we're seeing anywhere from 7.5 to 8.5 in favor of the visiting dawgs. But as recent history suggests, does that matter? Let's take a look.

2001: WSU was a favorite of seven or so points in this one. We came in at 9-1, and the only loss of the season at that point was a tough 7-point loss to Oregon at home. An Oregon team that would go on to win the Fiesta Bowl that year and had a legit argument for being in the BCS title game. A win over UW would have likely secured a BCS bowl or, at worst, the Holiday Bowl. Meanwhile UW came in at 7-2, but off a horrible loss to Oregon State the week before where QB Jonathan Smith just destroyed the UW defense in Corvallis. But WSU would sputter in the red-zone, with some costly INT's, one on a halfback pass from Dave Minnich. UGH. UW meanwhile kept going to Reggie Williams, and Marcus Trufant and Jason David just couldn't stop him. UW wins it 26-14. Underdog covers the spread (1-0).

2002: WSU an eight-point favorite in Pullman, yet UW wins 29-26 in triple OT on one of the most controversial calls in Apple Cup history. The thing to me isn't the fact as to whether that pass from Kegel was backwards or not, and there is video evidence out there that shows that, if anything, a straight line pass that never should have been overruled as a fumble from an initial incomplete pass. The other thing is, at least one ref started to blow the whistle once the ball hit the turf, and that should have automatically made it an incomplete pass. No, I'm still not over that one....but the point is, WSU was a healthy favorite at home, and lost. Underdog covers the spread (2-0)

2003: WSU a seven-point favorite at Husky Stadium, yet UW wins, 27-19. A very sloppy game with turnovers all over the place. If you remember that game, WSU moved the ball well at times, but turnovers (six) and major red zone issues (as they did the entire 2003 season) led to settling for Drew Dunning field goals. Plus a young and nervous Josh Swogger had to relieve Matt Kegel, and it just didn't work out down the stretch. UW still had to rally, and did so, with Cody Pickett hitting Corey Williams in the final minute to take their first lead. UW would return an INT for a TD the next possession, and that was it. Another lesson learned in this one? NEVER over-estimate how a team is going to do in this game based on what they did the week before. WSU was coming in at #8 in the country and had just whipped ASU at home, 34-19, while UW was coming off one of their worst losses ever, 54-7 at Cal. Underdog covers the spread (3-0).

2004: WSU was a 12-point favorite in a tough season, while UW limped in with one win, being talked about as one of the worst Pac-10 teams in a while, their lone win coming over San Jose State. Gilbertson would announce he was stepping down a few weeks before the game, somewhat similar to what UW is going through now. But while WSU sprinted out to a 28-10 lead, UW would insert Isaiah Stanback and rally big-time, cutting it to a 3-point game. But the Cougs would hold on and win in Alex Brink's first of three Apple Cup wins. Underdog covers the spread (4-0...see a theme here?).

2005: A thrilling game at Husky Stadium, this one saw Brink rally them on the last drive, converting some big third downs and then finding Trandon Harvey on the bubble screen. The rest was history. WSU was a three-point favorite, and with the final score 26-22, it was the first time since 2000 that the favorite actually covered in this series. The favorite covers the spread(underdog now 4-1).

2006: This one still hurts. WSU started hot, 6-3 and ranked in the top 25, before injuries destroyed them down the stretch on both sides of the ball. UW meanwhile had a strong beginning to their season, sitting at 4-2 at one point and looking good for a bowl bid. But Stanback would go down vs. Oregon State in the seventh game of the year, and UW would fall apart, losing the rest of their games, including an awful 20-3 loss to one of the worst-ever Pac-10 teams in Stanford. And then the Apple Cup happened. While WSU was an eight-point favorite, UW would pull it out, 35-32. This game might be looked at as the beginning of the end of the Bill Doba era. Underdog covers the spread (5-1).

2007: Finally, last year. UW came in at 4-7 and feeling good about themselves after a walloping of Cal the week before, 37-23. Meanwhile Alex Brink had his worst-game ever vs. Oregon State the week before, closing out his home career in disappointing fashion, a horrific 52-17 loss that sealed WSU's non-postseason fate yet again. UW was a six-point favorite, but of course, WSU wins it 42-35 with one of Alex Brink's best-ever games, 399 yards and five TD's. YET ANOTHER example of never putting too much stock into what happened the week before a rivalry game! Underdog covers the spread(6-1).

So there you have it. Rivalry games are just too hard to call. In the best of seasons, in the worst of seasons, the favorite has only covered the spread one time since 2001. What does that tell you about this Saturday??

ENJOY YOUR MONDAY, and GO COUGS! Click here for more ...plus Comments

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Tough Goodbye and Some Post-ASU Thoughts

I know the season is winding down (thankfully), and we're officially in Apple Cup week. Sorry for the hoops-only post yesterday, but circumstances prevented much of a gameday thread. Besides, we lost 31-0 and the game wasn't on TV. What do you want??

We'll get to that in a moment. But I wanted to start off today by writing a few thoughts about our beloved golden retriever, Barkley.

Sadly, we had to say good-bye to the best dog ever yesterday, as he finally lost his battle with lymphoma. He was initially diagnosed in the spring, and we decided to fight for him by going the chemotherapy route. It was expensive and emotionally draining, but to us, it was worth it. He was, in our mind, just too young to let go. But the vet was very up front with us from day one, saying this is a terminal diagnosis. While we could kick it back into remission, it will return. And when it comes back, that will be it. We had, at BEST estimates, one year left with him, and that was as optimistic as it gets. Barkley was closing in on his 9th birthday, and while 8 years and 9 months might seem like a good amount of time for a dog, well, to us he was taken far, far too early.

Initially the chemo did wonders, as he bounced back quickly to at least somewhat like he used to be. Not all the way back to normal, but not too far away. We did everything we could to make this last summer his best, taking him with us everywhere we went, making sure to give him extra attention and love at every turn. But in the last few weeks, and especially this last week, we knew time was running out. The cancer had returned, making him weaker than ever. Even worse, Barkley had suddenly developed severe arthritis in his hips, making it very difficult to not only climb the stairs in our home, but just getting up from laying down became a struggle.

The one thing my wife and I pledged to do when we started the chemo treatments was that we didn't want to simply keep him alive for OUR own reasons. If he was ever in some real pain, we would let him go. At the end, the situation became unbearable, and these last few days were beyond painful for all of us.

I know, I know. Some of you are rolling your eyes and saying "it's just a dog, get over it." Yes, I understand that. He was just a dog. Some of you have gone through much, much worse. But to us, he was very special. Not just his loving personality, where everyone he met instantly became his best friend, but for many other reasons, big and small. I know you all have your own pet stories, so I won't go too far into the details that made him exceptional to us. But I will share one big thing that made him such an important part of our lives.

Back in 2000, my wife was pregnant with our first child. Anyone who has been down that road knows the overwhelming experience that can be, as a father, mother, or any other family member. The excitement and anxiety, all rolled into one, is almost indescribable. But just over halfway into the pregnancy, something went terribly wrong. We ended up losing the baby, a girl we named Megan. To say an event like that is devastating is an understatement, and if any of you have been down that dark road, you understand.

But after we lost our baby, well, we needed something. We needed a new soul to enter our home, a soul we could love and cherish and care for, something to pull us through a difficult time. That's when Barkley, an 8-week old puppy, entered our lives. His presence helped get us through those days, and for that, Barker Boy, we will always love you. I will see you again some day. And I know you will be waiting for me at the front door, tail wagging, thinking "Finally, you're home!", just as you always did in life. Rest in peace.

Moving on, ASU. You know what? Even though the final score was awful, the first half was actually pretty entertaining, just a 10-0 game at the break. There were some promising moments early, offensively moving the ball through the air. They even ground out a long drive early in the game, but missed a field goal that seemed to zap any momentum they might have discovered on offense.

But defensively, they really hung in there and fought hard. Playing exclusively early in a 3-3-5 defense, per the radio broadcast, they did a good job of getting some pressure early on Rudy Carpenter. They even logged back-to-back sacks one one possession, and on the next, drew a holding penalty on what looked like another sure sack. They were even stout against the run, not anything close to the outfit allowing 279 yards rushing per game. 132 rushing yards allowed, on 35 carries? That's pretty damn good. And as a whole, they allowed under 400 total yards, and in a year like this? MAJOR victory.


But once again, the offense let the team down. That's now the third shutout in our last four games. Think about that. For a team that hadn't been shut out since the early 80's, to now roll three goose-eggs? 130 total yards? Seven rushing yards? SEVEN?? Simply awful. Unfortunately they come out of this one a little banged up as well. Chance Staden was lost to a knee injury, adding to the list of injured backs in Chris Ivory and now Logwone Mitz. Basically it's down to Dwight Tardy....and Marcus Richmond.....that's about it for the running game.

And of course, Kevin Lopina was lost with the concussion. I know we have openly pined for the youngster to get his chance, and now it looks like he might if the doctors don't clear Lopina for next week. Concussions are obviously tricky, and today's day and age they take every precaution in the world, so the odds are probably good that JT gets the ball this week. Young Levy got into the game and made a few plays, but generally struggled to a 7-for-14, 41 yard, 1 INT performance, as well as a fumble on a sack that ASU scooped up for a score. Oh yeah, the kid also injured his left wrist on the play, but HOPEFULLY he's ok!?!? Whether he's ready or not, with the Lopina injury, the J.T. Levenseller era might be here after all. And what a week to start it, vs. UW.

Here's a rumor for you regarding UW. We got this from a reliable source too. But UW might unleash a surprise at QB this week. No guarantees, but let's just say you shouldn't be shocked if #10 is under center for UW.

Finally, the hoops team won. Hooray hoops! And the kids played well too. Baynes led with 14 points, but Marcus Capers had nine boards and six assists?? Wow. And DeAngelo Casto had four blocks?? NICE. 16% shooting, and 25 points allowed, the lowest total given up since 1948?? This is going to be a fun, interesting season of college basketball (and I KNOW from comments yesterday some of you despise basketball!).

ENJOY YOUR SUNDAY, and GO COUGS! Click here for more ...plus Comments

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Brinkhater's Season Basketball PRE View

Happy Saturday to you all, Cougar Nation.

Hard to believe, but today is GAME DAY for the 2008-09 Basketball season, so I thought I'd give you my annual PRE view of the upcoming tilt.

Like my dear friend and colleague Vincent Grippi noted last week on Sportslink, there are a lot of Blogs out there with a bunch of yahoos who have not been to practice, not watched video, and not talked to any players, coaches, or anyone who has a real idea about what is going on inside the program.

Sound like anyone to you?



Exactly.

Which is why I once again am going to give you all a quick glimpse into what I am looking for heading into this very important 2008-09 campaign.

But first, here's the BIG picture:

1) This basketball season portends to be the equivalent of our 2003 Football team. I am actually expecting big things out of this group.

2) Next year will be a somewhat down year for the program, so I urge you all to really enjoy this year. I think its going to be really fun!

3) Brinkhater is predicting a 9-4 preseason.

4) Brinkhater is also predicting an 11-7 conference (t-4, Pac-10 gets five births with a low seed for us because of few quality wins).

5) Brinkhater is further predicting an 11 seed in the NCAA tournament.

6) Brinkhater sees us winning a 1st round NCAA game, winning a second game, and bowing out once again in the Sweet 16.

But for this fairy tale season to reach its fruition, let me give you what I think NEEDS to happen and then follow up with what I am assuming will happen.

THINGS THAT NEED TO HAPPEN

1) Marcus Capers' Floor Leadership



If you all have been reading, you know that Marcus is the 6 foot 4 point guard out of Florida that Rochestie gave his scholarship up for (initially). Of all of the accolades thrown at this kid, the biggest upside he is supposed to carry is his defense--which is a good thing! But what this team is going to need more than that is for him to become a steady floor general.

