Right off, let me say that it was an intense yet upbeat coach Wulff for the show. I don't know if you had the chance to tune in, but while there's so much angst in Coug-ville right now, you wouldn't know it by coach Wulff's demeanor on the radio show. I will definitely give him that, for all year long he's been pretty up and/or into what's going on. You know the losses are eating at him, big-time, but by Tuesday night's show, he seems to put the week behind him and is quickly looking forward to what lies ahead. I'm sure that mentality has served him well in the past, and I don't think that will ever change about the guy.
With that, here's some of the better things to take from this week's show:
1) Bud Nameck immediately asked him about how good it must feel to be getting ready for a HOME game! After so long away from the friendly confines, "no doubt about it. We are anxious to get out there in front of our home fans. It's been a long time and we are excited to be playing a home game! And he also added "it will be nice to have our young offense not have to battle the crowd for once. That sort of thing definitely makes a difference" when you go on the road vs. playing at home, "especially with a young offense."
2) As usual the injuries were a topic of discussion. First, Jeff Tuel: "He was limited today, in that he can walk around but that's it right now. He may practice on tomorrow and on Thursday and we'll see how he does. The good news is that it doesn't appear to be a real serious injury, where the knee popped out of place and then popped back in. They think he will recover quickly. But he could be a game-time decision." This is pretty much what we've heard the last two days, but Wulff has basically confirmed that we won't know for sure until later this week, if not right up until kickoff, if Tuel can go. Meanwhile, "Jay Matthews at safety looks better, and he practiced today and should be able to go this week. Chima Nwachukwu should be back this week, however he did NOT practice today. But we think he will be able to go."
That was about it as far as the injury updates. Nameck brought up the hydrotherapy facility, and if that was helping players recover quicker? Wulff said "absolutely, and it has been a huge help in getting guys back." Names like Zack Williams, B.J. Guerra, even James Montgomery and Marshall Lobbestael have all used it, and it's been a tremendous help. Wulff said "It is a huge asset."
So where, exactly, would you rank that upset win? At least in more recent times, it has to be top-5, right? I would put beating #5 Texas in the Holiday Bowl in '03 up there, as well as the '97 and '92 Apple Cups, and finally, the '02 win over UCLA to put the team back in the Rose Bowl for the second time in five years.
Why look back at this? Well, because we're playing UCLA, and it is good to look back at some historical moments here. But more importantly, as down in the dumps as we've been the last two seasons? It's good to remember that good things are possible here. It's bleak right now, we all know that. But don't forget that there IS history here. Good things have, in fact, happened in Pullman!
We did a post about this last year on our old site, but I thought I would re-run it now. Here you go, complete with the last minute or so of video from the WSU - UCLA upset:
1988 was a big-time breakthrough season for WSU. After a disappointing 3-7-1 first year at WSU in '87, Dennis Erickson's second season was a rousing success, a 9-3 year capped by an Aloha Bowl victory. But what many people forget about that season is that when the UCLA game rolled around, the Cougars needed a victory. They were coming in off a two-game losing streak, including a bitter home loss to ASU the week before, and they looked like they were starting to stagger. After a hot 4-1 start, including huge wins at Illinois (44-7), Minnesota (41-9) and Tennessee (52-24), and at home against #19 Cal (44-13), suddenly they had fallen to 4-3 and some doubt was setting in. Perhaps they weren't for real after all?
On the other side, you had Troy Aikman and company as the number-one team in the land. Aikman was a legit Heisman candidate, thriving under the bright lights of the LA market, on his way to being the number one choice in the NFL draft the following spring. So the task was monumental, no question about it. I don't know what the exact Vegas number was heading in, but it had to be UCLA by at least a couple of TD's, maybe even more like 21 points? More?? I really have no idea.
The Cougs got off to a slow start as UCLA sprinted out to a 20-6 halftime lead. But WSU rallied, big-time, behind Timm Rosenbach, Tim Stallworth, Rich Swinton, Mike Utley, Chris Dyko, and oh yeah, the current head coach of your Cougars, Paul Wulff, for a stunning 34-30 comeback win. Check out the waning moments, plus the on-the-field interview from Dennis Erickson after the game.
Once again, scary special teams! The broadcast mentions how WSU was "one of the worst in the nation in special teams coverage", and wow, they nearly blew it on that punt return. And even in the situation where UCLA had all the momentum (1st and goal on the 6?), the Cougar D still ATTACKED. Those last two pass plays saw blitzes, and Aikman took some heat. No scaling back at that point, might as well force the issue. But man, the joy Erickson had at the end of that game, with his Dad, then jumping into the arms of some of the players, how cool was that? Talk about pure joy!
