On Saturday night, our Washington State Cougars bowed down to the suddenly mighty Arizona Wildcats by the score of 59-37. And as a result of the loss, we lost all hope of returning to the post-season for a second consecutive year.
And while last night’s loss was certainly disappointing, the fact of the matter is that there was virtually nothing that was surprising about it.
And the reason why neither, you, me, or Aunt Bee should be surprised by last night’s outcome is as follows:
Many of the guys who played last night were not Pac-12 caliber players—at least not in their current state or form.
So, while it may be really tempting to throw verbal grenades about how we “should” be doing this, and how we “should” be doing that, the fact of the matter is that we pretty much played up to our talent level in last night’s game. Arizona was simply much better than us. No mid-week coaching or schematic change would have changed that simple truth.
But beyond the particulars of last night’s game, there is a bigger picture, and a bigger lesson, that should be acknowledged and learned by the WSU faithful and brass. And this lesson is as follows:
1) If you’re really good on defense, but piss poor on offense, you can win your fair share of football games.
2) If you’re really good on offense, but piss poor on defense, you’re gonna lose.
And if you look back on Cougar teams of old, you see the same thing over and over again. For instance, in 2005, our offense was really, really good. Brink threw for nearly 3000 yards and 24 touchdowns, while Jerome Harrison rushed for 1900 yards and earned first team All-American honors with Reggie Bush.
Yet, that team had to eek out a win against a bad Washington team to avoid going winless in conference.
Of course, this year, our offense is pretty darn explosive—at least when we’re healthy. I mean, Halliday is still on pace to throw for over 5000 yards and 40 touchdowns!
But, in spite of his and our potential on offense, it will be very surprising if we win more than 1 conference game the rest of the way. And the reason: It’s hard to score 60 points in a conference game. Heck, the 59 points Arizona put up last night was tied for the second best offensive output that they have ever had in a conference game!!!!!
Meanwhile, other teams who fit the same mold of offense first/defense-HUH? are seeing similar struggles.
CAL, which is really great on offense, looks to me like they will fail to gain bowl eligibility because of their defense. And the same can be said about Colorado who has now lost two OT games because of their lack of skill and talent on defense.
Meanwhile, consider the developments of teams that turned their programs around with defensive-minded head coaches. I mean, look at what Arizona State has done under Todd Graham—not only last year, but since the 60 spot they gave up to UCLA.
Look at what Utah has done this year without any type of consistent quarterback play!
In short, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the teams that have risen to challenge Oregon and Stanford for Pac-12 supremacy are those which have built either built their foundation around defense (Arizona State, Utah) or hired in Defensive Coordinators that have recruited well into their particular schemes (Arizona).
And unfortunately for us, neither of those descriptors holds true for Washington State. At least not in Year 3 of the Mike Leach era.
In the end, I remain fully supportive of Mike Leach as our head coach. And the reason for that support is simple: I think scoring points is an important ingredient for recruiting kids into Pullman and I think Leach has been unusually strong in recruiting linemen into Pullman.
But until such time that Leach and company figure out how to better recruit (and coach) defense, WSU will continue to be the doormat of the Pac-12 North.
That’s all the time I have for today. Enjoy the week ahead.
All for now. Go Cougs.