Sour Apples

Greetings fellow Cougies – long time, no blog.

My absence from the blog over the last several weeks has been due in part to a long list of super-important bullshit. Lots going on in the McBoob household this fall. As many of you know, I helped coach Mini McBoob’s Pop Warner Tiny Mite team this year which made me late to two games and absent from two others. As luck would have it, I missed the one home game of the year (UCLA) where the Cougs played really well. By putting my son ahead of the Cougs, I got a big dose of good Karma and missed the OSU game while the tiny mites played through a typhoon in front of a crowd of 22 people at halftime of the EWU/Weber game.

You know how NFL films does a season recap show for every team? They always give them subtitles like: Seattle Seahawks 2005: Soaring to the Super Bowl. It sounds really cool when the team had a great year but when the team really sucked they come up with some ridiculous euphemistic title like: Miami Dolphins 2007: Another Perfect Season. Well, if I had to put together the season review for the Cougs in 2008 it would be Sour Apples. My second choice would be At Least We’re not Notre Dame.

Honestly, I spent more time watching cartoons with the kids on Apple Cup Saturday than I did watching the game. I just didn’t have it in me to get on the roller coaster one more time. Of course, I paid enough attention to know what was happening but I really only watched when everybody else got excited. Fortunately, I did tune in to watch the last drive. Bink to Gibson goes down as maybe the second-best play for the Cougs at husky stadium in the modern era. It’ll be hard to top Leaf to Jackson…

I’m going to opt out of the coaching debate but will say that I am adamantly against bringing back Captain Happy – regardless of whether or not it would lead to a hand-off to Eric after a few years. Of all the names bandied about, my top three in order of preference would be: Bob Gregory for his insight into another Pac10 program; ties to the area and WSU; and recruiting ties in CA. Paul Wulff for his experience as a head coach; his record at a “non-sexy” school; his ties to the school; and the fact that he was in my BioSci class in ’88. (Great column on Wulff by Moore today in the PI). Tie between DeWayne Walker and Pat Hill. I like Walker because he’s young; has insight into another league system; and recruiting ties. I like Pat Hill because he looks like the kind of guy I could drink beers with at the Sports Page.

So without further Madu, here is my season in review…

Washington State Cougar Football 2008: Sour Apples

Game of the Year: Has to be the Apple Cup. The only thing that would have made it better would be if it secured us a bowl bid. Despite an otherwise disappointing year for both schools, this will go down as one of the best contests in Apple Cup history. Brink goes out with a bang and adds “husky Killer” to his resume’.

Play of the Year: Again to the Apple Cup. Like I said. Brink to Gibson for the game winner is bested only by Leaf to Jackson as the best play for the Cougs in husky stadium. This makes it the third-best play in modern Apple Cup History, with Bledsoe to Bobo a solid #1.

Offensive MVP: Brandon Gibson. Let’s just hope Mark May isn’t the one giving Brandon advice on where he’d go if he enters the draft. Gibson really flourished this year as the primary target for Alex Brink. After showing flashes of greatness while playing in the shadow of Jason Hill, I believe Gibson is actually better than his predecessor. Hill was prone to intermittent cases of the “dropsies” whereas Gibson consistently makes catches, whether he’s wide open or in tight coverage. Only a poor 40 time would keep him from being a day-one draft pick this year. With an unknown quantity at QB for the Cougs next year, I know I’d take the money and run…

Defensive MVP: I’m giving the nod to Andy Mattingly over Hussein Abdullah. Abdullah was never a big-play guy but this year more than ever, his steady play every week was key to an otherwise inexperienced defensive backfield. However, you just can’t overlook the guy who made the coaches change their scheme just to get him on the field. Like Nuke LaLoosh, Mattingly announced his presence with authority to ASU and the rest of us during week 5 and never looked back. Despite the fact that he was a part-time player until week 5, Mattingly finished one tackle shy of the team lead but led the way in sacks (8) and tackles for loss (11). That he was rewarded by the Pac10 with Honorable Mention is a slight if you ask me. We’re going to look back on his career and wonder why on earth we burned his redshirt for a contribution of only 10 special teams tackles in 2006. He’s a special player.

Newcomer of the Year: If I were to name one player on each side of the ball, I’d give the nod to Kendrick Dunn on D. The fact that neither Dunn nor the other two starting LB’s were benched in favor of Mattingly speaks for itself. The best newcomer to the program outside of incoming freshmen was Vaughn Lesuma. As advertised, the big man displayed quick feet and came right in and solidified the left tackle spot. Aside from a couple penalties late in the year, you never heard a peep about him and in the world of O-Linemen, no news is good news.