I was too young to be at WSU at the time, but our own Hooty McBoob was a mulleted-up true FROSH in the fall of '88. He said that, while watching the game in Pullman on TV, when that last 4th-down pass was batted down in the corner of the end zone to seal the deal, you could hear a collective roar all across campus. And imagine the parties that night in Pullman? Those days, WSU and partying, uh, yeah, that was the REAL THING. We're talking beer slides, hazing, you name it, Animal-House style.
Anyway, what a moment. Here's hoping we'll experience something similar, again....someday. GO COUGS!
But on to football, as we soldier through the muck of what's left of 2009. This week's release is out, and not really any huge stories here. There is an "or" next to Jeff Tuel's name, and that isn't a surprise given Grippi's report that his MRI was negative on any further damage to the knee. Not out of the woods yet by any means, but getting a clean MRI is a good start. We'll see what he can do this week. And Chima Nwachukwu gets the "or" next to his name as well. If he can't go, looks like Myron Beck is once again sliding on back to safety. I know they like his ability to play between the backfield and the linebacker position, but I think he's a much better fit as on outside linebacker. But what else can they do? They are that thin back there. It's not like this is by choice.
But does it really matter right now? Aren't we just shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic at this point? I think we know the answer. There just isn't much to hang your hat on right now. From the now-12 frosh starting a game this year (a new team record, beating 11 from '99), or seven different combinations starting on the O-line, it's just one blow after another.
That said, I was wondering as I looked through the depth chart as to what, exactly, happened to the O-line in '09? I mean on paper, coming into the season, this was one position I think we all believed could be a real strength of the team. After all, nine out of 10 from last year's two-deep roster were back up front. They supposedly had depth coming into the year, and with another year in the new offensive system, it looked promising. And given the nice number of running backs in the fold - remember how many of you thought we would run the ball like crazy with guys like James Montgomery, Dwight Tardy, Chris Ivory, Logwone Mitz, etc? - and with an unsettled QB situation, you would have definitely thought things would be good up front and in the running game.
Injuries are a good place to start. Zack Williams has barely played half the season after dealing with an injury in the Hawaii game. This was a guy they talked up quite a bit, possibly as the most talented lineman on the team, but he's been missing for almost half our games. Remember Brian Danaher? The guy was thought of as one who could provide depth inside, but instead, an ongoing problem with concussions have limited him to just ONE start. BJ Guerra, Joe Eppele, Tyson Pencer? All guys who dealt with injuries at some point this year, all in and out of the lineup. The only two players who have started every game are Kenny Alfred at center and Micah Hannam at right tackle. Everywhere else, it's been major-shuffle time.
But why all the injuries? There is no clear answer, but you probably already knew that. It's a collision sport played by big dudes who throw their bodies into each other at full speed. Ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones are going to strain, tear, or break. It's an unavoidable reality for the sport, and it will never change. But that said, I don't know if I'm totally buying into the "these guys are too small or weak" theory, are you? Remember, again, all the promising hype in regards to the weight gains and eating right from the offseason? At last check, BJ Guerra, Zack Williams and Steven Ayers, three of this week's starters, are all listed at well above 300 pounds. Maybe they aren't going to pass the NFL draft eye-test in terms of dream physique's chisled from granite, but isn't that big enough to be at least competitive at the PAC-10 level? And it's not like every team they play has first-round NFL talent up and down the defensive line (.....it just seems that way).
Meanwhile Kenny Alfred and Micah Hannam, both guys who have started every game, happen to be the "smallest" - 289 for Alfred, 290 for Hannam. They seem to be holding up fine, don't you think so? So maybe the whole idea of being small and not strong enough is overrated a bit. Maybe they already are big and strong enough, and well, they just aren't very good right now?
For example, Zack Williams had the buzz coming into the year, but as of right now, today, the guy has only started FIVE division one games, all this season. I don't care how talented he is, he's got to have a chance to learn in the heat of the battle, even if he is a JC guy who redshirted last year. It's not like we should have expected another Steve Hutchinson at left guard, right out of the chute. And B.J. Guerra and Steven Ayers are familiar to us, but they are still just sophomores. And neither guy has a ton of game experience either. Both started just five games all of last season.
So really, next to Kenny Alfred and Micah Hannam, you've had nothing but injuries and inexperience! We expected a much better outcome this year, but maybe when you dig down a bit, peel back the layers, you can see it wasn't all it was cracked up to be? Here's hoping that THIS year is teaching the valuable lessons, and NEXT year, when all these same names and faces are back (minus Kenny Alfred anyway), they will finally start to put it together.
All for now. GO COUGS!
