Followers, for the past four weeks, we all have witnessed a really nice upswing in the fortunes of Cougar football. Remember, it was only a month ago when we headed into Los Angeles on the brink of yet another disaster-laden season. If you recall, UCLA had just followed a trouncing of 23rd ranked Houston with a walloping of then 7th ranked Texas. As if that wasn't bad enough, our subsequent opponents were all ranked inside of the top 15 of the country.
Hope you had a great weekend.
As the header today indicates, Saturday's upcoming contest against ASU appears to represent a season maker or breaker of sorts.
Want to read my early thoughts about our upcoming contest against the Sun Devils? Then read on.
Of course, we all know now how that all turned out. We woulda-coulda-shoulda beat UCLA, we were one INT away from being a national upset special against the top ranked team in the country, we hung in against a very good Arizona team, and we totally blew up the Tree's aspirations to re-enter the top 10 this week.
And of course, each week we easily covered the mammoth point spreads that were set by the odds makers. And, in exceeding those expectations, we also managed to have blubberheads like myself spewing superlatives like "we have already shown that we have gone beyond just competing to...."
So, as we move toward this weekend's contest, it seems timely to step back and take a more measured approach to our progress at the same time that we highlight the immense opportunity that ASU presents for us for this season and beyond.
Followers, when I wrote those ridiculous words a week or so ago "we have gone beyond just competing" I obviously got ahead of myself. What I should have said at that time is that "we have finally become competitive." But, even saying that we were "competitive" was a bit of an overstatement. After all, with the notable exception of the UCLA game where we were tied, we never actually had a lead going into the fourth quarter. And, while most of us were understandably excited about the "coulda's" against Oregon and Arizona, what those "coulda's" really meant was that we could have closed within a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
On top of that, it seems important to note that the past few games have been played against teams that did not have key offensive playmakers in the game. For instance, UCLA played without Prince. Oregon played without Thomas for most of the game. Arizona played without Foles and Criner for most of the game. And, Stanford played without Owosu last week--and in spite of that, we never actually challenged the Trees in the second half.
So, while I do not want to dismiss our progress over the past two weeks, it also seems reasonable to question what the past weeks' results would have been had those stars played each game in its entirety?
Fortunately for us, ASU looks to provide another opportunity for us to play against a team with less than a full deck. While there is no word yet on his status, it appears that Threat is going to be out for this Saturday's contest. As a result, it appears that the Big O is going to get the start this Saturday. And, although Mr. Brock has a huge cannon for an arm, he sure is a nice target for any team that can make him hurry his throws. And, the fact that he got beat out by the interception machine is case-in-point of his obvious limitations.
To make matters worse for them, ASU is now at a critical cross-roads. To be sure, the whooping that they experienced last week against CAL could help them circle the wagons in a major way this week--especially if the local media in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe pegs them to lose to us.
At the same time, with their bowl eligibility hanging squarely in the balance--not to mention Dennis' job security--one has to wonder whether or not these guys will essentially fold if we jump on them early.
And so for me, the fate of this weekend's game appears to hinge on two simple factors:
1) Our ability to win the toss
2) Our ability to win the toss AND score a touch on that first drive.
In short, score early, and grab an early lead, and I think the Devils are likely to fold in this one. And if we do score early, I expect us to win this one comfortably--as in by more than 1 point!
And so, this week figures to be the most important first series game planning that Sturdy et al have undertaken during their entire tenure at WSU. And at the heart of that game planning is an ASU defense that figures to blitz, blitz, blitz, and blitz young Tuel in an effort to thwart our clearly potent vertical passing game.
So, the hot routes, screen routes, and sprint draws appear to be key emphasis areas of practice this week.
Cuz, lets face it folks, if we can manage to pull an upset this week, then the road out of the conference cellar will be paved right in front of us.
But, if we fail to take advantage of this truly unique opp for a win (and MUCH needed confidence), then the progress we have seen over the past two weeks may turn out to be hollowly symbolic, not only for the fans, but also for those young players that still believe that a real breakthrough is in their sights.
The time is now, Cougar Nation. The time to win is RIGHT NOW!!!!!