Last year, one of our main achillees heels was our lack of depth in the backcourt. Thankfully, we overcame that depth issue because both Low and Weaver were able to assume the point guard duties when a) we needed Taylor to shoot the rock and b) when the guy sat down to get a blow.

Unless I missed something, we have no Weaver, and while I love Cassius Klay Thompson (see next), he isn't a point guard. Capers will have to play well in the conference for us to do anything. Thus, I will be looking closely at his minutes in the pre-season. Hopefully, T-Bone will throw this kid to the Wolves even if it costs us against Pitt, Baylor, and/or LSU. We need this kid to develop in a hurry.

2) Cassius Klay Thompson MUST be Efficient



Nation, there's a lot about this team that I haven't seen. But, Klay Thompson I have seen--in the 2008 California State Championship game. Nation, this guy is a Kyle Weaver (not as good defensively, but who is or ever will be?) and Ike Fontaine mix. He is NBA special.

That said, we all remember the type of "off" nights that freshmen stars OJ Mayo had last year don't we?



With the make-up of our team, we simply will not be able to stand many 7-20 nights because we don't create enough possessions to compensate for being innefficient. I look for Thompson to get a few Dick Bennett style lashings from T-Bone early on.

But then, look out. This kid WILL score over 30 in a game this year.

3) Baynes' Feet and (Half) Courtvision MUST Improve



Last year in the NCAA tourney Baynes was the only Cougar in my book who rose to the moment on the national stage. Now, with Love and the Dummy Twins out of the League, Baynes figures to be your first team All-Conference center.

But, in order for him to ascend to such honors, there are two basic things he must do to improve his offense and defense.

First, on the defensive side, he needs to keep his feet. Last year, on two many occasions, Baynes was airborne after the first pumpfake. The result: fouls and duck-unders by Love and other savy 4's and 5's which would also give away the glass. This year, with the potential talents of Casto (and maybe Watson) in the mix, Baynes should realy just make people shoot over him. If he does, his rebounding totals should increase nicely. Even more importantly, he'll be in the stinking game.

Now on offense, Baynes needs to be quicker to recognize the double team and needs to distribute much better than he's done in the past. Last year, when we tried to establish Baynes early, he was often painfully slow and deliberate, and as a result, so were we. This year, we won't be good enough defensively to score only 4-6 points in the first 8 minutes of games. Baynes will average 14 and 8 this year. But HOW he does that will be what matters for our fortunes.

3)Harmeling's Jumper Must Have a Prayer



Two years ago, Harmeling was the 28 point bombshell against Gonzaga and Arizona. Last year, he fell off the map.

This year, he simply needs to shoot well from anywhere. If he can shoot well from behind the arc, then we will challenge for the second spot in the conference. But what we really, really need is for him to just shoot well in the midrange game. Remember, in games last year where Cowgill hit the 12-15 jumper off the glass, we KILLED teams. If Harmeling can stretch the defense at the 4, then Baynes has space to go off and the slashers like Nick and Thompson have room to take the ball to the rack. THAT leads to dish-offs to Baynes and the take-off of this basketball team.

Just like last year, Harmeling is your X man.

WHAT BRINKHATER'S BANKING ON

1) Nick's Steady Play



There's going to be a lot of pressure on Nicky boy to fill the shoes left by Kyle Weaver. But, I'm trusting that he's been through enough to not get bogged down by that pressure. I think Nick is going to be a solid guy on the baseline. And, from what I've seen in past years, a capable man in the pack defense. Remember, this team will be starting FOUR GUYS that have been in the program for three years. So, he should be able to be the steady Eddy that we need him to be.

2) Casto's Emergence as 'The Real Deal' by season's end.



If you want to know why I have the audicity to think that this team is going back to the Sweet 16 it is because of this kid. After decades of watching the tourney, the recipe for advancing is simple: good guard play and shot blocking underneath. With Casto, we're going to have the latter (and the former with Rochestie, Thompson, and bench). While I've heard that his timing is natural, I suspect that there will be some short performances for this kid early on (like 4 fouls in 15 minutes). But, as the season progresses, I am banking that he will develop the discipline necessary for us to emerge among the nation's elite.

3) Improved Shooting

It may be hard to remember this, but there were several games and stretches last year where Rochestie was the only guy on the team that could hit the broad side of a barn. This year, with Rochestie taking more of a role in the offense, with a leaner and more polished Baynes, and with Thompson's long range genius (wait til you see it!), this team will be much improved offensively. The question, of course, is how much we will drop-off defensively. With improved shot-blocking and a deeper 3-Point line, I'm guessing not much.

4) Taylor Stays Healthy



We can't afford to lose Baynes for a long stretch at any time this year. But losing Taylor would flush the season down the toilet. I'm banking that Taylor stays healthy. And I'm also banking that there's nothing called a "Brinkhater Curse."



Final Thought:

I really do believe that this is a 2003 WSU Football type season. Enjoy it, enjoy it, enjoy it, because at this point, we all could use a few Cougar Victories.

And, thanks to T-Bone and company, we're going to get about 23-24 of them this year.

(WSU 71 MSVSU 48 in the opener) Click here for more ...plus Comments

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Football Friday Week XII: Quandary

Greetings Cougar Nation. Hope you and the legion of Brinkhater-hater soldiers are having a great week.

As we have documented on this blog over the past couple of weeks, our Dear Coach Paul Wulff appears to be in quite a quandary. "Why?" you ask?

Well, he's got one heck of a predicament at Quarterback.

Now, granted, I don't have firsthand access to all that is happening inside Cougarville, but when you are 1-9 (soon to be 1-10) and when your starting quarterback has zero touchdowns and TEN interceptions to his credit, well, it is past time to start exploring all available options.

And to a certain extent Wulff has--which is why our soon-to-be-savior JT Levenseller had his redshirt burned in Stanford Stadium.



But, unfortunately for all of us, making the transition to JT has not been, and perhaps can not be, seamless this year. "Why?" you ask again?

Because Kevin Lopina has been Captain and First Mate on the good ship don't quit all season long.


Indeed, while other players have been hooting and hawing about this, that, and the other thing, Lopina has been Mr. Positive, Mr. Resilient, and Mr. Energy for the whole doggone year.

We saw it at the beginning of the season when he somehow overtook Gary Rogers after 6 quarters, and we see it now when his numbers belie his playing time.

In short, Wulff is stuck with one helluva predicament: he can bench the leader of the "character and compete" kids or he can stay with a guy who can't get the job done and weed the quitters out further.

You can obviously see what direction he has taken.


At the same time, it will be quite interesting to see when the rubber finally meets the road. After all, the numbers and video speak for themselves, and with only one year of eligibility left for Lopina, at some point Wulff is going to have to look at the future and then never look back.

Brinkhater's bet:


Lopina starts the next two weeks. Then, in the last game, when the season is done anyhow, look for Levy to get his start. In Brinkhater's limited view that is the ONLY way to make a case for burning JT's redshirt as well as opening up the Quarterback position in Spring Ball.

Now, onto our game.

Nation, I might have missed the mark on the score last week, but please do not be fooled. Zona had ZERO reason to pay attention to any aspect of our football team last week. However, now that we laid 28 on the Cats last week, you can bet that the Devils will be prepared for the run-option thing we have going on.

In addition, look for a return of what happens to our D when our O can't move the ball.

This one is back to the future,

ASU 63 WSU 10

Elsewhere:

USC 27 Stanford 17. I think that this will be a good game despite popular opinion that Troy will roll in Revenge Bowl I. Stanford runs the ball a bit,eats the clock a bit, and keeps it close.

UCLA 20 Washington 17. My heart over my head in this one. Washington is ripe for a win, but I just can't fathom them not being winless headed into the Crapple Cup.

Oregon State 18 CAL 17. CAL's defense is playing as well as anyone in the country right now. But, because of their poor quarterback play and the Beavs' homefield advantage, I'm taking the Beavs in a world class nail biter.

Arizona 31 Oregon 27. CATS are for real and Quack start another classic end of the year slide.

Enjoy the games, Go Cougs, and pray for NO MORE STINKING INJURIES!!!!


SEDIHAWK SAYS:


Hello Coug Nation. As the season winds down to a slow, slog through the mud, the end is in sight. I think many of us felt that it will be a very good thing the second the 2008 schedule is in the rear-view mirror. We all, clearly, need to turn the page and look forward to what's to come, not dwell on what has happened. I mean really, what is the past but something that has already happened? You hope to learn from it, but there isn't anything on God's green earth that can be done about it. The milk has been spilled, so why cry about it?

But a funny thing happened to phoning in the season last week.....sort of. The kids showed some energy and competed beyond the first quarter against the AZ Wildcats. Who knew? But the thing is, Brinkhater is right. AZ was NOT JACKED UP for that game. They had to travel into Pullman, in lousy weather, and play a pretty bad team. They had everything to lose, and when you are such an overwhelming favorite, can you blame them for not being a little flat early on? But then once it got to 14-14, reality struck, and the next thing you know it's 42-14 early in the third quarter. Drive home safely.

That said - have you ever seen such celebrating over a 59-28 loss? I know that this season has seen a drop in performance in ways we never could have imagined, but suddenly there's this sense of optimism for this team? I've never seen so many people feel good about losing 59-28. I guess it shows the bar, as they say, has really been lowered. Sorry if that's a hard truth to swallow, but it is. Yet even I can admit to feeling good about a 31-point loss at home. It's weird, but with such depths that we've experienced, 28 points scored felt like 128.

Moving on, our opponent this week. What the hell has happened at ASU? After a big year last year, is the heat now on Dennis the Liar??

Yes, Dennis, we are hiring.

They were a team everyone, including myself, picked for 2nd place in the conference. They looked loaded coming off a 10-win season, senior QB, Erickson, etc. But ever since that UNLV loss at home in the third week of the year, they lost their mojo. They were beaten up vs. Georgia, blown out by USC and Oregon, and after losing a toughie at Corvallis, were sitting there at 2-6. But they rallied hard vs. UW last week, and now, believe it or not, if they win out they can still go to a bowl game! With this week, then UCLA in Tempe, and finally at Arizona to end the year, there is still a chance they can "yank it" out of the fire.


By the way, I have to ask this - how do students do anything at ASU other than drink, eat, sleep, work out and hang by the pool? I have only been there a few times, but WOW, what a fantastic place for young, vibrant 18-22 year olds to spend 4 or more years of their lives.

OK, here we go. ASU has offensive line issues, but their sacks allowed are less than half this year (25) compared to last year (55). As they have protected Rudy better, their passing game has has been pretty good, the #3 ranked passing offense in the conference at 240 yards per game. However, overall this has just been a down year for ASU. They aren't overly impressive in any one stat that makes you go WOW. They are 9th in the conference in 3rd down conversions (30%), and even with the 25 sacks allowed as a big improvement from last year? That is still giving up the third-most sacks in the conference. Even their running game isn't exactly getting it done, just 7th in the PAC-10 at 96 yards per game. To put that number into proper context, WSU is right behind them at 93 yards rushing per game.

The tipping point here, however, is that ASU might have just re-discovered a vital part to their attack, and that is the running game. After UW hung with ASU for three quarters in Seattle, ASU took over in the fourth quarter on the ground, and UW just couldn't stop it. Senior Keegan Herring is back off an injury, and ran hard vs. UW, racking up 144 yards on an impressive 6.5 yards per carry. Herring was thought to be a big part of the offense coming into the season, but he's been injured and has only played sparingly since the second week of the year. And now he's back, and that is bad news for us and our awful rush defense that gives up 279 yards PER GAME!