Grippi's latest has some other updates as well, including a possible return for Chima Nwachukwu and Jay Matthews in the secondary. Good news there. Chima's not the most physical player in the country, but he is one of the best tacklers on the team, second only to Xavier Hicks with 56. On this young, thin defense, they need his leadership and ability back there in the last line of defense. On offense, Tyson Pencer is probably out with the ankle sprain, so Steven Ayers will step in at left tackle.
Meanwhile, Jeff Tuel's status is uncertain with the kneecap subluxation injury. They haven't ruled him out, but it doesn't sound great either. We'll have to wait and see how he responds on Tuesday to get a real idea of what's up. Even if he does survive the week of practice, just how much he'll have to give on Saturday could be a little dicey. UCLA's got some big uglies on defense, and with our patchwork O-line? Just please, WSU coaches, it almost goes without saying, but BE CAREFUL with the kid QB! While game experience is crucial to improvement as an NCAA quarterback, there has to be a line somewhere as to what you are willing to risk with a young talent like Tuel. We all want to win, but don't want to ruin the youngster in the process, you know?
Also of note - Grippi reports Wulff gave the kids the day off on Sunday. We touched on this on Saturday after the game, but the team just looked ragged out there. The defense especially, when they couldn't get Arizona off the field and the offense sputtering for most of the day, well, they had a fatigued, end-of-a-long-roadtrip look to them. I'm sure if you watched it you could agree on that.
Finally, this week's blog poll. Enjoy:
|Last week's ballot|
All for now. GO COUGS!
Hello Followers. Hope you had an enjoyable weekend!
Well, as for me, Saturday came and went without much of a fuss. As expected and predicted, our little boys were no match for the big, strong manly men of the University of Arizona. And because of the 48-7 slaying we experienced with the Pac-10's co-front runner, we might have lost Tuel for what should be our last chance at a competitive game against the Ruins. In addition, our depleted secondary got even more banged up, including our 7,000th broken leg of the season.
Want to read more about what we have on tap in the coming weeks, months, and years? Then read on…
Oh, and more injuries came down the pike. Tyson Pencer is going to be out again, just as he was coming back, down with a high ankle sprain. But the worst of all, the great hope of the program in Jeff Tuel hurt his knee (a subluxion of the kneecap? OUCH.). We'll see what develops there.
Meanwhile UCLA beat UW and rolled up over 450 yards of offense today. Have to keep your crimson chin up right now...but it doesn't seem like it's going to be any easier next week, does it?
Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and as always, GO COUGS!
Meanwhile, a "Friday Night Lights" update, and a strong game last night for future Coug QB Connor Halliday. The Ferris QB threw three TD's in a 21-10 win last night against a previously-unbeaten Wenatchee team, as the Saxons advance in the playoffs. Didn't see his final passing line, but a poster on Cougfan said the radio broadcast mentioned 22-for-38, 284 yards and 3 TD's. There was also this quote, from the Wenatchee head coach:
“He’s the real deal,” Devereaux said. “I’ve been coaching here for 15 years, and he’s the best quarterback I’ve seen. He reminds me a lot of Drew Bledsoe when he was at Walla Walla in the 80s. He’s a stud.”
Grippi's latest warns of the defensive issues today. Not just losing Chima or Louis Bland from linebacker, but the depth on the d-line is also pretty thinned out. That could be a big factor with the warm mid-day Arizona sun, even though it is November. We'll see how they hold up against Arizona's fast-paced passing attack, but not a great feeling coming into this one?? Combine the injuries and youth with Arizona talking up their fear of losing to WSU, and they are coming off a bye? Could be a LONG day today.
So what's the real deal with the TV coverage today? I think Comcast = you are in luck, and now it sounds like directTV may be OK as well. But even with Comcast you need the Fox Sports package, reportedly around $5.99 a month extra for the multiple Fox Sports channels. DirectTV is supposed to be on channel 623 @ 12:30 today. But hey, we all can see it tonight on a delayed basis beginning at 7:30 on your standard FSN channel! Personally I will not be watching it live, just too much to do today, but we'll check it out later tonight.
Enjoy your Saturday, and as always, GO COUGS!
Well, last week we all saw our bowl hopes for 2009 go up in smoke as Notre Dame took our Cougs behind the proverbial woodshed for fateful loss number 7. It was a big step backwards for the Cougar offense that showed some life against Cal. There's really not much to make of it, if you ask me. We simply are not very good... yet. I am pretty confident that this week we are in for more of the same as we travel to Tuscon to play an Arizona squad that is one bizzaro bounce away from being in the conversation for a Pac 10 championship.
So, another week, another blow-out and we all have provided our analysis of this recurring event ad-naseum, so I won't even go there. Instead, there are a couple Cougar items I need to take on as a proud Pullman Greyhound.
