Paradigm Shift

We saw the beginning of the change in philosophy against Texas in the Holiday Bowl. We lost it a bit last year, and this year, well, we were inbetween.

The bottom line in this season is that we FINALLY made the transition from wide open Price ball to a much more conservative ground oriented attack with all the wide-open, high flying capabilities of the one back. When you think about it, we really represented a poor man’s Miami Hurricanes this year. A high octane running game coupled with the constant threat of the deep ball.

So, what went wrong?

Obviously the D was the primary culprit. Another factor: we lost the pivotal swing game that we talked about in preseason. If you visit Hawk’s post from the end of last season, you will see that he already had pegged the Oregon State game as a swing game. If you venture back to my posts earlier this year, I said the same. Of course, we lost and the rest is history..

To add to matters, the depth and experience we gained with Rapoti last year was lost this year. And, Derting’s loss cost us at least two wins. I think when you look at things realistically, we should have won two of the five “couldas” with the “shouldas” being UCLA and CAL.

This should have been a very frustrating 6-5 team.

But the bright spot in this season also mirrored its darkest spot: Alex Brink. Brink showed skill and moxy in quarters 1-3 and was unable to put together key drives when it mattered. He also showed a painful lack of armstrength to the outside and a horrible inability to throw the ball to the TE and in the middle and thus aid our need to play better ball control (and to meld with our new offensive philosophy. Doubt this? As yourself if Harrison would have seen 1500-let alone 1900-with Price as the coach–I sure as hell don’t think so)

With that in mind, the final drive of the year shows what could and should be next year. Whether its Woolridge by himself or a platoon with Diedrich, Tardy, and DW, we will run the football next year. Brink, if he learns as he should, will use the possession game much more effectively. And that, my friends, will bring results. We won’t be as pretty as this year or in year’s past, but we’ll be effective. We’ll play smash mouth, hit you with possession passing plays, and then bite deep with minimal three and outs.. And, we will be competitive with everyone.

Of course, there are concerns about the MLB spot and the DBs. Hill’s departure is another concern, but somehow I think that the new kids will step up. The system is too well designed for the WRs.

The BIGGEST question mark is how we recover from Milhauser. And that, my friends, is the question that will be answered early in 2006. It is how we respond to the captain of the BEST offensive line we’ve had at WSU in some, some, some time that will tell our fate for next year. With good play at the center and line, I bet that Brink will have a breakout year and will end his WSU career as a Gesser-like great “college quarterback.”

But, if we struggle at the O-line spot, well, the program will be in real jeapardy, cuz Brink is too limited to shine without a running game and pass protecting line. He’s simply not tall or fast enough…

In as many words, 2006 IS THE DEFINING YEAR in the Cougar program. We make it back to respectability and we stay competitive in the years to come. Miss a bowl, and you can kiss our fortunes goodbye as we will once again turn into an also ran program.

With that in mind, here is my pre-2006 prediction without the knowledge of recruiting, spring ball, etc.:

September 2
@ Auburn LOSS
September 9
IDAHO WIN
September 16
BAYLOR/Seattle WIN (THIS IS SWING GAME #1)
September 23
@ Stanford WIN (THIS IS SWING GAME #2)
September 30
USC LOSS
October 7
@ Oregon State WIN (THIS IS SWING GAME #3)
October 14
CALIFORNIA (HC) WIN
October 21
OREGON (Foundation Day) WIN (THIS WILL BE A HUGE WIN)
October 28
@ UCLA WIN
November 4
ARIZONA (DD, AFD) WIN
November 11
@ Arizona State LOSS
November 18
WASHINGTON WIN

That’s 9-3 and a Sun Bowl in my book, but that’s giving us each swing game. This year we lost all five (OSU, STAN, UCLA, CAL, ASU). The key games are Baylor, Stanford, and OSU. Win the first two of those games and I think we are on our way. Stanford should struggle without Edwards. I also have us beating an OSU team that will not be good, a UCLA team that will be hurting with their offensive losses, and an Oregon team that will be really, really, really, really good.

ASU will be too much to handle–I can’t see this team next year going 10-2….

That said, once again, the biggest key will be injuries. We said this year that we couldn’t afford to get hurt and BAM we lose our starting DT and Derting. Two years in a row and we are mashed up the middle.