The other issue for me is how the heck we are going to score points again. Kevin Lopina's GOOSE EGG in the TD passing department just cannot be overlooked. Anyone who has watched him this year knows he's limited in throwing the football, and his decision making still isn't great. And we know that JT Levenseller likely won't do much more than get a few possessions here and there, so our passing game is yet again going to be virtually non-existent.

In the end, I'm thinking that this one will be somewhat similar to the Arizona game. I think the first half will be interesting as we might get a score or two, but with Keegan Herring's return to prominence in the ASU offense, for the first time in a long time ASU will have a healthy running game to balance their passing offense. We saw a glimmer of it last week when ASU racked up 39 points and 400 yards of offense on the road. That running game will take tremendous pressure off Rudy Carpenter, and that's when the track meet will begin. I'll go ASU 55, WSU 17.

Other games:

USC 34 Stanford 3. I agree with Brinkhater's pick on the winner, but I think Pete pushes them hard in this one. Stanford's one-dimensional offense won't do much of anything against this SC defense, now looking like it will go down as one of the best in conference history.

UCLA 22 Washington 20. Say what you will about Slick Rick, but these are just the kinds of games he has a way of winning. He beat his former team in Colorado TWICE while at UW, and while his Bruins are pretty lousy, they will steal this one on the road.

CAL 21 Oregon State 17. I think the Beavs have something special going on, but I just can't see Sean Canfield beating Cal. The Berkeley Bears and their 3-4 attack will swarm the Beaver running game, daring Canfield to beat them, and I don't see it. The road team has won the last FIVE in this series, and that continues this week.

Oregon 36 Arizona 27. I agree Arizona is for real, but Oregon at home will get it done. Oregon's running game and high-energy defense in Autzen will be enough.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Paul Wulff Radio Recap - Week Twelve


Big Time Bud Nameck in the chair yet again. So here....we.....go:

The show opened up with a shout out to the vets on Veteran's Day. As Wulff said, a "great day for those who served our country" and the coaches reminded the players of exactly WHY they got the day off from school today.

  • Practice - This week for ASU they are inside the bubble and cranking up the heat. Wulff said it was good for the speed of the indoor turf and it's working well to get ready for what they'll run on at ASU, and the practices have been good. They want to continue using that bubble. But while it can get warmed up, it's not quite Tempe heat. But it's sure better than rainy and wet.
  • Bud asked about any momentum from the AZ game - Wulff believes that there was some carry over to today in practice. The kids are getting into a rhythm and building confidence right now. As usual, they want to keep building and getting better. But of course, Wulff said they still can improve in many areas. They want their focus to be on what they can control and continue to do build on those things.

  • Bud asked about injuries - Kevin Kooyman will be back this week, and that will help the line in a huge way. Andy Mattingly MAY be back but is a question mark coming off the ankle. Devin Frischknecht will be back as well on offense. Tyrone Justin might play a little more this week. Myron Beck broke his hand and he won't be back this week. Beck has two broken bones in the hand and had some soreness today, so this week is pretty much out of the question. However he might be back next week (UW).
  • Bud asked about the video of the AZ game and what he saw? Likes? Still need to improve? Wulff said they made some plays, convert on third downs, and when we got in red zone we scored. Also pleased with the more consistent o-line play, better pass protection than before and it really helped Lopina settle down and make throws. He really wants to keep building off this effort!
  • Right now there is a long-snapper problem. Wulff said the current snapper is questionable, and they lost Tony Thompson to concussion vs. AZ. Wulff did mention that Chris Prummer can snap if Zach Enyeart the main long snapper can't go. Nameck joked "You CAN'T BRING Ferris Saxon great JEFF ROBINSON OUT OF RETIREMENT like the Seahawks did!" Ok then.
  • A called asked about Louis Bland and some sort of unsportsmanlike/personal foul, where Bland was seen yelling at the ref with his helmet off. The caller mentioned two or three personal fouls, and if Wulff gets a good explanation on these things? Do refs explain themselves based on these calls? Wulff said they are calling things pretty tight. The incident with Bland was that there was some real pushing back and forth with another kid, where the AZ player started to rip his face mask. Bland pushed back, got caught, and got the flag. It happens often, where if you retaliate you usually get caught, and part of a youthful mistake on Bland's part. Bland tried to explain it to the ref but the ref didn't see it.
  • There was another penalty where Matt Mullennix hit an o-lineman behind the play and they nailed him on it. And finally we had a horse collar penalty called against us. The caller asked how do you treat these kinds of issues with your players? Wulff said that they need to continue to create a culture for how you work and play. Don't get caught up in personal battles on the field. Don't get too sensitive to it with your players though, or else kids play tentative. Wulff has seen it go both ways where kids will be too tentative if you are too hard on them on those types of things. Teach them to play hard and educate them and sometimes things happen and you just let it roll off your back. As long as personal fouls are not a pattern then sometimes the personal battles happen.
  • Wulff was asked about Stoops of Arizona. Wulff said his behavior has the reputation of being a little out of whack but he is a class act. The umpire working the game is retiring, and this was his last game. Stoops sought out the umpire and gave him the game ball after the game. Classy move. Wulff would go on to say that watching film on AZ you can see Stoops go a little crazy. They have had some laughs watching him twist and contort with the action.


  • Caller asked, how does the team feel about apple cup? Wulff said they aren't really thinking about it, and are only thinking about ASU right now. They want to improve and only goal is ASU. We'll think about that opponent on Sunday... but we know who that is....
  • Bud asked about ASU and Erickson. Wulff said they are good football team but the record doesn't show it. They have lost some close games but have a lot of talent, with a senior QB, senior running back and lots of weapons. Bud asked about his first-ever game as head coach in 2000, and it was EWU at Oregon State and Dennis Erickson. EWU played hard and lost 21-19 in Corvallis, and Wulff said they had a chance to win that game. Wulff said it was special because they played so hard against a very good team, as OSU went 11-1 and beat ND that year in the Fiesta Bowl.
  • Bud asked what did he borrow from Erickson? Wulff said the competitive nature as coach and how that rubbed off on players. It was evident early on that winning is first and foremost under Erickson, and Wulff agrees with in a lot of ways. But also Erickson makes it fun. Erickson's staff intrigued Wulff more than anyone else he was around in terms of wanting to get into coaching. He was only around him 2 years but it was enough to understand it. A lot of former Erickson players and coaches have moved on and are coaching today, all over the country. But one interesting aspect is that Erickson has his "core" guys who are with him, guys who have been with him along the various stops in his career. It shows a real loyalty that some people feel for Erickson.
  • Bud asked about the three-man defensive line. Of course injuries had everything to do with it and we were totally undermanned on the d-line for AZ. They only went with the 3-man line on Thursday's practice! They made the adjustment and Friday they had to do a lot of changes to the d-line in the different responsibilities, etc. Based on the circumstances, Wulff felt the kids did a great job, made some plays behind the line, and brought it the whole game. Toby Turpin did a great job, as he just got the cast off his broken hand and his level of play has been elevated. Wulff is very encouraged by what he sees out of Turpin, the big sophomore. Between Turpin, Ahmu and Mullennix, they played EVERY SNAP on defense and they did a good job. Wulff was very proud of their effort. Ahmu moved outside for the first time, but for what we asked him to do he did a good job, and he got some pressure and was physical on the edge. Wulff said it was a good changeup for us even though we had to do it on the run, but it worked out OK.
  • A caller asked about talent evaluation on recruits, and after they come in they sometimes move positions - what's the deal? How do you decide to move a player to the other side of the ball? Wulff said high school kids will play where the coaches think it will help them the best in high school but doesn't mean it will work with his talents and instincts on the next level. Some have better defensive instincts and personality vs. offensive side of the ball. Over time you learn to see the traits that each position needs and what you want at different positions. A lot of times you'll see a WR in high school do well but is flexible and has great feet, and with his instincts and personality could be a very good corner. Little things like that. You get an idea of what you look for by position. For the line, on D-line you are looking for athletic ability, quickness and speed but not necessarily the biggest players. You want the ability to pursue and see and react to the football. For offensive line you look for the big frame and put on the right amount of weight and strength. You also want balance from a player on the o-line. Wulff has been doing it a long time and all coaches look for different things (15 years for Wulff). Finally, Wulff was very clear when he said we HAVE TO get our O and D lines at a high level of play! We will get there, it takes time but we will get there.
  • Bud asked about the idea of changing positions with recruiting. At times you will see high school coaches move a player knowing he is better suited at the college level to play that position. Does Wulff talk to high school coaches about moving players? Wulff said they do at times ask and feel out the player and coach and see if they are open to the position you want them. Wulff mentioned Mike Price, and after he took the WSU job he knew that in order to compete, the defense had to get better. Price's biggest priority was they would put their best athletes on defense. Wulff said if a player can be an impact player on defense, that is where he is going to play. An impact player COULD be on offense but if he plays defense, he will be on defense. Wulff said we want to get more and more speed on defense and will do what they can to make that happen. But Wulff also said he just likes football players and guys who make plays. They don't have to look the best or be the biggest, but get a bunch of "football" players and we will be a good, competitive team.
  • Bud asked again about ASU - Carpenter 40 consecutive starts and now over 10,000 passing yards in his career, the 9th ever to do it in the Pac-10. Wulff said their o-line is young and inexperienced, and they haven't been real consistent on offense. It goes to show you that as good as Rudy Carpenter is, you need the support around you or it doesn't work.


    Wulff then said it will be a challenge but he believes they will go down and play well. They have to get pressure on Carpenter, especially in predictable passing situations and attack their passing game. But a big part of that is stopping the run early and putting them in those situations. If they can't do that, then it will be very difficult to slow them down. RB Keegan Herring came back vs. UW and ran really well, and Wulff said he's a very good back. ASU did pretty well run blocking vs. UW and Herring is a talented guy who gave them a boost.
  • A caller asked "What happens in the future when we are 9-0 and Alabama comes calling? What will you say to that??" After some stunned laughter, Wulff said "It's funny but I haven't had that question this year! Thank you!" :) Wulff then said when he left high school, he chose WSU over other schools. This is home and he believes in this place. It's an easy sell and ingrained inside of him. He never looks at the "greener side of the fence". Wulff believes that where you stand can be as green as you make it. He still feels blessed to be at WSU and is very fortunate. NOT LOOKING AT ANYTHING like that! But he would love to be in the situation of competing for the Pac-10 in a few years. He then went on to say that he believes in the work ethic of the staff, that NOBODY WILL OUTWORK US - "I guarantee it" - and we will fight our way back into this thing.
  • A Question from crowd - knee braces and linemen. The Cougar line isn't wearing knee braces right now. Wulff said that while playing and then coaching last 15 years, his belief is that braces don't matter unless you have an injury. He has seen kids hurt with or without knee braces. But as a staff, they believe that if they want to wear them, fine, but if they don't want to wear them, that's fine too. Some programs make their linemen wear knee braces, but they don't do that here.
  • Finally, Bud asked about the ASU defense - Wulff said they are stout in their line and linebackers. Very few teams have run well on them. Even Georgia didn't move the ball up and down the field. They are very tough. They have good speed in the secondary and overall just play really solid defense. At the same time, if we do some things we are capable of we will score some points. Wulff also mentioned a quick start and how important that could be on the road. Start off strong and build off that, the longer we can stay in the game the more confidence we will have and we will keep fighting hard. And Wulff said he would love to see ourselves in position to win a game, and to see how the young players will perform in some tight situations so they can learn and grow. Hopefully this is the week.

That's it for this week. A pretty upbeat tone all the way around, and you can tell they believe they did some good things vs. Arizona.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Is the 3-4 the WSU Defense of 2009?