First of all, I am a couple weeks late on this, but Johnny Forzani has some explaining to do to my good buddy Joe. Against Cal, Forzani caught a Jeff Tuel bomb for a touchdown and as he crossed the goal line he leaped in the air in an imperfect, but unmistakable interpretation of a touchdown celebration patented years ago by my good buddy Joe. A touchdown celebration forever known as the Monster Mash.
The first known Monster Mash occurred on a cold fall evening in Sandpoint, ID in 1994. The Pullman Greyhounds had traveled north that night to take on Sandpoint on their march to the 1994 WIAA playoffs. The Hounds controlled the game from start to finish, but it was Joe who delivered the real nail in the coffin when he took a handoff, broke 15 tackles and rumbled about 120 yards for a touchdown. I was putting together a highlight reel with some of my friends that year and as we watched the tape of this run we knew as he broke the first tackle and sprinted out into the open field that we had one humdinger of a highlight on our hands. But just as we were brought out of our seats by the sheer Eric Dickersonian awesomenesss of the run, something happened that turned it from a bruising display of speed and power, to pure comedy gold for the ages. As he approached the goal line, Joe leaped in the air with all the dainty, unadulterated glee of a wee schoolboy. He did this while holding the ball over his head with both hands and as he landed delicately in the end zone he brought the ball down as if to spike it, but did not let go of it. We were stunned.
And then we laughed... and laughed and laughed and laughed until it hurt. We re-wound that play again and again and laughed harder every time. It was the only play to be included in both the highlight and the blooper reel we put together that season. I am not 100% sure how it got the name the Monster Mash, but as best I can recall it was Joe himself who dubbed it that. He simply said, "Oh yeah, that's the Monster Mash". As if he had planned it that way all along. Joe went on to play for the Cougs and was a member of the '97 Rose Bowl team, so I hope that Forzani was paying homage to a fellow Coug, rather than plagiarizing another man's touchdown celebration. Still, while I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt, it would have been nice of him to give Joe a shout out on Cougar's All Access last week when he discussed his "unique" celebration. NOTE - here's the Forzani celebration in question from the Youtube video, around the seven-minute mark.
That said, you wonder what putting a November 14th home game vs. a not-good UCLA team will do to the attendance, although the team has been away from Pullman FOREVER and a day. They could play against air and probably still draw some RV's for the tailgate (come for the party, stay for the game as our good friend Hooty tells it).
Good video from the show last night, with the usual sideline stuff as well as plays blended in with the Bob-n-Jim radio calls. You have to love what FSN can do though. The Cougs get dominated, basically, but you watch the highlights from the broadcast and you would swear that they won the game! It's great though, to get a glimpse of the sideline where you normally don't get to see the action. They do seem more intense and into things this year compared to last year?
Here's the video, after the read more. It's just under 10 minutes long, per Youtube's 10-minute rule. Also, if you make it to the end, see if you can catch Jen Mueller's flub while talking about the WSU - Arizona game from the 2000 season. Some of the details are right, but there is one thing that is VERY WRONG with what she says.
The game itself was nuts, as AZ bolted to a fast 14-0 lead, then tried to hold on. The Cougs tied it up in the 4th quarter at 28 apiece, the game went to OT, and WSU scored first for a 35-28 lead. Arizona would score on an Ortege Jenkins TD pass on 4th down, making it 35-34. AZ goes for two the win on the road, and tries the QB bootleg with Jenkins. But WSU's D stayed home, and Jenkins flips the ball over his shoulder as he goes down. Refs rule it an illegal forward fumble, incomplete pass or something, game over. I really don't remember, as a friend of mine was screaming "HE CAN'T F'ING DO THAT! NO F'ING WAY!" WSU goes to 7-0 at the time, on their way to the 1998 Rose Bowl.
One thing lost from that game, that you don't ever hear much about? Did you know WSU was nearly penalized for EXCESSIVE CROWD NOISE in that game?? It's true. In a game where the paid attendance was 31,137, yes, the Pac-10 refs almost threw a flag against the WSU home crowd for making too much noise. One time, they bailed out Arizona with the play clock down to zero on a 4th down. Who knew!?
But enough of the blabbering on. You want to see the goods, right? Believe it or not, the NCAA crowd noise rule had been in place for some time, but obviously, it was rarely called. Thankfully it was eliminated in 2006. However, this time around, Ortege Jenkins, well, he kept asking the ref for help because of that annoying crowd noise! There are actually two videos after the read more - one the WSU - Arizona game, the other, a game from Michigan - Notre Dame from 1988, where Lou Holtz was pleading with the home crowd to pipe down. Amazing. Anyway, check it out. The first time, Jenkins asks for the game to be stopped, but the ref tells him to play on. The second time, around the 3:40 mark, is when the refs do stop the game, and then for a THIRD time at the 6:06 mark: