Hello Followers. Hope you’ve had a good end of your weekend.
As for me? Well, lots of stuff has hit the fan since this four word post hit the interwebs on Saturday night..So, for a last word, read on.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time to give you the 10,000 word break down that I’d like, so we’ll just aim for a shorter version of the “truth.”
So, here it is…..
First and foremost, when Colorado scored to make the game 31-21, I looked at Little Sutra and said in matter of fact fashion, “Son, we’re about ready to lose this game.” And as the seconds wore down on the entire debacle, all I could do was laugh. Simply put, the way that the whole thing went down made it all just too ridiculous for me to get really upset. And so my reaction was as follows: Who fricking cares anymore? (And when I said that, it didn’t mean that I don’t like the Cougs anymore or don’t care about whether they win or lose. But for me, the whole thing just didn’t seem to justify the level of handwringing I’d given OUR team for many, many years now)…
Once the game ended, well, there was a lot to be done at the compound. I needed to cook my part of dinner (it was about 8:00pm Eastern), and I needed to do that in time for me and the family to head to a 9:30 movie we all wanted to see. What’s more, because we at the WSUFB have sometimes been a bit sporadic at getting post-game posts up in a timely manner—I quickly put up the “Mike Least” post, figuring that it was a quick and dirty way to both elicit and welcome comment. And that was that—or so I thought..
Now, in reference to the criticism I have received re: the “Mike Least” post, a few words to the masses. First, in reference to General Stiffmeister et al.’s concern that, with my little post, the blog may have “gone too negative” I give a big fat, “Huh?”
Again, this game wasn’t like a heartbreaking loss to a really good team. This also wasn’t a virtual replay of last year’s loss to UCLA—a team that we should’ve beaten—and if we had, would have enabled us to contend for a bowl.
Instead, this game featured a loss to a team that, through three games, showed itself to be historically bad. To summarize, this CU team lost to a Colorado State team that was ABYSMAL last year and now is 1-3; a record which includes a really nice home loss to that National power known as North Dakota State. The CU team we saw on Saturday was the same team that lost to Sacramento State in week two (word to Cougar fans, we are now 0-2 against teams that have lost to the Sac State Hornets in the same season). And, of course, this was a CU team was down 55-7 AT THE HALF the week prior to a Fresno State team that is in nobody’s top 50.
What’s more, our loss to CU on Saturday followed a whopping 8 point triumph to a UNLV team that had previously just lost to a 1-AA/FCS school that lost by something like 58 points to Arizona State the week prior. And BYU? Well, they sure aren’t bad, but how good do they look offensively following the Boise State game, the Utah loss, and Utah’s subsequent beat-down by ASU?
The point being in all of this is that our underwhelming performances to date have occurred against BAD to Not-so-Good FOOTBALL TEAMS (by FBS standards, anyway). And so, while some out there have tried to take a few pot shots at yours truly by saying “some people around here had unrealistic expectations,” I would respond as follows: Was 7 or 8 wins unrealistic for this team based on what we know now? Well, the answer to that question is absolutely “Yes!.” But, in response, is expecting a 3-1 record at this point unrealistic given what we know about the talent of the teams we’ve played so far (relative to our own)? Absolutely not!
And finally, before we get to a few—and I mean a few—remarks about Coach Leach, ask yourself the following question: Who is the WORST coach right now in the Pac-12?
When I ask myself that question, I come up with three candidates: Wittingham, Tedford, and Leach. Personally, I take Wittingham out of final consideration because his Utes beat BYU and because his team has struggled with injuries to White and his quarterback…Which brings me Jeff Tedford and Mike Leach. And honestly, when I compare the resumes and games I’ve watched to date, I think I give the slight nod to Tedford as “worst coach in conference”-- even though I think CAL is 3-1 or 4-0 with our schedule and we’re probably 1-3 with theirs.
And just so we’re clear, I’m not saying that there are 9 coaches in the Pac-12 who are better than those three coaches. Heck, at the beginning of the year, I pegged Wittingham as the second best coach in the conference. I’m just saying that if you were to hand out the “Worst Coach” of the year award at the 1/3 marker of the season, Mike Leach would HAVE to be one of two finalists. So, consider that to be Exhibit A for the “Mike Least” case.
Now, on to a few quick “nuanced” thoughts about Saturday’s game:
“Thought” #1. The Ground Game. In the first half, I thought we ran the ball like a champ, particularly on first down. The result, CU was totally off balance on defense the whole first half, to the point where it felt like we were just playing catch at times. But, as we entered the now infamous “Turd Quarter,” the tables begin to turn. You see, in the second half, the running game on first down didn’t work AT ALL. But, in true Todd Sturdy fashion, we continued to run the ball on first down repeatedly, resulting in us being in 2nd or 3rd and long for almost the entire second half. The result: CU was able to pull their ears back and make us off balance on offense for much of the second half. And for that reason, and notwithstanding a host of dropped balls, I thought the play calling stunk for the whole second half. And again, that blows my mind when you consider that the team we were playing against was/is HORRIBLE defensively!
(Also, if all of the running plays were the result of Connor making bad checks at the line, so be it. I just think that MAYBE Leach could have provided something called “coaching” that might have helped us alter those tendencies a bit so we could have found ourselves in more second and/or third and short situations).