So the three-man line got a lot of ink from Saturday's game. Basically some injuries had cut down Andy Mattingly and Kevin Kooyman, and with the continued ineffectiveness of Matt Eichelberger, well, the lads up front were awfully thin. Factor in the loss of d-end Mike Graise for missing practices and workouts? They were basically down to FOUR healthy defensive linemen against Arizona. Not good, not good at all. As Wulff said in the Times:
"We got to a point where we're so thin where we can't even line up four players that have a legitimate amount of experience at all on the defensive line," Wulff said. "So if you go to a three-down-line look, it at least helps us there and gives us at least an extra backup that we wouldn't have in a four-down-line look."
And at least they aren't burning redshirts on the likes of Bernard Wolfgramm to shore up the weakness. This is such a lost year, that to do something like that would be foolish....almost Willingham-like in it's ineptness....

But I think it begs a bigger question. Is the three-four for WSU here to stay? Given the way college football offenses have evolved, and the overall lack of depth that this program has had for a long time now on the defensive line, wouldn't it be a good idea to just go to a 3-4, or, even, a 3-3-5!?!

For some background, yes, we have tinkered with the 3-4 from time to time. Remember down the stretch of the 2006 season? With injuries destroying that team, and even Mkristo Bruce heroically playing on one good leg, losing Ropati Pitoitua, Aaron Johnson and A'i Ahmu just crippled the depth inside. They had no choice but to scrap the 4-3, and go with the 3-4 during the year-end fade.


It didn't really work, and the reasons were many. It was a brand new scheme of course, as the defensive linemen had different gaps and responsibilities that go with a three-man front. But even the linebackers had to adjust to having an extra linebacker out there, and it was too late to plug the hole in the dam. But the other reason was, mainly, they just didn't have the proper personnel to run it effectively.

While we loved Mkristo Bruce, he was a better pure pass rusher than a run-oriented defensive end. Too many times he faced double teams, and it just didn't work out. He was at his best coming around the edge, one on one with a tackle. But the other side was much, much worse, where Lance Broadus, all 215 pounds of him, was the other end. He was basically engulfed by the opposing offensive line, so badly out of position that it was a disaster on his side of things. Not his fault, but the man simply wasn't built for the 3-4. They just didn't have the personnel to run something like that

To be successful in the 3-4, you have to have a legit nose tackle who can take up space and occupy blockers, and he has to be big. Why? Because on about 95% of all defensive plays in that 3-4 scheme, the nose tackle will be expected to take on the center AND a guard, all at the same time. But it's not just the nose tackle who needs size and strength. The defensive ends need to be a little different style as well. They have to be much larger than your Isaac Brown/DD Acholonu mold, you know, the converted 225-lb linebackers who rush wide and up the field? You need defensive ends with some girth, at least in the 255-260 range in college, to hold up and handle their gaps.

All three of the defensive linemen have what is called two-gap responsibility. They are expected to hit the offensive linemen head on, and watch the play to make sure the running back doesn't come through on either side of them. It's almost a read-n-react defense as opposed to a one-gap scheme you often see in a 4-3, where the defensive linemen simply chooses a gap and shoots it at the snap.

But a 3-4 defensive lineman is also expected to hold their block so that the offensive linemen can't get free and to seek out a linebacker. Simply put, the linemen play a more physical game as they are taking on one or two offensive linemen directly, play after play. And the glamour? Forget it. The 3-4 linemen aren't your stat hounds in any way, shape or form (how many great defensive ends in the 3-4 make headlines?).

The big plus to a 3-4 are the linebackers. Basically two inside linebackers who you want in the 240-range and also with some athleticism. But the outside linebackers can be in that Louis Bland/Myron Beck mold, at least in the NCAA, and you can get away with having 210-215 lb speedsters on the outside. They can blitz from different angles, of course, but they are also on the outside as much as possible, able to use their speed out in space. And against the spread-style offenses of today, that asset of speed on the edges is CRUCIAL if you want to survive something like Oregon throws at you. You have speed like that outside, and it makes it all the more difficult for the QB to scramble or roll out effectively.


I look at how Cal has handled Oregon in recent times, and it's really no coincidence that Bob Gregory, the Cal DC, has evolved the defense. Cal used to claim to be a 4-3 defense, but they consistently threw 3-man fronts at opposing teams. But today, they finally DO claim to be a true 3-4 team, and it has really done well against the one-back offenses you see so much of in the conference. Against the true spread, which is thriving today in the Big 12 and you now see Oregon and Arizona running versions of it every week, Cal has the scheme to deal with it.

Now, can this work for WSU next year? I think it can, and here's why.

1) Andy Mattingly is already being talked about as moving back to linebacker for next year. Paul Wulff has mentioned this at least a month ago on his radio show, and it's been highlighted in other articles over at least the last month. And Andy Mattingly, we remember, was a 90-tackle, eight-sack guy as a linebacker in 2007. With Greg Trent, Cory Evans and Ken Dunn all graduating next year, the need for a linebacker with experience will be gigantic. Mattingly could slide right into an inside linebacker spot next year, with his 251 pounds a perfect fit back there.

2) The other inside linebacker might be a bit of a reach, but Mike Ledgerwood has played well this year as a true frosh backup to Greg Trent in the middle. But weight is an issue, as he's only 215 pounds.

I would think he would need to get to AT LEAST 225 to handle it, but it's possible. Marshall Pirtz is also an option, at 6-0, 231, but Pirtz may not even be a linebacker anymore, potentially moving to running back. We'll see what happens there.

3) The outside linebackers might be the perfect fit. In reality, both Myron Beck and Louis Bland started out as safeties anyway, both in the 205-210 range in weight. Give both guys another year of putting on weight, and they could be 215-220 next season while maintaining their quickness and speed, with the ability to be stout against the run yet able to get out on the edges and make plays.

4) The defensive line might be much better suited for this defense as soon as next year. Toby Turpin is already 6-6, 280, and with another 10 pounds or so he could be just fine as a nose tackle. He started at NT vs. Arizona, so who knows what he might do. Add in Kevin Kooyman at one end, where he's already around 250 pounds, and he could be just fine. The other end is interesting in that the top recruit from 2008, Bernard Wolfgramm, will be ready to play.


He's already 6-3, 275, and has a ton of experience as a defensive end from his JC days. Also, Josh Luapo will be enrolling in January, and he'll likely be a 300-pounder by September next year. He could be a fit as a backup nose tackle.

The other angle to this is the lack of depth on the defensive line. It would be much easier to get by with 5-6 defensive linemen if you only have three on the field at once. But if you are running four of them out there every play, the depth gets that much thinner. Add in the usual injuries, etc, well, you get the picture.

Finally, the spread offense - we're only going to see more and more of it as it continues to thrive. Already Oregon and Arizona have fine-tuned their attacks, but there will be others to follow suit. It's just too successful, what's happening in the Big 12, to ignore it anymore. If Gary Pinkel or Mike Leach get the UW job, there's another team that will instantly be running the spread. And you can already see some wrinkles with it at Oregon State, where they run a ton of one-back, but love to do some read option where the WR goes in motion to take handoffs from the QB, and they do a lot of shotgun as well.

I would hope that they will seriously consider it for next year. Not only is it effective against the spread/multiple offenses, but if you have the right personnel to run it effectively, it could actually be a strength of the team. I'd love to see Andy Mattingly absolutely cut loose his senior year, blitzing from the linebacker spot next year instead of with a hand down as a defensive end. With the thin defensive line set to lose Matt Mullennix, A'i Ahmu and Matt Eichelberger next year, the lack of experienced linemen could be a big issue. Take one lineman off the field, and you can handle that lack of depth in a much more effective manner. And for once, we might actually have the correct personnel to get away with running the 3-4 at the college level, with some decent size at defensive ends and some real speed at the outside linebackers.

What do YOU think?? Should we go to a 3-4 next year? Or are we better off with the traditional 4-3?

ENJOY YOUR TUESDAY, and GO COUGS!

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Enjoy the Ride

I live just about a mile up the hill to the west of Hwy 195, where it's still Spokane but dangerously close to Cheney. Spangle is only 15 minutes south. My drive to Pullman is usually just over an hour if I use the "traditional" route through Colfax.

If your trip to Pullman on CFS begins on Hwy 195 in Spokane you must be aware of three inherent dangers of this route:

Danger #1 is the Washington State Patrol. The speed limit is just 60 and it can be very difficult to keep your foot off the accelerator. If you're in a hurry, your best bet is to wait for a bird dog (someone going way faster than you). Let the bird dog pass you and then catch up to him so you're going just as fast, then let up a little and set your cruise control to a couple MPH less than him. If all goes as planned, your bird dog races down the road at 70MPH, gets busted and you drive by and take his picture when he gets pulled over.



My bird dog showed up early yesterday, as I was still north of Spangle. I was hoping to stick with him a long way, so I set the cruise control at 65 and settled in for the ride.

Much to my chagrin, my 'dog got nailed within only a couple miles. While the strategy worked like a charm, I was now dogless and no one was willing to speed up after seeing highway justice in action.



Since dangers #2 and 3 of traveling Hwy 195 are crippling boredom and a lack of bars, it was an easy choice to get off the highway at the exit for Hwy 271.

If you've ever driven 195 to Pullman, it's probably likely that at one time one another, you've taken the "back road" on highways 271 and 27 through the towns of Oakesdale, Garfield and Palouse.



The back road is incredibly scenic, as it carves a winding path through the heart of the Palouse. The landscape is certainly prettier during the spring and summer but this is the magical time of year when the winter wheat is starting to sprout - giving the cheeks of God's Country a kelly green 5 o'clock shadow.










In addition to a collection of weathered, old barns and quaint little farmhouses nestled in-between the patchwork rolling hills, the wildlife is abundant. The hills are alive with deer, elk, moose, pheasants, hawks and all sorts of furry little critters.




This friendly little fellow was obviously quite used to all the attention he gets on the highway - he let me get close enough to pet him!

Before long, you'll find yourself pulling into the sleepy little farm town of Oakesdale. Be sure to slow down to a maximum of 23 MPH here and in all of these towns. The last thing you want to have happen in a town like this is to be caught speeding with an open bottle and half a joint. You won't get any liberal sympathy in this town, you dirty hippie! With no tavern in sight from the highway, you're best bet is to keep a slow roll through town and push onward.


You will soon find yourself approaching the farming community of Belmont. Despite the fact that the highway goes right through the middle of it, the cool thing about Belmont is that it's so small you don't have to slow down. The speed limit stays 55 but inevitably you get stuck behind some concerned traveler who takes it upon himself to slow down. Word has it that the Belmont grain elevator has already been chosen as the site for JT Levenseller's 2010 Heisman campaign banner. Don't slow down if you can help it, weary traveler - you're only a few minutes away from a well-deserved beer.


As you coast into the town of Garfield, you might be tempted to stop at the little market on the corner for a 6-pack of road buddies - but don't! You're still too far from Pullman to risk an open container. Besides that, you'll find a friendly little tavern called Grumpy's just around the corner, right on the side of the highway.


















A trip through God's Country would simply not be complete without a luke-warm PBR from Grumpy's - which has the classic tavern bouquet of cigarette smoke, fry grease and stale beer. They probably won't like you at Grumpy's, but they will like your money. Stop in for a burger and a beer and thank me later.

"But Hooty" you ask, "My wife doesn't want to sit in a bar-full of old perverts and aging, drunk frat-dicks who won't take their eyes off her rack - What should I do?"

Well that's an easy question to answer, my thirsty friend. While you belly up to the bar at Grumpy's, your wife will thank you for allowing her time to take advantage of the Garfield shopping district, where great deals like this one are found on every street corner.

Indeed, Garfield, WA is fun for the whole family!