Freshman of the Year: Shoulda been Mattingly but since he was so desperately needed in 2006, I’ll have to say Chiba Nunchucks. Seriously, don’t tell me you didn’t go OOOOoooohh! the first time you heard Unbiased Bob call his name. That silent N had to have thrown off more than just me. If ever there was a baptism by fire, Chima Nwachukwu‘s 2007 season was it. Thrown to the lions due to a brutal lack of depth at CB, Chima got used like a Tri-Delt early in the season but steadily improved as the season wore on. No doubt he’s got the physical skills – and with a season of Pac 10 play under his belt, he should be a fixture in our defensive backfield for the next three.

Coach of the Year: George Yarno‘s O-Line was a very pleasant surprise for the Cougs this year. When Andy Roof got booted this spring, it left us very thin but Yarno’s boys did a helluva job protecting Brink and especially later in the year, opening up some running lanes. George is one of those guys who has seen and done it all. He simply commands respect and his guys love him. Let’s hope he sticks around when the new head-man is hired. With only Bobby Byrd gone for next year, our line should be a big strength.

Senior Who Will be Missed the Most in 2008: Loren Langley. OK OK it’s not Langley, it’s Top Romeen. OK it’s not him either but I didn’t realize he was a senior until I just looked at our roster. We go into next year with – I assume – Wade Penner as our kicker. Penner actually weighs one pound less than Langley which means the average starting position for our opponents next year should be on our own 48 yard line.

The TWO Seniors we will miss the most on Cougar Football Saturdays in 2008 are Jed Collins and Michael Bumpus. I don’t know if Bump will play on Sundays but he is the epitome of what it means to be a Cougar. We only got him because USC had second thoughts but the kid came north and immediately endeared himself to coaches, teammates and fans. It’s impossible for most of us to fathom the culture shock a kid goes through when he leaves SoCal for Pullman; but as is the case with most of the kids from LA who go Crimson, they come for the opportunity to play in the Pac 10; and leave a lifelong Coug. With all the uproar over whether or not Brink deserved all the records he broke, no one will ever question Bump breaking Hugh Campbell’s all-time receptions mark. We’ll root for him to make it at the next level, but if he doesn’t make it, I hope he comes back as a GA and hits the recruiting trail.

Jed-zilla was to the Cougs what the Swiss Army Knife is to a camping trip. The dude is a do-everything football player. He not only did everything he was asked, he did it well. This year was definitely his best as a Coug and I was really happy to see the Pac 10 honor him to their second team. Jed goes down as one of my all-time favorite Cougs. He was fun to watch – no matter where it was that he lined up.

Senior Who Will be Missed the Least in 2008: After two ridiculous outings against the Oregon schools, I finally fell off the Brink bandwagon. Yeah, he sucked in the Cal game too but in that game, he sucked good enough to win. Were it not for a dropped TD by Charles F-ing Dillon, we would have skipped out of Strawberry Canyon with a W. He must be one of the best Sunday-Friday wide receivers in WSU history to have made it through the year without being benched. Take your pick. Mine’s Dillon.

Biggest Disappointment of 2007: Aside from the simple fact that the Cougs put us through a fourth bowl-less season in a row with 5 embarrassing blow-outs in 12 games, I give this one to the OSU game. Coming off the best three-game stretch of the season, the Cougs were in a must-win situation against the Beavers at home…and absolutely flopped. As I said earlier, I was saved from suffering through this nightmare by Mini McBoob’s game that day but before either game started I had a plan to make it to Pullman for at least the second half. Mini’s game was at halftime of the EWU game which started at 2. I gave 7 of the 8 tickets I had for the Cougs game to some friends, who in turn gave me a nice bottle of wine. As we tore out of the parking lot at EWU, I tuned into the Bob and Jim show, only to find out that we were getting killed early. Brink threw a pick and all I heard was he threw “another” one. By the time we got home (a 15-minute drive) I believe Alex was up to 4. Needless to say, I tore up my ticket, uncorked the wine and toasted another season of what could have been.

Second-biggest disappointment was the new owners of the Sports Page, who saw fit to have a BAND playing the night before the Stanford game! Are you kidding me?! A band in the Sports Page? In my day, it was a privilege for a student to even drink a beer in the Sports Page. It was a quiet little,locals-only bar owned by a great guy named Stan Wilkinson. I drank my first beer in the page as a prodigal 17-year-old freshman in 1988 and by the time I left, had shared countless beers with Stan. The Page was my bar of choice as a student even though I could fall out of bed and practically be laying on the front stoop of the Coug. It killed me to stay away from The Page on my 21-run, but I knew it would really piss Stan off to find out I’d been drinking there underage for the last 3+ years. By the time I graduated, he must have thought I was 32. I know I’m getting old and crotchety but unless it has an accordian or a banjo, a band has no place in the Sports Page – period.

