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Run the Damn Ball!!!!!!

Image result for image of gERARD wICKS AND MORROW

Happy Championship Weekend to you, Followers.  Hope your Holiday Season is off to a terrific start!

I wanted to take a few minutes this evening to provide a bit of a wrap on what has been, in the main, a fantastic regular season. But since our season ended a week sooner than most of us would have liked, I thought I’d offer a few words (together with a few things called *FACTS*) about what has become the elephant in the living room regarding WSU Cougar Football.

And that proverbial elephant involves our record breaking, senior quarterback, Luke Falk.

Image result for Luke Falk

Over the weekend, there was a big huff on the Twitter about how Luke was being treated, with notable media members like Jacob Thorpe complaining about the “vitriol” that has been directed toward Luke, while famous Cougar Alums like Deone Bucannan offered similar sentiments.

Image result for image of Deone Bucannon Auburn

As for me, well, I have been somewhat vocal, at least on Twitter, about my view of Luke’s struggles.  But unlike many folks, I have generally attributed Luke’s “difficulties” to what has appeared to be a puzzling change in scheme.  My view: Unlike his predecessor Connor Halliday, Luke Falk is not “built” to beat teams that consistently rush 3-4 and drop 8 through brute arm strength and nerve:  He depends on a running game to keep defenses off balance, to spread the field, and then systematically pick them apart through his death by 1,000 cuts approach to the Air Raid offense.

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So, based on that view, my recipe for “fixing” all that has stymied the Cougar offense in 2017 has been to do one of two things: (1) Start/Play Hilinksi, who in my mind is much more prepared physically to play “Halliday Ball” (and he also can run) or (2) RUN THE DAMN BALL.

The latter option has always seemed like the easier and more prudent thing to do because of Luke’s obvious talents and mental acumen, and so I was completely shell-shocked last weekend when we decided that we would run the ball all of THREE FREAKING TIMES through 3 quarters of the Apple Cup….

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Image result for image of gERARD wICKS AND MORROW

At the beginning of the year, one of the biggest strengths of this football team was our Running Back trio of Morrow, Boobie, and Wicks.  Last year, that group produced TWENTY TWO rushing touchdowns. This year, that group produced only 6.  What is more, my main man—and favorite player—Gerrard Wicks accounted for 11 of those 22 rushing touchdowns in 2016.  His grand total for this year? ONE.

So, in the interest of full disclosure, I found myself just a TAD bit frustrated at multiple times this year as I watched Wicks sit on the pine while our commitment to run the ball appeared to fall by the wayside with him.

And for that reason, when I tried to put two and two together for today’s post, I focused my analysis on one important question:

TO WHAT EXTENT ARE LUKE’S TROUBLES AND FORTUNES RELATED TO WSU’S COMMITMENT (or lack thereof) TO RUN THE FOOTBALL?

And this is what I found….

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My *analysis* for this post is pretty darn straightforward. I went through the game stats for 2016 and 2017 and tallied up the number of rushing carries our running backs had in each game for the past two years. I then recorded the total number of yards yielded from those carries (they do NOT include yards lost through QB sacks), the total number of passing yards in each game, the total number of points we scored, and the total number of points we allowed.

Once I did that, I looked at the distribution of the number of carries yielded by our running backs (for each game) and chose a logical—albeit somewhat arbitrary—cut-point from which to work.  And that cut point was whether our RBs carried the ball (i.e., ran the ball) 20 or more times during the game.

Here are the results, starting with the 2016 season.

  RBs had 20 rushes or more RBs had less than 20 rushes
W-L 7-1 1-4
Average Rushing Yards per Game 157 61.2
Average Passing Yards per game 353.5 377
Average Points Scored

Per Game

44.1 28.6
Average Points Allowed 22.6 32.6

So, a couple of things stand out from the above Table and results.  The first is our W-L record when our RBs had 20 or more carries in 2016 versus when they had less than 20 carries.  As you can see, we won every single game in 2016 where our RBs ran the ball 20 or more times, save one:  The 2016 Apple Cup.  And in that game our RBs had EXACTLY 20 carries.

In contrast, when we didn’t give Wicks, Morrow, and Boobie the rock 20 times our offense, defense, and W-L record suffered.  We won ONE game in 2016 where our RBs got less than 20 carries and that was the ASU game.

We lost all the rest.

In addition, we scored more than two touchdowns less per game when we handed the ball off less than 20 times and we gave up almost exactly 10 points MORE per game on defense.

Of course, that was just 2016.  Surely, 2017 had to be different because Luke was “so much” worse than last year, right?

Well, here are the same statistics/results for your Washington State Cougars for the 2017 season:

  RBs had 20 rushes or more RBs had less than 20 rushes
W-L 7-0 2-3
Average Rushing Yards per Game 123.8 51
Average Passing Yards per game 352.85 405.4
Average Points Scored

Per Game

33.7 27.8
Average Points Allowed 15.5 36.8

So, once again we find that when we handed the ball off to our RBs 20 or more times, we experienced success.  As you can see in the top Column, we did not lose a game this year when we handed the ball off 20 or more times (7-0).  We averaged nearly a touchdown more per game and AMAZINGLY gave up about 21 fewer points on defense when our running backs were fed the pill 20 or more times. Moreover, look at Luke’s average passing yards per game when we ran the ball in 2016 versus in 2017.  As you’ll see, there is virtually ZERO difference between this year and last!

Of course, when teams get behind—as we did against Arizona this year—it is harder to be able to run the ball. But when you use a cut point like 20 carries per game, that comes down to a WHOPPING five rushes a quarter.  FIVE. And even for a guy like Leach, running the ball 20 games a game should be more than doable.  In fact, it should be a no brainer.

Ultimately, there is no clear reason or attribution as to why we didn’t even try to run the ball like we should have this year, not with the guys we had in the backfield as well as three returning O-Line, including a Consensus All-American.  I don’t know if that’s Leach’s fault, Luke’s fault, an overall lack of confidence in the O-Line or what?  But, as all of us watched the offense and Falk sputter against Utah (13 RB carries) and UW (6 RB carries) it should be all too clear as to what is needed to get him and us out of that funk.

So, as we look forward to the bowl game, there is one stat for all of us to keep in mind: And that stat is the number of RUSHING CARRIES our running backs get in that game. Because if that number is greater than or equal to 20, it sure seems like we have more than a 90% chance of winning our 10th game and finishing ranked in the top 15 in the polls: Falk and WSU are 14-1 over the past two years when we do just that.

#FeedWicks

That’s all the time I have for today, I’ll be back before the bowl game—and god forbid before that—if any coaching changes develop.

All for now. Go Cougs!

One thought on “Run the Damn Ball!!!!!!

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