This portion of Hooty's blog is brought to you by the Garfield, Washington Chamber of Commerce.


You'll have so much fun at Grumpy's that getting back on the road may actually put you in a bad mood. But fortunately, the town of Palouse is just a few miles down the road.









While Garfield is definitely too far away to risk an open container, Palouse is juuuuust right! A mere 15 miles from Pullman, the Palouse Market is the perfect place to stop for an ice-cold 6-pack of delicious PBR tallboys.




After one sip of your tasty beverage, you'll be right as rain and excited about the homestretch into P-Town.

Pullman - here I come!!



Pullman is a distance of approximately two beers from Palouse. On a nice day, you might even want to spend some time exploring the beautiful Kamiak Butte park before arriving at your final destination - but for me, that adventure would have to wait for another day. I was getting anxious to get to town - and the first PBR was already working its way through me...

I arrived in Pullman at approximately 12:30 and I parked out in the old golf course parking lot. I finished beer #2 and stuck #3 into a glove for my walk to the RV lot. I've found that this is slightly more classy than the cliche' paper bag. As I approached the RV lot, I wasn't terribly surprised to see that was only about 3/4 of the way full.
By now, I was in desperate need of a pit stop so I stopped off at one of the honey buckets at the back of the lot.


Hypothetical question:If you dropped one of your gloves on the floor of a honey bucket, would you pick it up and try to clean it off?


Me either - but that's the second pair of gloves I've lost to the floor of one of Pullman's portable crappers.


The RV lot was totally depressing. The light drizzle kept everyone either inside their trailers or huddled up under tarps and awnings. The vibe I got from all the tailgaters was like that of a wake. People were trying to go about their normal tailgating routines but it seemed forced - like they were doing their best to put on a happy face in spite of the palpable gloom in the air.

When times are tough in Pullman, there's typically only two things that can possibly take the pain away: large quantities of malt liquor and making a new friend like this charming young man.



I don't recall his name but we did have a friendly argument over which of our teams sucks the most. Quite frankly, I don't know which of our teams sucks the most - but after watching this lightweight spill half a beer on himself while attempting to stand and speak at the same time, it no longer mattered.

My efforts to poke a little fun at our new friend by making fun of the big beer spot on his sweatshirt were foiled when his lady friend deftly swooped in at the last minute to hide his embarrassing wet spot behind her luncheon sausage. Indeed, by hiding the beer stain on his shirt, this young heroine completely saved her boozy companion from making a complete ass of himself.

video

Maybe next time...

With my heart warmed by the friendship of my new husky buddy and my beer-hand chilled by the lack of a glove, I made my way into the stadium for the game. I arrived just in time to see the Cougs score the first touchdown of the game. The meager crowd seemed to enjoy this. In case you forgot what it looks like to see the Cougs lead a football game...


video


I decided to hang out in the corner of the endzone where Arizona's cheer squad put on a spectacular show. Their moves were crisp and their timing was flawless. I found myself hoping the Wildcats would cover the spread in the first quarter just so I could see more!


video


Normally choreographed hip-thrusts by the opposing team's cheer squad really get my blood boiling but I'm sure you'll agree that this squad's performance was simply transcendent.

OK, OK...This was clearly not even 'Zona's 'B' squad of cheerleaders but they were so fun to watch that I almost missed the site of Logwone Mitz barrelling toward the endzone right in front of me. He was tackled just short of the goal line and then time ran out in the quarter so I raced to the other end of the field, where I captured this video that the officials quickly confiscated to review the play. Upon further review of my video, the referee concluded that Lopina had indeed just barely reached the ball over the pylon, a mere nano-second before his knee hit the turf. Pac-10 officials take a lot of shit every year but as you can see for yourself - they got this one right. They should be commended for their resourcefulness - keep up the great work fellas!

video


I finally decided to settle down and try to actually watch some of the game. To be completely honest, that didn't last long. I hung around until halftime but with out-of-town guests expected back home, I made an early exit. The crowd was small and their excitement for the 14 first-half points was tempered by the fact that we gave up 21 unanswered before halftime.

Just think how empty Martin Stadium would have been had it not been Dad's Weekend.


I won't go into the laundry list of shortcomings I saw on Saturday because I'd just be re-hashing what we already know about this team. Suffice it to say that despite the 28-point outburst, we still have a long way to go. I know there's a bunch of second-guessing going on right now about the decision to play JT only during mop-up time but please be patient with Coach Wulff.


I for one, believe in his plan - and as I hope I've illustrated above, sometimes the long way can be very rewarding!



Go Cougs!
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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Improvement, or Illusion? Does it Matter?

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Well, 28 points is nice. Especially when you have been drilled in the manner of what we've seen. And especially when you haven't scored since the second quarter vs. Oregon State, back on October 11th. It's been a while.

But while the object of the game is to get the ball into the end-zone, and we did it better than any other time besides Portland State, still.....not exactly the sexiest 28 points. Not to rain on the crimson parade down main street today, but they were outgained 531-208, turned the ball over four times, had just 12 first downs compared to 28 for Arizona. So while 28 points is nice, on just over two bills of offense and 94 passing yards out of the starting QB is, well, still a major struggle on offense.

All that said, for the first time since that first half vs. Oregon State, these guys showed a pulse. The INT on the first series of the game could have started the familiar landslide towards a 60-pt beating, but instead, they fought back. And in this lost season, with a roster so decimated from injuries, with tons of mistakes brought on by youth and inexperience, THAT IS WHAT WE'VE BEEN HOPING TO SEE! The final score, honestly, it really doesn't matter at this point. Yes we want them to win, of course we do. But the reality is such that unless the other team takes the afternoon off, we're not going to come out ahead. So at least dig in and show some fight, and that's exactly what they did yesterday.


Today, Coug Nation, we should be proud of the fight in these kids. They could have laid down early, but instead, fought their way off the mat. What more could we ask for out of this rag-tag group?

Oh, I know - MORE JT LEVENSELLER! The kid didn't get in until very late in the contest. And yes, he did toss a pick in the end zone. But he showed something as well, moving the team a little bit with his legs and his arm. As we've said all along, we like Kevin Lopina and at least he's been able to speak up in this trying season. He's actually shown some leadership, and lately as he's become more and more healthy, he's starting to make plays with his legs. But the passing thing, it's just not working out. There are STILL three games left in the season, more than enough time to get a lot more work for young Levy. Let's see what he can do, for it just might pay off next season.

That is all for now. ENJOY YOUR SUNDAY, and as always, GO COUGS! Click here for more ...plus Comments

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Halftime: Have You Seen This Coug?

Cougar Nation sure hasn't. 35-14 at the half, and some rough passing numbers from Kevin Lopnia....34 yards and two int's.....yet still no JT Levenseller. But hey, 14 points is NIIIICE! And for the first time since the Portland State game, we actually had a LEAD!

But after an interesting 14-14 first quarter, it's careening out of control as the Mildcats have grabbed this thing by the throat, to the tune of 310 yards of total offense compared to only 97 from our Cougs. So when will we see young JT? 42-14? 49-14? How about 56-14? I'll go 56-14.

GO COUGS. Click here for more ...plus Comments

All I Could Muster

Greetings Cougies - Long time, no blog.

It's 4:33AM on Cougar Football Saturday (can we start acronym-ing this down to CFS?). I've actually been more or less awake since 2AM. You might ask yourself "Why in the world was Hooty up at 2AM? I wonder if it had anything to do with getting shitfaced at the Owl n Thistle and then going out for a nice plate of 'browns at the Hurricane followed by a little lapdance in the VIP room at Razzmatazz?"

Well, I'm glad you asked, curious reader. The reason I was up at 2AM this morning is that I actually still get fired up for CFS. In this historically shitty season - I still wake up at 2 AM and can't get back to sleep because I'm excited for CFS...and as far as Mrs. McBoob knows, I NEVER had a lapdance in the VIP room at Razzmatazz. I just watched Poo get one as I stood just inside the door, waiting for that one Whitesnake song to end so I could get home to her... but seriously, I can't wait to get on the road.

Weird, huh?

So, instead of being an active participant on the blog this season, I've been a casual observer and occasional comment-er. So, I'm either sorry - or you're welcome depending on how you feel about that. My last actual contribution to the blog might have been my glorious slice into the lumber yard of a prediction that our offensive line would be the best unit on the team. Oof.

With Longball on board this year, he assumed the role I played last year and I am now filling the role Rooster had. Rooster had to retire in order to accept his new position as Supreme Chancellor of Reardan Mule Days.

I had planned on being a much more active participant this season but in addition to being busy coaching Mini McBoob's Pop Warner team, we got the news in mid-August that Mama McBoob has brain cancer. She had surgery on the 21st and true to form, she recovered from surgery soon enough to watch the first half of the season opener on the 30th from her own couch. (She slept through the second half, kinda like our secondary.) By September 6th, she was on the sidline for Mini's game. (That's Mini up above, form-tackling some unlucky 7-year-old chump from Priest River)When Mini and I had to leave straight from the field for Pullman and the Cal game, she lobbied hard to go with. Moms was weak as a kitten but she wanted to come with us. She's always been a Coug fan - even when I was growing up in a house full of husky fans in Bothell, Mom was the only one cheering for the Cougs. The first Apple Cup I ever remember watching was the '82 game and she was the only one rooting for the good guys. Now, after brain surgery, she says she wants a cougar tattoo on her bald head. She loves her Cougs.


So like any son would do for their die-hard Coug mom who has brain cancer, I sent an e-mail to Mike Utley's Foundation, to ask if he'd mind giving my Mom a call to tell her to keep fighting. Prior to my freshman year in '88, I briefly flirted with the idea of walking on the football team. That flirtation stopped when I went through new student orientation that summer and my counselor was Mike's sister Theresa, who I believe was a thrower on the track team. She invited Mike to lunch one day and I was in awe. I had never seen a human that big and he had a killer mullett that made mine look like a Bum Phillips flat-top.

Today, I'm still in awe of Mike Utley for all that he's accomplished in his life. He's another great example of how we should define a hero. We often refer to athletes as heroes and some of them really are - but moreso for what they do off the field than on it. Mike's one of those guys. Not only does he raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for spinal chord research every year, he also called and talked to my Mom just a few days after she came home from the hospital. How cool is that? A couple days after the call, a package showed up with a personalized 8x10 that now sits in a frame in my Mom's den. She's planning on making it down for Apple Cup to thank him in person.


Speaking of the Apple Cup, have you guys seen this? I think we've finally sunk beneath the famous "Bone the Dawgs" t-shirts of the '80's...

Gross.

So one good thing about being up in the middle of the night is that when John Clayton gives tips about this weekend's games, it's like he's giving them only to you. My fantasy RB situation is so bad that I had Ahman Green and Dominic Rhodes in my starting lineup this weekend, so on JC's advice, I just waived Green and picked up some guy named Darby who will start for the Rams. This simple act will almost surely result in Mr. Darby pulling his groin and both hamstrings as he opens a can of cat food tonight - but if not, thank you in advance, John.


Despite Hawk's claim that as an "all-area lineman" I could put some sort of expert spin on this afternoon's slugfest (as in us getting repeatedly slugged in the gut), I was actually a scout team MVP one week during my senior year, so what you'll likely get after my trip to Pullman this afternoon is a few crappy snapshots and some sweet, sweet drunk-talk. It'll be kind of like reading one of Brinkhater's posts...


And now, back to your regularly scheduled CFS programming with Hawk, BH and Longball.


Your Friend,

Hooty

P.S. I voted for Moore AND McCain. Fool me twice...
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Friday, November 07, 2008

Football Friday Week 11: Leading the Way

Hello Cougar Nation. Hope you all are having a good week.

