Hello Followers. Hope you are doing great.
As I noted yesterday on Twitter, yesterday started off with me feeling a bit down in the dumps. I mean, not only did we get screwed on two critical plays in the game (Play A: Pick Six that got overturned without ANY conclusive proof that ball touched the ground; Play B: McLennan’s UNBELIEVABLE strip and fumble recovery), but we also failed to capitalize on what should have been Luke Falk’s fourth game winning/saving drive of the season….
But as the day went on and I got thought more about it, I came to the conclusion that framed the headline of today’s brief post.
And that conclusion was: WE’VE WON!
Followers, one of the fun things I have been able to do this fall is draw the line in the sand a little about working on Saturdays. And so as a result of trying to achieve better work-life balance, I have made it a concerted point to watch a whole lot of College Football.
And so on Saturday afternoon, I returned from an early afternoon family excursion and turned on the Oklahoma State-Texas Tech game.
The second half was just starting and Tech was clinging to a 38-28 lead over the undefeated Cowboys.
Well, over the next couple of hours, I watched OK State outscore the Red Raiders 42-15 (in the second half) to complete a 70-53 route. And as I watched both teams miss tackle after tackle, the following “thought” came into my mind. And I quote:
“You know these Big 12 teams sure can score, but there is no way in holy hell that they can go toe-to-toe with a top notch SEC, B1G, or Pac12 team because they simply are not physical enough to win a game when they can’t score 50 points.”
And because our very own Mike Leach essentially invented today’s Big 12, I found myself wondering whether folks like Jon Wilner are right about teams with a scheme that ends in #Raid?
And if you look back to my own prediction last Thursday, you will see that I bought that argument hook-line-and-sinker. And for good reason, really. I mean, in year’s past, whenever WSU ran into a really physical and imposing defensive or offensive front, we have gotten absolutely steamrolled.
But on Saturday night, that meltdown never happened. To be sure, Luke Falk got hammered by Stanford’s relentless pressure. But more often than not, he had time to throw. Moreover, Wicks averaged nearly 7 yards a carry on the night and the Cougar running backs were five short yards from reaching the 100 yard plateau—which was even more remarkable when you consider that Cougs were unable to amass any yards in the first quarter of the game.
Of course, while the offensive line’s performance was outstanding, I thought the performance of our defensive line was stunning. I mean, consider that Stanford started FIVE seniors across the offensive line—two of which are slated as first round NFL draft picks. And while Destiny Vaeao was certainly tremendous, the most disruptive Cougars on the line appeared to be Daniel Eukale and Hercules Matu’afa—two underclassmen who consistently stand as #2 on the depth chart.
How incredible was this performance? Well, consider this – coming into the game, the most Stanford had been tackled for loss AND sacked in a game was 7, against both Northwestern and UCF earlier in the year. But in Pac-12 games this year, Stanford had only been tackled for loss and sacked a combined 4 times in a game, twice (vs. USC and Arizona). Well, WSU had 6 TFL’s in the run game alone, and also totaled 4 sacks as well for a combined total of 10 TFL’s and sacks in Saturday night’s game. That’s TEN for loss!!!!! Or more than double than any other Pac-12 team had done against that monster offensive line.
And frankly folks, there’s only three reasons for that type of performance.
Reason A: You’re recruiting great athletes.
Reason B: You’re developing those athletes through your strength and condition program.
Reason C: You’re coaching those kids up with respect to scheme and technique.
So, when you put youth and talent together, you get the following conclusion: the Washington State Cougars now have the talent and the coaching to be able to compete at College Football’s highest level.
And when you think back to all that we’ve endured as a fan base over the past decade or, it’s pretty easy to see that, even in the wake of a gut-wrenching defeat, we’ve actually won!
So, where do we go from here?
Well, two things come to mind. First, as Jacob Thorpe aptly noted in today’s blog post, we need to figure out how to defend a quarterback who can run with the pill. And while he is not Taylor Kelly running the football, Mike Bercovici offers a great opportunity for our defense to begin to figure that out. Because one we figure out how to defend dual threat quarterbacks with some degree of confidence and competence, our defense threatens to move into the above average-to-good category. And when you combine that with a high octane offense, you get……
The second goal for the rest of the season is to follow Mike Leach’s mantra and learn how to play more consistently. Because as we’ve all seen, this group has not been able to play its best for more than two or three quarters at a time. But if this group matures into a Stanford-type group—one that executes consistently at maximum capacity—then this team is going to turn into an absolute juggernaut.
And the third and final goal is to develop a ruthless home-field advantage. We made great strides in October in how we’ve attacked our home field, but now we need to finish this season off by beating both ASU and Colorado in Martin (Of course, knocking off UCLA and Washington on the road wouldn’t be so bad either).
Because with a home slate of Eastern, Idaho, Oregon, Cal, UCLA, Arizona, and Washington next year—the development of a consistent home-field-advantage would do wonders in helping this team achieve it’s potential for 2016. And that potential is to finish somewhere in the Top 10 in the country.
And clearly, we saw that potential in spades on Saturday night when we outplayed a top 10 team when we didn’t even have our best stuff.
The future is suddenly VERY bright, folks. Lets go beat Arizona State on Saturday and take that next step forward.
All for now. Go Cougs!