If anyone can tell me exactly where the Washington State University football program is at after this game against Montana State, I'd love to talk to you. Frankly, I'm not entirely sure. I could talk about many of the negative things that happened and talk about many of the positives things that happened. For the second straight week, the first offensive play ended with a turnover. Despite being backed up near the endzone, the defense stood their ground and held the Bobcats to a field goal.
On a grander scale though, the defense showed the same problem it did against Oklahoma State: an inability to effectively tackle. Ball carriers frequently bounced off Cougar defenders Offensively, another all too familiar problems reared it's ugly head: poor blocking upfront. The Bobcats and their gaudy gold pants met James Montgomery and Chantz Staden in the backfield all too often. Granted, Monty was able to scamper for a long run at one point to set up the Cougar's only first half score but on the whole, the blocking up front was adequate at best.
All of these problems are overshadowed by what all of them combined to create. This team was down 15 points at the end of the third quarter to an FCS opponent and frankly, I could care less if they were ranked in the top 25. This team was supposed to be better, younger, faster and more able to run over opponents like the Bobcats. At no point should they have been down by a shade over two touchdowns. Of course Montana State came out playing with reckless abandon; they had nothing to lose in this game.
This isn't to say the blame falls on the players. In fact, when I say Cougars or team for squad, I mean everyone. Perhaps my least favorite problem with this coaching staff has been the frequent blame placed on the players for not properly executing the game plan. But some of this problem falls on the coaches for creating a game plan that doesn't necessarily allow the players to effectively execute. This might be part of the reason why, in the second half, the Cougars came out running with I-Backs. It seemed offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy was acknowledging his game plan was not correct during the first half and while the change was correctly made, the point is it shouldn't have been made in the first place against Montana State.
When the team finally started using quarterback Jeff Tuel to his full potential and throwing the football, they were able to come crawling back to within two points. When linebacker CJ Mizell picked off a tipped pass and ran it back to within the Bobcat 5-yard line, they should've been able to go up by five points. But here's where the playcalling rub increases: three straight runs netted no yards and they brought on Nico Grasu for what was ultimately the game winning field goal. At some point during the series, if you, as an offensive coordinator know your team isn't able to pound it in like they should be, call for a play-action pass to fool the Bobcats who were stacking the line.
The final, and perhaps most agonizing and enraging problem came on the Cougars final possession. With the ball on the MSU 29-yard line and a fourth down with 20 seconds left in the game, the Cougars held a one point advantage. From here, a 46 yard field goal awaited Grasu who showed he can easily put one through from 56 yards. A four point advantage would force MSU to score a touchdown after the ensuing kick off. Instead, Wulff and his coaching staff decided to take another knee and leave the advantage at one, meaning MSU could go only about 40 yards to be in realistic field goal range. Not kicking the field goal wasn't so much a show of strategy to me but rather, showed a lack of confidence in the special teams who had played well all day.
The team won and that's all well and good. But maybe the problem isn't so much with a lack of execution from the players but combination of that and poor game planning and decision making from the coaches. A problem I'm not sure how to fix but it needs to be done so quickly - and very quickly.
Reggie Bush gave up his Heisman. Here are some things people will tell you in the coming days: Vince Young should now get it and why does a guy like OJ Simpson get to keep his. Here are my points: I'm not entirely sure you should just give the Heisman to Young some five years later - and Simpson can keep his Heisman because at the time, he was an eligible athlete according to NCAA; his post-college crimes be damned.
Last Week: 8-0 (Sweet.) Overall: 17-1
A true test (finally) for the Wildcats. They won't pass, but barely.
Hawkeye Is Better Than Hawkears 31, Mike Stoops Tucson Express 24
The other Arizona team finally has their test. This won't go well.
Camp Randall Beer Chuggers 51, Dennis Erickson Should Start Packing 13
This one could be intriguing. Cal will win but it will be close.
Berkeley Tree Huggers 34, Reno Wolfpack 28
So, ya. This will go as well as the game versus New Mexico
Another Beat Down For A Crappy Team 78, Worst Trip Down I-5 Ever 6
This had better go well because I can't have the Beavers losing to Boise State after a letdown here.
TCU Hangover Is Over 41, Not Coached By Rick Pitino 20
Andrew Luck and the Stanford defense might be even better than advertised.
Pride of Palo Alto 38, Isn't Demon Deacons Kind Of An Oxymoron? 14
Wow, this is going to be unbelievably rough.
Case Keenum's Heisman Game 46, Can Slick Rick Survive The Year? 13
USC is playing a team that lost to South Dakota State. Yep.
Lane Kiffin's Latest Job 35, Silver/Bronze Gophers 10
Nebraska won't make the same mistake USC did last year. Starting Mitch Mustain that is.
We Love Pickin' Corn 27, Still No Heisman For Locker 21
Southern Methodist is out for blood. They likely aren't happy with the fact they were the only victory for a team with only one victory. This offense is going to be plenty pass happy against a defense that hasn't shown it can defend a ball in the air. This might get a little ugly.
Southern Methodist 52, Washington State 17
Obscure Pick of the Week: We've been missing this for a couple weeks. One sounds fancy in a northern Mississippi kind of way. The other must be Australian.
Sewanee University of the South 17, Hampden-Sydney 10
Dunderhead of the Week: Yours truly. Driving to Pullman, about 10 miles east of Othello, a bird was in the middle of the highway. Unfortunately, he didn't quite get out of the highway fast enough. Not to worry, I poured some out for him that night.
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The 2010 athletic season is here and you know what that means It's time for a whole new season of Cougar Athletics! Football, soccer and volleyball, just to name a few, are preparing for their 2010 seasons. If you need "game action" photographs for your newspaper, magazine, web site, blog, etc., then Greg Davis Sports Photography should be your choice for all things "Cougar" and "Pac-10 Conference"! Coverage for specific athletes or upcoming events is also available. Check out the images from games, practices and events from last season, and be sure to come back often for uploads from all of this season's action.