Well, as noted on this here Blog during the campaign, Sedihawk proved once again that his reporting is leading the nation. First, it was our good friend and colleague Vince Grippi who used Sedi's comparison of Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster to Wulff in his column.

And now, it's happening at ESPN.com!?

Way to go, Uncle Sedi, you continue to be my hero!

Over the past few years, many of you have been forthright in your criticism of me for being negative about certain Cougar players and prospects. And, I want you all to know that I have heard you.

While I can not escape my past--including my shameful moniker--in this new age, I can control the future.

And, as a result, both myself and my fellow Blogfathers will do our utmost to resist the temptation of going negative. Of course, we will attempt to do so without sacrificing our collective needs to 'keep it real.' So, after this post, you will not hear more vicious smack about Coach Paul. You will also hear no more condemnations of our defense and its coaching staff. And you will hear no hateful comments about any of our players.

That all said, I am sure that we can all agree that this season is beyond lost. We also should all know by now that the only way we will depart from the 69-0 drubbings we have taken this year is to find a way to get our very vulnerable and depleted defense off of the field. And, we also sadly know that in spite of his near HEROIC leadership in trying to inspire and lead this football team, Kevin Lopina offers no relief from our current plight. He simply isn't talented enough.

Moreover, with only one year left of eligibility after this season, he offers little hope or benefit for the future of the program--particularly in what will be Wulff's pivotal and critical third year. And that's not Kevin's fault. Consequently, Kevin will NOT be bashed on this site.

What you WILL read here--in each post and wherever possible--is information about what we view to be the future of WSU Football:


JT Levenseller.

With that in mind, please join us in leading the way to promote JT's ascension to the starting quarterback position through every media, personal, and university channel possible--as soon as possible. In the meantime, feel free to send stories about JT, including photographs and telling vignettes to our student intern, Victory Bell. VB can be reached at cougvictorybell@gmail.com.

Needless to day, we're looking forward to sharing your thoughts about JT with the rest of the blogosphere in the coming days and weeks....

Now, in regards to our game, no analysis is needed.

Arizona is better than Stanford in all phases of the game and is arguably as talented offensively as USC. Perhaps we'll execute better offensively than we have in the past--especially if JT plays. But, you can bet that the score will be 45-0 before Stoops calls off the Dogs. Then, you can also expect that his scrubs will score another 3 touchdowns against our humiliated defense from the early 3rd quarter on.

Thus, this Dad's Day game will be a CAL redux special:

CATS 66 Cougs 3 (Viva the start of a new streak?????!!!)

Elsewhere:

USC 41 CAL 17 Cal shows they still aren't ready for primetime.

ASU 31 Washington 27. ASU is really bad. But Washington finds a way to stay perfect thanks to pass defense that is worse than ours.

UCLA 31 Oregon State 27. Riley has never beaten UCLA. With Canfield, the streak continues.

Oregon 41 Stanford 21. No CAL defense spells return of Oregon offense. DUCK!


Sedihawk says:

Happ Friday to you all, Coug Nation. First, let me say a personal congratulations to our 44th President of the United States, none other than Barack Obama. Ladies and gentlemen, regardless of your political affiliation, that was a very big deal on Tuesday night. And to watch the entire world celebrate was really amazing. Like Brinkhater told me, it was like watching the end of the Return of the Jedi, when the entire universe had a party like it was 1999 and the old regime had fallen??

But we'll see how it goes. He's got one hell of a job in front of him. But you know it's a different world when crazy Elizabeth Hasselbeck can admit on that show of cackling hens that this is actually great for the country and she's proud to be an American with President Obama.

WOW.

In that same breath, let me offer a hearty congratulations to Vincent Grippi. The Cougar Nation has, in fact, spoken, and spoken loudly. He is the man, and we are truly honored to have run a clean, hard-fought campaign against our former opponent.....even if he was unaware of any sort of election, and didn't actually run any campaign whatsoever. Still, we at WSU Football Blog will work hard as we can to help heal a wounded Cougar Nation. Vince, we are at your service.

Now, Arizona.
For several seasons now, they've had "the look" of being a team about to turn the corner. Yet for whatever reason, injury or otherwise, it hasn't happened. But this year looks like it is finally the YEAR they kick down the door and return to post-season play for the first time since 1998. They are loaded with talent and experience, pretty much everywhere. But nowhere is it more apparent than at QB.

It seems like Willie Tuitama has been at Arizona forever. He's kind of got that Danny Manning/Bob Garman vibe to him, you know, that college player who seems to be on his 17th year of eligibility? I still remember him bursting on the scene as a true frosh in 2005, rallying the Wildcats with a real edge to his game and offering up some major hope for the future. But so goes Willie Tuitama, so goes the Wildcats. He couldn't stay healthy in 2006, which doomed their season early. But when he did play, the team was pretty good, including big wins in Pullman and Eugene in November that year, both ranked teams at the time. But they couldn't close the deal and lost to ASU to finish the year at six wins, keeping them on the outside looking in for post-season play.

In 2007, he had a major breakthrough performance, throwing for over 3600 yards and 28 TD's. But, AZ had a lot of other problems, namely a putrid running game and a big issue with red zone offense. Their 114th-ranked running game was their Achilles heel and kept them completely out of balance. That lack of a rushing attack showed that over the long haul, you have to at some point be able to run the football.

This year has been different. Now 5-3 and one game for a sure bowl bid, they don't look like they will miss the mark this year. Arizona is averaging 36 points per game, which is impressive in itself. That's eight points better than their 2007 level of 28 points per game, but even bigger is the difference from 2006, when Arizona only averaged 16 points per game! And while the passing game is still potent, without a doubt it's their ground game that has made the biggest difference. In 2007, they averaged just 76.7 yards per game. This year? Exactly 151 yards per game. And as Paul Wulff pointed out Wednesday night, Arizona has actually logged more rushing attempts than passing attempts in 2008. This is a good, balanced football team that has the ability to gash you on the ground or beat you over the top, and that, my friends, is NOT GOOD for WSU hopes this Saturday.

On the flip side, I wonder what we will look like on offense. Are they going to keep running Lopina out there? Or is it JT's chance for more snaps when this thing gets away from us by the third quarter? I still take issue with the idea that they kept sticking with Lopina in last week's runaway, as JT only played in a limited basis early, then didn't see the field again until it was 58-0 in the 4th quarter. Not that he would have made a huge difference, but, still.....if you are going to burn the redshirt, THEN BURN IT. Roll with the kid and see what happens in a lost year.


There are still four games left on the schedule, a good chance to learn on the fly. Alex Brink took all the snaps in that last part of the 2004 season, so he was able to get a lot of the first-time yips out of his system. But the shirt has been burned, and there is no going back now.

That said, I wonder if Wulff, Sturdy and especially Levenseller are playing this thing exactly right? I mean come on, they know JT better than anyone else. Pops is on the staff for gawd sakes. It's not like he's some unknown quantity from California. They know what they have in JT, and maybe they think it's best to give him small chunks of PT now, filled with soft landings, until he's truly ready to step into the fire? I guess we'll all find out.

Bottom line - Arizona is going to move the ball at will against a WSU team still searching for answers on the defensive line and a young, beleaguered secondary trying to survive. I think the only question to me is if they can keep it under 60. Arizona is coming in off a bye week, so even though they are coming off a tough seven-point loss to USC, they should be rested, healthy and ready to go. They have tried hard to sharpen their focus, even calling a players meeting this week to not let up and blow it against WSU. In other words, I don't think we should expect Arizona to come in flat. And I also don't believe that Stoops will call off the dogs. They will take absolutely nothing for granted, and expect the pedal-to-the-metal for at least three quarters. Get ready for yards and points in bunches, and sadly, a lot more of the same for 2008. I'm going Arizona 62, WSU 6.

Elsewhere:

USC 45 CAL 14 Major muscle-flexing time for a USC team hitting their stride. A national TV audience and a chance to make an impact on the BCS stage will be too good of an opportunity for USC to open the proverbial can of whoop-ass.

Washington 19, ASU 18. Ugly score for an ugly game. Dennis Erickson has never won in Husky Stadium, and that won't change. UW gets their first win against a fading ASU team doing their best Cal-2007 impression.

Oregon State 34, UCLA 20. No letup now for the Beavs. The Rose Bowl hopes stay alive for the only team in the conference who controls their own destiny.

Oregon 26 Stanford 23. A real grinder as Stanford's power running game keeps Oregon's O off the field. But a late field goal gives Oregon the W.

HAPPY FRIDAY AND GO COUGS! Click here for more ...plus Comments

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Paul Wulff Radio Show Recap - Week Eleven

Yes, another week, another radio show. This one on Wednesday due to the historic election on Tuesday, but still, the show goes on. They actually cut the show short 15 minutes early and brought on the soccer coach, so I turned it off at 7:45. Also note that the next few weeks will also be on Wednesday, due to the hoops season firing up, so we'll have our usual recap on Thursday. Anyway, on to this week:
  • Bud in the host chair again. He asked Wulff first about the election and what the players thought. Wulff said they didn't discuss it a whole lot but knew it was being talked about by a lot of them. He also said that at the end of their team meeting on Tuesday, they always wrap the meeting by chanting "1-2-3 GO COUGS!" This time, he said at least half of them said "1-2-3 GO OBAMA!" Kind of funny. Wulff didn't say a whole lot about the election or politics or anything, clearly not an area they were going to go.

  • Once again, Wulff said they have had some very good practices this week. But he was quick to point out that he thought they practiced really well the week leading up to Stanford, and that didn't work out. Wulff did say that they did, in fact, do some OK things against Stanford early on, and it's actually true. They were within about 50 total yards of offense from Stanford in the first half. But the mistakes continue to drag this team down, and as soon as a couple of them happen early, it becomes an avalanche.

  • Nameck asked about the strength of the PAC-10 compared to the SEC, and how it's hurting USC's BCS rating. Wulff said that he still thinks that the PAC-10 is a brutally tough conference, and that the SEC might not be all that. BLASPHEMY, I know, to many NCAA fans! But mainly Wulff pointed out that in the SEC, you only play seven conference games, total, and that's it. You can stock up on some weaker out-of-conference teams to pad your stats and victory totals. Personally I can't support that argument myself, as we've seen enough of the SEC to know that it's pretty bad-ass while this might one of the weakest PAC-10 conferences, outside of USC, that we've ever seen. But whatever.

  • Arizona was brought up pretty quickly. Wulff is hoping for a decent crowd, and that is usually the case on Dad's Weekend. But Arizona is having their breakthrough season, and Wulff said they are easily in the top three teams in the conference in terms of overall talent. They have a lot of speed, they are very physical up front, and hey, they've been pretty HEALTHY this year! We know how important that can be.

  • A caller asked if Wulff could cool it with being so negative on his players, and then went into another question about recruiting in-state talent. Wulff didn't acknowledge the negative question, and instead said they are working hard on some in-state kids and will continue to do so all the way up until signing day. The caller than slipped in a "how are you dealing with this nightmare of a season?" Wulff said that it has been tough, clearly the toughest situation of his career. But he said the good news is that this situation is something that can be fixed! He admitted he's been through a lot in his personal life, but at least this situation can actually be fixed (hard to argue with that logic when you think about his mother and first wife). Wulff said that you can't always grow without some adversity and/or the real tough times, and he still believes that this team is growing as he speaks. Wulff finally said that there are some very good pieces here, and that they are taking some decent steps forward.

  • Another caller asked about some of the younger players in the program that we aren't seeing right now, players who will be on the field next season (Kaddy mentioned this in comments the other day). First Wulff brought up James Montgomery.

