Greetings Cougs, and a happy Monday to you and yours.
So, thoughts on Saturday's squeaker vs. the Eags? It's kind of hard to know where to begin, but, I'll take a stab at a few thoughts anyway.....
1) Consistently Inconsistent - That seems to be the general theme right now. I caught Mike Leach on the post-game radio show, and he said several times that there are some real bright spots. But he also called our mistakes and inconsistency "devastating" and we need to get better. They aren't consistent, they aren't cohesive, and he used the term "splatter", like there's some real good and some real bad stuff going on right now.
It's hard to argue, isn't it? I mean Leach knows a gazillion times more about his own team than any of us, but you saw it on Saturday. The offense really clicked there for a few drives in the first half, and I thought Jeff Tuel and the WR's were finally finding those open spaces in the EWU secondary that we've heard so much about. In fact three of the first five drives of the game saw the Cougs score TD's, and a couple of them were decent, sustained drives where things looked good. But after Furney's 60-yard field goal to end the half? Six second half drives, zero points. Yeah, two TD's were taken off the board on holding calls, and the Cougs also fumbled on the goal line. Any one of those plays turns into a TD and that would have made it a somewhat more comfortable win, no doubt about it. But they are still mistakes, errors. Inconsistency at it's finest right now!
2) Who's Tired? - The WSU D looked gassed at the end, I'll tell you that much! Hard as it is to believe, but EWU ran 85 plays against the Coug D. In that early afternoon heat, you better believe they looked tired towards the end of that game, and especially on EWU's last couple of drives.
But of a much greater concern? The secondary looked, well, smallish. All told the Eags put up 469 yards of total offense, and those WR's sure looked huge compared to guys like Damante Horton and Nolan Washington.
I thought that they looked fine to start the game, but once EWU killed it deep on the 93-yard TD pass late in the first quarter, everything seemed to change in the secondary. We started out by playing it really tight on the outside, but after that you started to see the corners back off and give a lot more cushion. I understand now why people were concerned about EWU's skill guys heading in to this thing, I mean their top WR's were huge and there is no doubt our corners were overmatched physically.
That said, there were some good things that we saw from the D. They forced a couple of turnovers that came at times when they needed them, and they showed some decent pressure and made Padron, at times, uncomfortable.
And even though they did surrender 469 total yards, including 379 yards passing, they did hold EWU to just one fourth-quarter TD in the second half.
3) QB Change or Not-QB-Change, is that even a question? - Depending on who you talk to or where you look, WSU MAY have a QB controversy brewing? But before we dive into it, I think it's important to note that Jeff Tuel did have some decent moments on Saturday. There were instances where the ball got out of there quick and he looked very decisive in exactly where he was going. And he actually ran the ball a little bit this week, even with a 10-yard gain at one point. And his final numbers weren't so terrible, 20-for-26 for 171 yards and a couple of TD's. But he only took a few snaps in the 4th quarter before the knee injury, so we didn't get to see him finish this thing out. And while I thought he looked a lot better compared to the BYU game, there were still moments of hesitation here and there where he just couldn't seem to pull the trigger.
Again as we and everyone else has noted in other corners of the blogosphere, you can't put it all on Tuel. The nature of the offense has a lot of responsibility placed on the WR's shoulders, and they all need to be on the same page in order for it all to work. And while there were much more promising moments on Saturday, you can still see some of the struggles with the youth and hesitancy at times on offense as a whole, not just Tuel.
That said, Connor Halliday did what we might expect - some big moments with a big arm, and some "yeesh" throws where you wonder what in the world he was thinking?? There was that INT that he tried to force on the deep fade that just wasn't there (and to be fair, the EWU defender made a nice play on the ball). But there was a throw he made across the field into triple coverage that was knocked down, that WOW, that could have been a pick-6 the other way and that DB could have run to Cheney if he catches it. But then he rifles it around with conviction and confidence where he really steps into his throws, like that strong throw to Gabe Marks up the sideline for 36 yards, and you see the promise in his game with a dart like that!
But with the gunslinger mentality, that is what you are going to get. There will be moments he will dazzle you with that arm, and moments where you just cover your eyes and hope the DB drops it as he tries to force it into a tiny window. IF we see Halliday take this thing over at some point this year, even this week perhaps, just be ready for those major swings in performance from a young arm like this!
So would you pull the trigger on this thing and go with the promising sophomore vs. the senior who is getting a little better?
My thought is that if Jeff Tuel can go this Friday night, then you go with him first. In fact, I would probably stick with Tuel through the Colorado game, giving him a decent sample size to really judge before you do something that could change the entire face of your program going forward. But which QB gives you a better chance to win, right now, vs. planning for the future? Is the senior QB element really that important right now, or is it really time to make the change? My belief is that right now, it's Tuel......at least right now.
The thing to consider is what lies ahead, especially next year. It's all Halliday for the next two seasons, there seems very little doubt about that. And when you glance at WSU's 2-deep roster from just this last game, you see six total seniors including Tuel as starters on both sides of the ball. It makes you realize 1) how young this team is right now, and 2) how much they would have coming back next year with all this youth. Would having Halliday start the majority of 2012 be a huge boost for what lies ahead in '13 and beyond? ABSOLUTELY.
So there you go. I say stick with Tuel for now, see how we look after the Colorado game. If there are still some major struggles, then make the change. But not yet.
Moving on, this week's blog ballot has been submitted. Feel free to blast me for any rankings you don't agree with:
WSU Football Blog Ballot - Week 2
|1||Alabama Crimson Tide||1|
|6||Florida St. Seminoles||--|
|8||West Virginia Mountaineers||--|
|9||Michigan St. Spartans||3|
|10||South Carolina Gamecocks||-1|
|12||Ohio St. Buckeyes||3|
|13||Virginia Tech Hokies||3|
|15||TCU Horned Frogs||4|
|16||Kansas St. Wildcats||5|
|21||Notre Dame Fighting Irish||4|
|Dropouts: Arkansas Razorbacks, Wisconsin Badgers, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Oklahoma St. Cowboys|
Some quick links for this AM:
Cougcenter has a GIF on Deone Bucannon's ridiculous hit on Saturday. I was admittedly disappointed in that play when it happened, but watching it again and again, there is just ZERO EXCUSE for it. While Bucannon did own up to it, per Brian Floyd's article, it was still an awful thing to watch. You just can't hit a defenseless receiver in the head like that, so late and so obvious that the WR didn't catch the football. Despite the predatory nature of a big-hitting safety, you just can't do that. If this were the NFL he'd be in line for a hefty fine and probably a multiple game suspension, and we should all hope for and expect more from Bucannon than a play like that. Maybe in 2010 when he was an over-eager FROSH big hitter, that mistakes like that were bound to happen (and if you watch the WSU - SMU highlights from 2010, the first play on the tape is a late hit from Bucannon on a ball thrown high to the SMU WR). But not from an experienced junior who is looked upon as a leader in the secondary.
Adam Lewis has this from Saturday - good stuff Adam.
Finally, Jennifer Chancellor from Cougfan has this write-up from Saturday, with items on the O-line plus some other news-n-notes.
That's it for now. Enjoy your Monday, and of course, GO COUGS!