Can’t Wait to See in 2008: Lots of choices here, beginning with our head coach and staff. On the field, we’ll all be watching to see who goes under center for the Cougs on August 30th in Seattle. The incumbent would be Gary Rodgers if not for the coaching change. I suspect the new coach will declare the position to be wide open and would not be the least bit surprised if Lopina or Lobbestael wins out. In any case, it’ll be a fun battle to watch through summer and fall practices.

Do we have a two-headed running attack next year? With a first-year starter at QB and experience on the O-Line and Running Back, I suspect we’ll have a run-first attitude on O. Dwight Tardy was having a great year until he celebrated too hard on that last run against UCLA. Don’t believe the spin-doctored tale that he was hurt on the last cut he made on that run. He was hurt when he slipped down the concrete “ramp” that surrounds the field and caught the turf on the way down. My freshman year a kid on my co-ed softball team did the same thing only he broke both bones in his lower leg – that was before they raised the field and effectively shortened the “ramp”. Perhaps the stadium renovation plans should include its removal? Chris Ivory showed some real promise in his time as a starter and I’m pretty excited to see if Logwone (can’t wait to hear Bob pronounce this one) Mitz is the bruiser we think he is.

On D, I really want to see more of Xavier Hicks. That guy just made plays and I can’t understand why we didn’t see more of him. He should team with Alfonso Jackson to give us a great Safety tandem. We have two athletic corners in Giles and Nwachukwu and will have one of the best – if not THE best linebacking corp in the Pac in 2008. If there’s a question on D, it’s is up front where we lose Ropati, Broadus, Mullenix and Johnson. Ropati was really never the same after he got hurt; Mullenix had just about the same impact this year as last when he was leaning on crutches on the sideline; and Broadus and Johnson were really non-factors as well. So really, we can’t do much worse with the likes of Ahmu, Kooyman, Graise, Eichelberger and Turpin. I think we’ll be a pretty darn good defensive team next year.

What is it that they say wins championships? Good defense and a strong running game. Check and check. Cougs go bowling next year and Paul Wulff is Pac 10 Coach of the Year. You heard it here first.

Over and out – Hooty

13 Responses to “Sour Apples”

  1. Sedihawk Says:

    Welcome “home” Hooty. Glad you are back in the fold. You’ll get that passion back, somehow, someway. This year with all the blowouts, it had a way of sucking the life out of things. so you aren’t alone in not “feeling it” this year.

    Fantastic write-up of the season. And I agree, even though on paper we’re going to look thin on the D-line, well, none of those guys will be any great loss. Injuries were a big part of it. But Turpin and Kooyman are interesting. Not sure if they’ll be D-ends of if they’ll gain 30 lbs and become smaller, quicker tackles inside. I guess the new coaching staff will have a say in stuff like that, no?

    And, ZERO argument about the linebackers. Evans, Trent, Dunn and Mattingly are going to be right behind USC in regards to returning LB talent (most of their juniors all said they are coming back next year). I absolutely love Mattingly. I’d like to see him get a little bit quicker, but man does he show an upside that is scary.

    I heard Jake Locker the Monday after the AC, and they asked him about WSU, and before they could even finish the question he just goes “Andy Mattingly is a really good player!” He talked about the passes Mattingly batted down, etc. basically said “#45 was all over the field”. It’s kind of remarkable he got honorable mention all-conference for only starting the last half of the season. Give him another year to get better under a new coaching staff, and who knows how they might cut him loose next year. He might be SCARY good!

    Howie Stalwick wrote today that the big question marks will obviously be QB, but also WR’s. But the o-line is going to be an asset after a year of surviving. There’s some good young talent there that now has game experience. When you are breaking in a new QB, nothing like a strong O-line to help ease the process!

  2. longball Says:

    Strong running game, stout defense and a shake up at QB and WR – sounds a lot like the Beavers this year. I’d certainly take 8 wins and a bowl game next year.

  3. Sedihawk Says:

    I hear there is a line around Queen Anne to jump off the Needle with this news:

    Ty Willie escapes the chopping block! I guess the rumor I was spoon-fed earlier today, about Willingham out and Tedford in, was just that.

    I actually think this is a good thing for UW. Not that this is UW FOOTBALL BLOG EAST or whatever, but, have you seen the recruiting class UW is lining up right now? They have erected a fence around the state, particularly the west side, and none of the elite are getting out. For the first time at UW Willingham is hitting home runs in recruiting, that cannot be denied. That’s got to be a big part of it. They are going to finish with a top-25 class, if not even better than that.