    Wulff said that Montgomery is an exceptional talent and will be a HUGE BOOST to the running game next season. You could hear it in Wulff's voice, but he can't wait until Montgomery can play. While we'll only get Montgomery for two seasons of on-field playing time, it should be worth it. The next name brought up was Brandon Jones. Another Cal transfer as a defensive back, he has looked really good in practices this year. Like Montgomery, we'll see him for two seasons of playing time starting in '09. Bernard Wolfgramm was next, and Wulff said he has played extremely well in practices. They are excited to get him in games next season and will really add something to the defensive front. Another defensive tackle brought up was Jesse Feagin. Feagin played in '07, but is redshirting this year. He will be back in the rotation at tackle next year and they really are hopeful about him. Finally, Zach Williams, an offensive tackle, is another guy they are thrilled about. A "gifted" guy who is strong and light on his feet, he will be in the offensive tackle mix next year. He even stood in at times last week at running back to try and simulate Toby Gerhart, so you can imagine he's pretty athletic.

  • Some true frosh redshirting right now who Wulff brought up were Cory Mackay and Andrei Lintz, as well as a big safety in 6-2, 200 lb LeAndre Daniels, who has looked really good in practices recently (As a listener, one can hear it in Wulff's voice when he says he believes they are going to be better with some of this younger talent on the field next year).

  • ON that same tone, a caller asked about how he's dealt with knowing that he has some good young talent, yet has held off with redshirting many of them. Wulff said it's been tough, but it's a necessary thing. The only true frosh who are playing right now are purely out of necessity, but if he had his way, all recruits would redshirt that first year (we've heard this before). But then Wulff went deeply into why - he wants to do this thing THE RIGHT WAY. He understands that people don't have a lot of patience these days, and at times, neither does he. But he also understands that the quick fix can be the worst possible thing when you are trying to build a program. He said sure, you could go with the quick fix and play all the youth immediately or get a bunch of JC guys and put them out there right away. But with a quick fix can come a quick fall, and the slower way to build and sustain success is to do it the right way. Wulff brought up some of the recent successful WSU teams, and how those teams were built. It was done the right way, built from the ground up, and that is what they are going to try and do here. But a big part of that is to avoid the quick fall after a successful group comes through, and that's where the building with layers and layers of depth comes into play (Oregon State is the perfect example of building depth with Mike Riley's approach, vs. the Erickson way which is to interject JC's and youth immediately to win now, and worry about tomorrow some other day).

  • Arizona was brought up again. Wulff mentioned that the biggest difference he's seen from them is that they are running the ball this season so much better than last year. A big reason is because of Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin, two smallish, faster backs who have really given them a nice balance to what they are trying to do. They are the complete opposite of what they had seen out of Stanford's power running game, so it will be quite the contrast. But they can kill you through the air, with WR Mike Thomas and TE Rob Gronkowski both big-time players. And of course, the senior QB element here with Willie Tuitama.

  • Their offensive line got some good mention as well, regarded as strong and physical. But again, even with Sonny Dykes coming from Texas Tech as the OC who created this "Air-Zona" passing attack, it's the running game that has been the biggest reason why they have had success this year. In fact, Arizona has actually run the ball more times than they've thrown it in 2008! That's not something that you would think, given their reputation.

  • Wulff was also impressed with their defense. It is better than people think, and very impressed with their back seven, with four seniors and three juniors among the starting linebackers and secondary. They are athletic, fast, play hard, and again, they've been healthy this year. Wulff said he was very impressed with how they played against USC, holding the Trojans to their lowest point total of the season.

  • Injuries were quickly brought up. Wulff said BJ Guerra is very questionable this week, and he was disappointed because he thought Guerra has been showing a lot of upside lately. Both Micah Hannam and Vaughn Lesuma are still dinged up, but they should both play. Wulff also mentioned that Lopina is getting better and better, and didn't really address how that will affect J.T. Levenseller's playing time (Boo! WE WANT JT!).

  • A caller asked about the workouts during the season, and just how much these kids are able to lift during the actual year. Wulff said that players who travel will get two to three lifting sessions in per week. But the redshirts go in at least four days a week - Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. And the redshirts are up at 5:30 in the morning hitting the weights! Wulff said that builds discipline and chemistry, and it's a good time for them to be together as a unit. But they are working hard to get bigger and stronger.

  • Finally, Nameck reminded Wulff that they haven't scored a point in 10 quarters now, not since the 2nd quarter of the Oregon State game. Wouldn't it be nice to get some points early and put this behind you?? "ABSOLUTELY." Wulff would love to get off to a quick start, get some points, and try to build some momentum and confidence. It is very important to what they want to do this week (and every week).
So there you have it. A bit of a lighter recap, as I'm trying to just touch on the highlights of what you, the reader, would give a rip about. But they cut it short for 15 minutes, so, this is about it.

Enjoy your Thursday, AND GO COUGS! Click here for more ...plus Comments

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Grippi Accepts, WSU Football Blog Concedes Defeat

Pullman, WA--Amidst a flurry of controversy surrounding the outcome of the election, the Grippi-Blanchette ticket today shocked the world by declaring themselves the victors of the highly contested contest for Washington State College Sportswriters of the Year. In a statement released on the Spokesman Review's website, Grippi said:

Though there is no way I can make a victory speech as literate and as moving as our next president's, I can make one that fits the tenor of the recent election held on the WSU football blog. Yes, I know we didn't get a majority of the votes (though we did get a plurality, which makes us the winner – see Dino, I told you an Italian could win in this state), and yes, I know Bud Withers voted 22 times for us (thanks, Bud), and, yes, I'm aware Jim Moore thought he was ordering a new lite beer from Miller called Sedihawk when he accidentally voted for our esteemed opponent, but still we are thankful there are 89 people out there who had nothing better to do than waste their time … sorry … express themselves, in such a manner. We are truly humbled. And we promise to serve all Cougar constituents as well as we can over the next few months. Unless, of course, we win the lottery.

Following the announcement, Sedihawk and Brinkhater convened with campaign chair Longball, as well as the campaign's lawyers, where they apparently decided to concede. Moments later, Brinkhater released the following statement:

After much deliberation, it became apparent to our campaign that Cougar Nation has spoken and spoken loudly. While we wish that the outcome of the election had been different, we wish to offer our congratulations to the Grippi and Blanchette campaign for the quiet--in fact silent--eloquence that they exhibited throughout what was a grueling 10 day campaign.

Now that they have won the election, Sedihawk and I promise to work alongside Grippi, Blanchette, and the Spokesman Review staff to provide Cougar Nation with the best sportswriting in the country.

In addition, it is also our intention to work alongside Vince Grippi in a new campaign to make sure that JT Levenseller is appointed as the starting quarterback of Washington State University's football team as soon as possible.



Thank you.




While Brinkhater's innuendo was interpreted by some writers and school officials as flip, sources close to both campaigns suggested that a collaboration between the WSU Football Blog and Sportslink was possible if not imminent:

"One thing we know now is that none of the previous rules of reporting and engagement apply," the source said.

"This is a new age for print and cyber media folks alike and the uniqueness of this Cougar Football season only adds to the novelty and complexity of the current environment. One can only imagine what might be possible and forthcoming with this new, post-partisan coalition of WSU Sportswriters."

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama, Grippi Victorious

Pullman, WA: Tonight, Barack Obama was elected to be the 44th President of the United States.


In other races, Vincent Grippi and John Blanchette weathered a furious rally on Monday by the WSU Football Blog for Washington State College Football writers of the Year.


While there was no official statement from Grippi or the Spokesman Review, Brinkhater made this brief statement in front of reporters:


"Today, I sat and watched a 7 vote lead by the WSU Football Blog evaporate in less than two hours."

"During that time, myself and my staff were carefully watching the Blog's Site Meeter and saw 17 log-ins from the Spokesman Review's website over a 30 minute period. Clearly, foul play was at work here: the Spokesman Review stuffed the Ballot box in order to defraud the electorate and steal the election."

Amidst some coughing in the audience, Brinkhater continued:

"While Sedihawk and I agree that Cougar Nation should be united during these times of trouble, this blatant aggression against Cougar Nation's democratic process will not stand."

"And so I say to Sir Vincent "Van-Go" Grippi: We are onto to you and your antics."

"Moreover, we plan to investigate the activities of you and your surrogates to the full extent of the law."

According to anonymous sources, Grippi discharged fellow reporter Greg Lee


early this afternoon to the Spokesman Review's marketing department with the expressed purpose of changing the outcome of the election.

The source said that a post on Sportslink by a commentor named Diane early on Tuesday spurred the aggressive move by the Grippi and Blanchette campaign.

Meanwhile, as reported above, Grippi himself remained unavailable for comment.

Even at this late hour, it is unclear whether or not Grippi would receive a trophy for the award, and if so, when receipt of the award would occur.

It is also unclear whether or not the award actually existed or if an actual election ever occured.

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You Know it's Bad When Tuba Man Dies

First of all, HOORAY ELECTION DAY. Get out and do your duty as an American. We don't care who you vote for, but just vote. Speaking of votes, have you noticed the movement in our own little BS election? The Brinkhater-Sedihawk ticket has seen a surge of late, overtaking Sir Grippi and now holding on to a slim lead. Wow. Anyway, you have until 9 PM tonight, so if you haven't yet done so, vote for your favorites.

Now for some sad news. Many a Coug fan who made their way through Pioneer Square or down by Qwest or Safeco will feel a sense of loss when the P-I reports that Seattle icon Tuba Man has passed away.


Tuba Man was always cool to Cougs. I can't tell you how many times we would see him late in the evening, and he was always quick to fire up the WSU fight song on demand. It used to piss off UW fans who would walk by, but we sure loved it. And he knew the obscure songs as well, like Chicken Dance. Just a cool guy.

The worst part of the story is how he died. He was beaten repeatedly and robbed by five teenage thugs while waiting for a bus. Just a brutal, senseless attack on a guy who only loved to do what he did, and didn't bother anyone. They've captured two of the morons who did this, but let's hope they nail the three others as well. RIP Tuba Man. You will be missed.

Not much new in the way of Coug news today. But here's a question that many of us are seeing more and more of as the season progresses. Do YOU think that Coach Wulff has been "throwing his kids under the bus" just a little too much? Many comments I've read on other sites and message boards has some fans pretty upset right now in the way Wulff laments the lack of talent and character on his current team. Many feel that Wulff is blaming the current upper-classmen for how bad they are, as a way to deflect blame from himself and his staff. What do you think?

Some will claim that the job of a head coach is to take the pressure off the players and put it all on himself, something that a hall-of-famer like Mike Holmgren is famous for. You know, be the stand-up guy as the driver of the bus, so to speak, and be the one to take the heat.

But if there is one thing we have seen from Wulff, since the day he took the job? The guy is HONEST, period. There is very little dancing around, very little deception, with how he answers questions. He doesn't hide behind the rhetoric of coach-speak 101. And he hasn't been shy to talk about how surprised he has been, since day one, at the challenge that was waiting for him. Anyone remember how he talked in the spring, that players didn't even know how to properly get into a 3-point stance?? That from the beginning, they have had to literally tear these guys down to their foundation and rebuild them up with fundamentals they sorely lacked? Remember his mid-August rip job in the media about the lack of toughness, when seemingly half the team was sitting out a practice with injuries and standing around on the sidelines, not really into what's going on? How about during the first month of the season, players were still blowing off meals? Or how Mike Graise was just kicked off the team last week for missing practices??

It's just been one thing, after another, after another. I think it's honestly hard to judge right now based on where the program currently resides. So much has gone wrong, since before the season even started. But both Kevin Lopina and Romeo Pellum said after the Stanford game that players don't trust coaches or other teammates, and are simply giving up. Is that Wulff's fault? It was the same thing after the USC game, with Lopina and Andy Mattingly were on the record calling out their teammates who were quitting. He's going to call it like he sees it, and if it hurts some feelings, so be it.