“Thought” #2. Field Goals. In my view, Leach’s actions reflected speaking out of both sides of his pie hole regarding his philosophy on kicking field goals. My bottom line: The decision to not kick what would have been the game winning field goal in the fourth quarter occured because Leach thought the game was on ice and he wanted his team to go for the jugular. Problem was, the game wasn’t on ice, and so his attempt to try to run up the score backfired on him and the team BIG TIME.
In comments, some of you have tallied that decision up to the “well, this is what you get with Leach” type of deal. And you know what? I get that. I really do. But in my view, if you’re going to be a renegade, then be consistent about it—much in the same way that an ambitious black jack player follows his/her system no matter what because they believe that, ultimately, the benefits of that approach will show itself with a large enough sample size (see Rocky Long's decision making in the SDSU-UW game as case-in-point)… But, if you decide to kick a field goal in one situation (Furney’s last attempt) and not another (Connor’s pick on 4th and 3), but then decide to kick on a separate occasion (Furney’s missed 53 yarder, which gave them GREAT field position), then you’re essentially showing that your play calling is subjective. And if that’s the case, then stinking own it when you’re subjective decision making doesn’t pan out. DON’T BLAME THAT ON YOUR PLAYERS.
“Thought” #3. Defensive Play-Calling. Forget about the fact that we still can’t stop a bubble screen to save our lives. Look at the last few series. I mean, it looked like our Offense in the 2009 Apple Cup—a bunch of guys just looking to the sidelines trying to buy a vowel. I mean, the calls were coming in so late, we weren’t even getting lined up, let alone getting lined up correctly. And frankly, I don’t know how you pin that on the players. I really don’t.
“Thought” #4. Know what’s going on. After the UNLV game, Leach was asked about the substitution patterns at cornerback. His reaction? He didn’t know, he just said “we’re going to have to look at that.” (Then, last week, Breske said those rotations would continue because they were trying to keep the CB’s focused).
After the CU game, Leach was asked about the formation on the last play. His reaction? He paused--because he didn’t know--and then said he would have to look at the tape, and then steered the question toward the previous 80 yards (e.g. why and how CU got down to 4th and goal in the first place?). Mind you, during the same line of questioning, Leach also didn’t know whether our “19 guys on the field penalty” was justified—meaning he didn’t know if CU had substituted or not. And, during the last play of the game, Leach didn’t call a timeout, even though Sua clearly knew we were out of position as manifest in the pictures on the post below.
Now, what does that tell me? It tells me that we’re paying 2.25 million for an offensive coordinator and 425,000 for a defensive coordinator. Which leads me to an important question: Should the head coach do a bit more, um, say, HEAD COACHING? Mind you, this is not to suggest that Leach should take away important and/or needed autonomy from his assistants, but ultimately, as a head coach, you’ve got to control certain aspects of the game at critical times, right? Don’t you? I mean, shouldn’t you at least know the major happenings/decision making on both sides of the ball during critical stretches of the game?
Thought #5. Time Out!!!! I’ve been through the play log several times now and it sure seems like we had a final time out to burn at the end of the game. And if we did have one—and it sure seems like we did—shouldn’t we have used it sometime on that last drive—like on fourth down? But since we didn’t, why wasn’t Caldwell coached to take a knee on the ensuing kickoff? I mean, if you have one TO and you’re down by 1, you take a knee, right? I mean, if you take a knee on the 20, then you need a 35 yard completion (you have 9 seconds left) to give Andrew Furney the chance at a 65 yarder to win it. May seem like a technicality, in the end, but that scenario sure beats trying to chuck it 70 yards with 1 second left, right?
In the end, like Sean’s post noted yesterday, there’s lots of blame to go around. Leach or his staff didn’t cause Wilson to drop those two key passes (one for a needed first, the other for a touchdown). Neither Leach nor his Assistants actually block anyone (except reporters), and Leach also shouldn’t be held exclusively responsible/accountable for a third year starter’s (D. Buchanan) blown assignments, when he should know and do better.
It should also be noted that just as Colorado rebounded from a series of horrible performances to knock us off this past weekend, we also hold the potential for shocking the world sometime in the next few weeks, whether it be in true “world shocking fashion” against Oregon or just a nice upset like beating a very good and ranked Oregon State team in Corvallis. And if you take Leach's past as predictive of what might happen in the future, then there's lots of room for optimisim. But whatever the case, this team still needs to go 2-1 in the next three weeks in order to have a decent chance at getting this season back on track.
But when you look at the quality of teams we’ve played—and the ways we’ve struggled with them—and look at the quality of teams moving forward, things just don’t look good for us. And when you look at a schedule next year that includes known road games @Auburn, @Oregon, @Washington, @California, pluse, potentially @USC and @Arizona, well, the road ahead also looks pretty daunting.
And while I applaud everyone out there who is ready to stay on the “bandwagon”, I also hope that there would be more respect for my weariness in trying to help drive it (as we all do here as year round bloggers) than what has been shown by some of you. After all, given that I have blogged for nearly 10 seasons for a losing—and at times morbidly bad—football program, I think I’ve far exceeded the threshold/diagnostic for being a fair weather fan. In fact, I might be among the centerfolds of Cougar Die hards.
But with another non-bowl season seemingly upon us, and with LOTS of questions about whether or not next year will be much different than the 9 years that preceded this one, well, I hope you all will allow me the opportunity to care just a little less about it right now.
And that’s my last word.