Finally, we also will rely on Brink–not only that he will improve remarkably–but that he won’t get knocked out. With Swoggs leaving, the cupboard will be bare.

Thank goodness we beat the Puppies!

Onward Crimson soldiers

One Response to “Paradigm Shift”

  1. Sedihawk Says:

    Good points, as usual.

    I think Derting and Ropati would have equated to 3 more wins (Stanford, UCLA, and CAL are the most logical ones to me. Stanford in that there is no WAY Trent Edwards would have ran and thrown like John Elway in that game, with gigantic cut-back lanes that Derting showed vs. UW, would have NEVER been there! Of course UCLA and the 38-21 lead, and CAL having to score 10 points in the last 5 minutes, I think we would have held on there).

    Derting and Ropati’s impact was very real in the AC. The running game with James Sims, who ran for 200 bills the week before and had 392 yards the last two games combined before the AC, was shut down, well under 100 yards before leaving with an injury. Stanbeck is talented, but he’s worse than Brink, and if he doesn’t have a running game, then you see a nervous kid out there air-mailing throws and making lousy decisions with a low completion %. We held them to 300+ total yards, and in the Pac-10, that’s an achievement in itself. That AC defense, and even at times the Oregon game defense, was much more like I think we all believed we would have had in ’05.

    I also have to come out say this this – WHERE THE HELL WAS THE DEFENSIVE DEPTH when we were forced to play true frosh at DT and MLB?!?! Brian Hall has been playing since the 2003 season as a backup, and he’s got size (6-2, 245) and experience, yet a 5-11, 230 LB true frosh beat his ass out?? Same goes with Chris Baltzer, with his 6-2, 230lb frame as a Junior. And where the hell was Odell Howard, a 6-3, 295lb Junior at D-tackle? How about Bryan Olson? I know he got on the field as a backup, but as a senior, how did he not get the nod over a true frosh??? It’s just extremely disappointing that our experienced backups couldn’t rise up and grab a starting job, instead they gave way to 18-year old boys.

    Maybe in the bigger picture, it’s actually a good thing this happened. As it was with Brink over Swogger, the coaching staff clearly has their eyes on putting the best possible players on the field that gives them the best chance to win. If it just so happened that Trent and Ahmu were better than the experienced juniors off the bench, then it’s a very good signal to send to the rest of the team (and to future recruits?) that if you come in and you are ready to play, you WILL get on the field, regardless of your age!

    I’m not ready to break down the ’06 schedule, at least not yet, but I have to say that your 9-3 projection is on the optimistic side of things. It’s going to be a long, tough grind next year, starting out with playing in hell at Auburn, and maybe a bigger issue being glossed over?? WE DON’T HAVE A BYE NEXT YEAR! There won’t be that extra week somewhere to rest those bumps and bruises. Just keep your fingers crossed that our depth will be better next year than this year, because by the end of this season we were a beaten up team.

    Glen’s blog at the Spokesman, with his 5 things about next year, was very good. IF Hill leaves, we could be in a world of hurt at WR. We could be looking at a core WR grouping of Bumpus, Jordan, Gibson and Benny Ward, and not much else. Much like Devard could have made a huge impact in ’04, I really hope to the higher power that Hill comes back next year. He would make that group a hell of a unit, but without him, it could be a rough beginning to the season. It doesn’t matter what JC talent we bring in, either, so many times those JC guys take 4 or 5 games before they get a clue, and especially at WR!

    I do think that things won’t be that horrible behind Brink. Whether it’s Rogers or Hall, whoever wins the backup job is going to earn it. It’s very clear the staff likes Rogers, as the USC game was pretty clear they liked him and his potential more than Swoggs. I heard Keith Jackson saying that the coaches have been raving about Rogers, about how smooth he plays the position, his arm strength, his delivery, etc, were just wonderful.

    I think I am going to refrain from making any predictions on 2006 until the spring, when we know how recruiting went, what impact JC’s were expecting (and there is a lot of talk that we’re hitting the JC’s hard this year!), who is eligible and/or healthy, who emerges as a force, etc.

    That said, amazing how the first Saturday in October we’re playing AT OSU – AGAIN. And, again, that’s going to be a huge swing game for the season! At OSU is like a nightmare that just won’t end. You can already picture the “Brink looks for redemption in Corvallis” headlines, all the flashback articles to how everything fell apart for the Cougs in more ways than one that day, blah blah BLAH!

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