This season is just such a throw-away disaster, and Wulff walked into such a mess, that it's truly not fair to judge him right now. I will continue to bang the 2010 drum (or 2011??) before we know if this is going to work out. But man, does this program need to turn the page to next year or what?? For the benefit of the current players, the seniors, the coaches, the recruits, everyone just needs to get this season in the books and look forward to their future.

That's it. ENJOY YOUR TUESDAY. Remember to vote. As always, GO COUGS! Click here for more ...plus Comments

Monday, November 03, 2008

When All is Lost....

It is so easy to fall into the negative ditch right now. We try to stay positive, but right now it's tough on all of us. But I can't imagine how the players and coaches feel right now. Like Kaddy pointed out, the team is likely divided between guys who don't give a rip and can't wait to get outta Shawshank, and the other half are guys who are simply too young or not even playing to have any impact whatsoever on the product you see every Saturday. It's a ship completely adrift with no leadership or direction. But we've harped on leadership - or a lack thereof - before. We've been down this road.

But it's not as if they aren't trying. Closing practices during the bye week, trying to get through to some of these kids, and yet, as Kevin Lopina said again after Saturday's game, players are quitting as soon as they get down. We've seen teams lay down before when the going gets tough, but in all honesty, this has to be one of the worst give-up teams we've seen around here. It's embarrassing for the coaches and fans, and it's tearing the locker room apart.

But enough of the harping. Today is a day for trying to look forward. Today is a day to not feel crappy about the weekly blowouts or a hail storm of turnovers (now minus-20 on the season, tied for the worst in America). Today, let's look forward to something/someone you are excited about in the coming seasons, not dwell on where we are today. So here goes:

1) I'm excited to see how the young offensive line comes together. Just think, after another year of lifting and eating right, these young kids will be bigger and stronger and ready for the rigors of a PAC-10 season. And a glance at the depth chart for Stanford shows the offensive line going, from left to right, freshman, sophomore, junior, sophomore and sophomore. All these lumps they are taking now, believe it or not, WILL pay off.

2) I'm excited to see how some of the young skill position guys look, as soon as next year. Jeshua Anderson is lightning fast, which we all know, and will only be a junior next year. With a healthy off-season and a full spring/fall practice session, I bet we see a major leap forward with him next year. But there are others to be optimistic about, including Daniel Blackledge, Kevin Norrell and Jared Karstetter, who could form a decent WR corps next season.

3) I'm excited to see how the running backs look for 2009, provided they are healthy. Dwight Tardy and Chris Ivory will both be seniors next year, but there will be more involved, including James Montgomery, the transfer from Cal, to be in the mix. I'm also impressed with how Logwone Mitz has looked of late. Mitz will be just a redshirt sophomore next year and could really be something as a power back in short yardage, as he continues to get stronger. And even Chantz Standen has shown a little bit as a junior, and he'll be back there as well in 2009. That's a pretty deep group of five backs to feel good about for next year.


4) I'm excited to see what J.T. Levenseller can do from here on out. Let's HOPE THAT THE COACHES ARE GOOD WITH THE IDEA OF SEEING WHAT HE CAN DO THE REST OF THE YEAR!??!? Let's hope he gets more than one first-half series this week?? Look, we have four games left this year and it doesn't look promising in any of them. Let's throw the kid out there more and more, and let's see what happens. Let's give him a foundation to build with as this year winds down, and he has something to build off for 2009. Who knows, with Lobbestael's knee injury a little worse than initially feared, and Lopina going to be in his last year next year, J.T. MIGHT truly be the QB of the program for the next few seasons. Might as well start building the foundation TODAY.

5) I'm excited to see what kind of a linebacker Louis Bland can become. He's already touted as a big-time leader and a kid that others can rally around. He's not afraid to put his face in there and hit like hell. And in the way offenses are going, you will see more and more of the smaller, faster linebackers on the outside to defend spread style attacks. While he's built more like a safety at 5-10, 205, he's got a big heart.

6) I'm excited to see what the defensive line can do next year. The redshirt comes off for Bernard Wolfgramm, the top recruit from Wulff's first signing class. He will be a big boost inside next year. But there are others, including Josh Luopo, a 300-pounder who will likely be in the mix next season after he enrolls this coming January. Add in Toby Turpin's huge 6-6, 280 lb frame with another off-season of hitting the weight room, and who knows what he could turn into. He played a lot vs. Stanford after Eichelberger was pulled out, and Turpin will likely play a lot the rest of the season.

7) The secondary has been torn up this year, but it's not all their fault. Anyone that knows anything about the game knows that if you don't have any semblance of a pass rush, no secondary in the country can hold up for more than a few seconds. But the youth back there has in fact shown some promise. Romeo Pellum might be a just a sophomore, but he's not afraid to get in there and mix it up. He now has 52 tackles this year, second to only Greg Trent on the entire team. And Xavier Hicks is playing hard, and even better, he didn't quit against Stanford, racking up 10 tackles. Even Tyrone Justin, all 157 pounds of him right now as a true frosh, is doing all he can out there. So there is some decent youth back there, many of whom will have another year in the Wulff system to get bigger, stronger and more experienced.

8) Finally, I'm excited about signing day in February. Believe it or not, the recruiting IS GOING WELL. While it isn't looking so good with Lynnwood's Geoff Meinken, still, the current crop of verbal commitments is as strong as we've had in a long, long time. There is only one two-star player on the list, but the rest are three-stars. I know we never get too geeked on commitments, because it all can change rapidly with 18-year olds, but still, even with the bad times on the field, it's going well towards building to tomorrow.

So there you have it - what I'm excited about, beginning in 2009. What are YOU looking forward to? Chime in with your thoughts, because we need all the positive karma we can get right now.

ENJOY YOUR MONDAY, and GO GOUGS! Click here for more ...plus Comments

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Crap-Tacular


The crappiest bunch of craps who ever crapped. The suckiest bunch of sucks who ever sucked. The national media will rank us 1-2 in the bottom 10. Chris Fowler will cleverly write "Washington Needs a Bailout!" Yuck yuck yuck, blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda, something something something, etc etc etc....

No need to over-analyze or break down the numbers. You know the drill, all too well I'm afraid. To think that Brinkhater was actually considering going to watch this 58-0 monstrosity in a rainstorm? Uh, yeah, probably a good call to stay home.


But today, I don't know what is more striking - that UW and WSU were both shut out on the same day, the first time that's happened since 1948? That they lost by a combined score of 114-0? I could go on, but I won't. How about the thing I thought I would NEVER see? It's November, and there is one win - COMBINED - between both schools. Think about that. November, and there is ONE win, and it's not even a division-one style victory at that. Never in my lifetime could I envision such a thing.

And now, Jessica Alba. Enjoy your Sunday.
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Saturday, November 01, 2008

1-12


Can't stop the run, can't run the ball, can't take care of the ball. An extra week to prepare for a 4-4 Stanford team....and this is what we get??

Brand new week, same old story. Might as well etch 1-12 at the top of the 2008 football tombstone, because nothing is going to stop it now. Not Arizona, not ASU, not UW, not Hawaii. FUN.

Seriously, one question - why not roll with J.T. the entire second half? What was/is the point of playing Lopina? Ok, Lopina is a junior, and that's fine. And he can scramble a little bit. Great. But what has he done to earn the PT at this juncture? What has he done on the field, other than not get us into the end zone? Why burn the redshirt on the kid QB if you are just going to roll him out for one first-half series in a game that got out of control in a hurry? Why stick with Lopina well into the 4th quarter? When it was 51-0 you still played Lopina? REALLY? Wasn't 31-0 at the half enough to decide that this thing just isn't working out? What about building for the future, starting with next season and getting your young QB some real playing time? What are you waiting for? What is the POINT to any of this???

Maybe some day it will lead to days like this:


I have wanted to hold off on saying this, and have tried to be the eternal optimist....but there is no denying it any longer. This might not be just the worst WSU team in our lifetimes - it is, without question - but this is the worst Pac-10 team of all time.

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Mid-Day Report: Place Your Bets

Happy Saturday, Cougar Nation.

Well, in case you haven't tuned into your west coast ABC-Affiliate, let me tell you the tale of the tape:

1) Sedihawk's upset pick of CAL over the Quack looks better and better as the game goes on.

(Shame on Brinkhater for forgetting how well Gregory preps for spread offenses!)

2) And more to the point, the weather down here in No Cal is absolutely horrible today. HORRIBLE. And so you all know what that means:

UPSET CONDITIONS!!

While I am NOT saying that we will win today, you can bet that the stratetoogy for putting 13 in the box has a much better chance of being effective than it did two days ago when it was 80 degrees and sunny.

Moreover, the chance of Stanford having "one of those days" turning over the football just went up about 80% (of course, we know what our success has been holding onto the football this year as well).

So, in the final analysis, this game has a chance of being quite interesting if you are a Cougar fan.

In any event, I would imagine that a bet to cover a 30 point spread is a good one on this day.

Lets hope we can keep it close and build some stinking confidence from the closed practices of the last two weeks...

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Need a Reason to Care Today?

Happy flag day, once again. For what it's worth there was a good write-up in the USA Today about the WSU flag. Kind of cool to get some national pub, so check it out.


So today the Cougs take their vaudeville act on the road. This traveling mockery of the sport of football will face a resurgent Stanford team down on the Farm and I am sure many of you are wondering if there is any reason to tune in to the Bob-Rob and Jim radio-only broadcast. I say, emphatically, yes. Yes there is. This weekend you will get to see the vicarious fulfillment of Longball’s childhood dreams. As promised by Coach Wulff, a Pullman Greyhound and native son of the Palouse will take the field as quarterback of the Washington State Cougars.

Admittedly this dream-come-true could end up in 7 interceptions and a broken leg, but for now let me indulge in the hometown hero, scrappy underdog, legacy fulfilling, made-for-TV glory of JT Levenseller’s unlikely rise to quarterback of Quarterback U. Now you all know his dad, and by now you’ve probably heard the prophetic inspiration for the name JT, Jack Thompson. His name represents both ends of one of the greatest Cougar passing attacks of all time. Seriously, this story writes itself.

Three years ago I was in the Tacoma Dome as JT, a Jr. in high school at the time, led Pullman to a state championship over a powerhouse Arch Bishop Murphy team. The victory was sealed by a late game drive capped off by a game winning touchdown pass from JT to his buddy Aaron Pflugrad (does that name sound familiar?). These guys were good. In fact they were so good that year they beat a Prosser team that finished runner-up in the state finals in the division above them. They started their season by blowing out a Hazen team that went to the state playoffs two divisions above them. That team’s success was in no small part due to the leadership, competitiveness, and raw athleticism of their field general, JT Levenseller.

As a kid who grew up in Pullman dreaming of doing what JT is about to do this Saturday, my analytical powers may be compromised by an imagination run wild. I really, really want JT to be the next great QB to lead the Cougars. It would be the fulfillment of a great Cougar legacy and an enormous source of pride to us Pullman natives. But my optimism is also based in the reality that in JT the Cougs have a great athlete, fierce competitor and a proven leader.

So today, sometime late in the first half (3rd or 4th series according to Wulff), I will be holding my breath as JT gets his chance under center. With the state of our team, his opportunity to shine is definitely limited. Our expectations should be tempered by the ominous facts Brinkhater and Sedihawk alluded to in their predictions, not the least of these being the Furd’s vaunted pass rush. But don’t be surprised if the kid from the Palouse, son of a crimson legend and namesake of one of our all-time greats, shows us the same kind of mettle and fortitude we saw in a scrawny freshman on a balmy night in Hawaii in 1999.

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