Deep in the bowels of Holland Libray lies a story from our past that may help inform our present.
So I think I’ve made it pretty clear in the comments this week that the rush to blame this team’s troubles on Paul Wulff is complete and utter B.S. The spot we are in is the fault of this staff, and this staff alone, from play calling to game prep and everything else they are responsible for, this is their sh-t sandwich and they are going to have to eat it themselves. But does that mean I see no hope for the future? Absolutely not. Just because I am not performing all kinds of intellectual gymnastics to excuse this staff for what has been a disaster of a start to the season doesn’t mean I don’t think they can’t or won’t ever turn things around. Sure, if they haven’t figured it out by game 4 it makes our prospects for this year pretty grim, and the early season results do open the door to speculation that its possible, JUST POSSIBLE, that this coaching change may not work in the end. However, I am still pretty certain it will work and I can’t help but remember another time in Cougar history when a coach came to Pullman with all kinds of expectations only to stumble badly out of the gates. We have a little history lesson after the jump...
1987 - Dennis Erickson takes stock of his new team's "empty cupboard" and "loser mentality".
Ok class, raise your hand if you remember the “Erickson Air Express”. Lets see, Ambush, Ptown, Hooty.... and thats about it. OK, well then, for the rest of you; In 1987 I had a Coug hat that said “Erickson Air Express” on it because we had just hired offensive guru and party animal Dennis Erickson and he was going to light a fire under the Cougar offense that had become a bit stagnant under the reign of Jim Walden. Boy were we gonna air it out! We all packed into Martin Stadium to see this new high flying “West Coast Offense” take off and blitzkrieg the Pac-10 into submission, but then, well... it sputtered. In fact in a lot of games it didn’t even get off the tarmac. After some promising early season games against the WAC we started playing Pac-10 teams and losing badly. We stumbled and bumbled our way to a 3-7-1 record and all that enthusiasm from the beginning of the Fall was as good as gone. My new hat had become an ironic joke, 10 years before before the first hipsters invented irony. There were no internet message boards back then, but there were water coolers, playgrounds, the aisles at Dissmores and Finches, church picnics, barber shops and letters to the editor. In all these forums the chatter was very much like what you hear today... what is wrong? Who is to blame? Was it all a sham? An empty promise? Does the coach know what he’s doing? Do we not have the talent? Should we just bag this passing thing and run the wishbone?
A lot of people resigned themselves to the idea that Walden had left the proverbial empty cupboard and it would take a few years of mining the fertile recruiting grounds of Southern California for us to get this Air Express off and running. Well, it turns out that cupboard included some names like... Tim Stallworth, Mike Utley, Brian Forde, Timm Rosenbach, Steve Broussard, James Hasty, etc. In other words, plenty of NFL-bound guys you could win football games with (Thanks Walden!). In 1988 these same guys hit the field with a year in the West Coast Offense under their belts and shocked the world, beating #1 UCLA and Troy Aikman in Pasadena. Later that fall I got to experience the pandemonium in Martin Stadium as we finished off the Huskies for our 8th win and a berth in the Aloha Bowl. At last! I remember parading out of the stadium with the Cougar marching band who were all wearing leis and chanting “A-LO-HA”! On Christmas day we woke up to stockings full of Aloha Bowl hats, shirts, ornaments, you name it, then we gathered round the TV to watch OUR Cougs hold off the Houston Cougars and future Heisman winner Andre Ware for a bowl victory! A BOWL VICTORY! We had never had one of those before (since 1916, anyway). It was amazing how much joy came out of a situation that just months before had seemed so bleak and hopeless. Apparently, during those dark days of 1987, we were much closer to being good than our record indicated.
Although I am much older now, and in the internet age, much more informed about every minute detail of the team, I still have that 1987 feeling. Here we are, all sitting there every Saturday waiting for this exciting new fangled offense to erupt and yet we keep being disappointed. I see players that appeared about to take off in one system tumbling back to square one in a new system. I see coaches who I’m counting on to make sense of it all, but so far don’t have any answers (at least none they can articulate, or are saying publicly). I see fans tearing their last hair out cursing whoever makes them feel better, the old coach, the new coach, the players, John Blanchette. Its like deja vu, but it lasts much longer.
Bottom line, I am as furious at how this season has played out so far as anyone, but I am not abandoning ship. I’ve been on too many of these rides to not believe that they do turn around sooner or later, even for the Cougs. This team should not be losing to Colorado, but maybe this is just what they have to go through so they can do something else they’re not supposed to do in 2013. Have I ever told you about the last time I went to a Coug game in Eugene?