    I guess after he’s fired NEXT year, the financial hurt won’t be as bad. And the new coach can stride in and win with his recruits, much like Charlie Weis did when he first showed up at ND.

  4. Nuss Says:

    The crazy thing is that I can’t believe how impatient Husky fans are. They are delusional about where the program ought to be, based on where it once was. It will never have the iron grip it once had on the conference ever again.

    I’m not saying they should accept mediocrity — just like we shouldn’t — but they also shouldn’t ignore the depths to which that program was allowed to sink in evaluating the job their current coach is doing.

    Both UW and WSU are poised for strong rebound years next season, I think, based off of what is leaving the conference from other programs. Most other schools will be a little down from where they were this year, setting both Willingham and Wulff/Hill/Price/etc. for a big year.


  5. Sedihawk Says:

    Good point Nuss. Can they ever be what they used to be? It’s hard to see how they could given the way the landscape has so drastically changed in the NW over the last several years. Even just since their 2000 season and Rose Bowl victory, it’s a whole new deal. Oregon and Oregon State became major players, on the field in recruiting and off the field with their stadiums, as both have done an excellent job upgrading facilities. The Oregon schools aren’t exactly going away anytime soon! And who knows, maybe we’ll be on a major upswing with the new coach, however it works out, plus our stadium renovation that will be long done before UW can even break ground on their changes.

    And, say this about WSU – we gave Doba a chance. 5 years is a real good proving ground to see what you are made of.

  6. kaddy Says:

    Who’s the best candidate to get us back into the living rooms of in-state recruits? Thoughts?

  7. Sedihawk Says:

    Kaddy, are you the Kaddy that I think you are??

    Rumor of the night – June Jones! I heard it on KRKO 1380 tonight on the drive home. Jeff Aaron says his WSU sources inside the athletic department say that June Jones is the hot rumor right now. Someone on Cougfan posted the same thing. Interesting.

    Not sure how I feel about it. He’d probably command something close to $1 million, but is he worth it? Isn’t Hawaii kind of a gimmick offense? I don’t know. He’s from Portland by the way, so he sort of has NW ties.

  8. kaddy Says:

    I’m not sure how much June makes now, do you? I’m guessing our price range is right around $1 million per year, plus incentives, so that eliminates quite a few head coaches, such as Peterson and P. Hill. I’m thinking the new gig will go to Wulff, Gregory, Christenson, or trump card that Sterk is holding that we aren’t thinking of.

    And yes, it’s me.

  9. Sedihawk Says:

    I believe Jones is just under $1 million (900k?). But that’s the most he’ll probably ever get on the big island. I bet we’d have to go to a cool $1 million to get him, at least. Then again, it is a BCS gig and those aren’t all that easy to come by. Still just rumors/speculation though.

    I’ve heard Wulff is high on the list. But it’s still REALLY tight-lipped, which makes you wonder if something bigger is coming that we can’t even imagine. Someone cruised by here a week ago and said there was a rumor of Barry Alvarez, but that seemed insane. I’m in Wulff’s camp and I’d hate to see us pass on him now, only to see him become a really big deal in like 2 years and we’d kick ourselves for not pulling the trigger. He just fits in a lot of ways. We’ll see! Wulff is on KJR tonight at 9 PM, don’t miss it.

    Don’t be a stranger Kaddy!

  10. kaddy Says:

    I just read that Jones makes $800K,
    so he would actually get a bit of a raise, I think, if he came to WSU. Could happen, I guess.

    When it’s all said and done, I’m thinking Wulff is the best guy, as long as he doesn’t retain Rosie. I love the idea of a guy like Pat Hill, but he makes $1.2 at Fresno. We’ll see what happens.

  11. AtlantaCoug Says:

    I am becoming a Wulff lover myself. He makes a lot of sense. Only thing he lacks is ‘buzz’. And any buzz will where off quickly if he does not win anyway!

  12. Sedihawk Says:

    Ditto Atlanta. But buzz is highly overrated. Ask UW about the buzz when Neuheisel was hired. Buzz wears off quickly if there’s no substance behind it, no doubt. Wulff appears to be the real deal, and the fact that he’s “one of our own” goes a long way. The guard is immediately lowered when he walks into a room of Cougar donors, and there’s an instant connection. I don’t think anyone would get uptight about the threat of him leaving either. You listen to him on that KJR interview, you know that WSU is a destination job for him. But we’ll see!

  13. kaddy Says:

    I like how Coach Wulff is just a regular guy, too. There is no wall between him and anyone else – what you see if what you get.

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