Archive for August, 2008

Sunday Morning Gloom – Okie Edition

August 31, 2008

Oh well. Week one in the books, and now we have something to go off – and look forward to improving upon – besides practices and scrimmages.

First, great job yesterday by Brinkhater and of course, the comments. I think the vast majority of you saw the situation for what it is, which is a team that has a long way to go, yet still, you saw some things get better. I want to just touch on a few things, then we’ll look at some links.

What We Liked:
1) The defense is better. I don’t think there is any doubt about that. I know, 39 points is rough, but really, you can’t lay it all at their size 14’s. One of those scores was a kickoff return for a TD, and there were several other short-field situations where the D toughened up. That final score could have been considerably worse if, by chance, we had the 2007 defense out there.

But as many mentioned yesterday, we seemed quicker to the ball and we tackled better than we have in recent memory. Early on, and even well into the third quarter, there were very few moments where Okie State got outside the defense. We did a good job of not getting beat out there, and turning the action back inside. There was more pep in their step, so to speak, and they did in fact play with a swagger. To put it in proper perspective, you have to remember who exactly they were playing. This wasn’t Idaho or Grambling State. Okie State is an offensive juggernaut, and their QB was the best dual-threat QB in the nation next to Tim Tebow last year, and we held our ground. Robinson ran for almost 850 yards last year, so if you would have told me we would hold him to eight carries for a mere 11 yards?? I would take that in a heartbeat! Plus we did something that was a huge improvement compared to last year, and that was THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS! Just 4-for-13 yesterday in a category where we were one of the worst in the nation last year.

2) The running game got going. What a nice surprise there. After a putrid first half, where we never even crossed midfield on EIGHT POSSESSIONS, it was nice to see them get in an offensive rhythm. The running game really got the offense going in that first possession of the third quarter. Out of the nine offensive plays of that TD drive, seven of them were running plays. The final tally of 114 rushing yards, or 3.4 yards per carry, isn’t anything to write home about, but you can see the upside there. Both Tardy and Ivory had their moments, and wasn’t it great to see Ivory play after being so questionable coming in? That was a relief, to say the least, and might be a great sign going forward. As Brinkhater said last night, imagine next season when we will also add the touted Cal transfer James Montgomery into the mix with Tardy, Ivory and Staden? Could be a pretty deep, talented backfield!

3) The offensive line did a commendable job. A unit so banged up and shuffled around even before week one, yet they held together pretty well. Granted that wasn’t USC’s defense out there, but really, they were a pleasant surprise. Even though Rogers struggled mightily, there were several times where he had more than enough time to set up shop and do his thing in a strong pocket. Just two sacks allowed, and only a handful of QB hurries all day. And they really fired off the ball in that third quarter, establishing the ground game and getting after it.

Like many have said all along, with Wulff as our coach, the offensive line is going to be a personal position of pride for him. I think we are going to be happy with what we see up front, and so far, so good.

Now, what we didn’t like:

1) “Special” teams were far from special. I think we all thought this was going to be an issue, but WOW. Over 250 yards allowed in the return game, including the 90-yard KO return and punt returns of 42 yards and 68 yards?? BRUTAL is the only way to even possibly say it. That kickoff return for a TD, that middle of the field was so wide open, as soon as the guy had the ball for the first ten yards, I glanced down the middle of the field and there was NOBODY there. You or me with a few pre-game drinks in us could have scored on that thing. The hang-time on the punts was just bad, bad, bad. Too many line drive-type punts that are a returners dream. Time to bring back the rugby punts that roll for 25 yards and pop-fly kickoffs that are fair-caught at the 35? I know we lamented all that, but after yesterday, I welcome the idea with open arms!

Of course, we’re rolling with a backup punter and all, and we are so thin that many guys not normally on punt and kickoff coverage teams are being asked to go out there and bust the wedge. But that has to improve, and fast.

2) The corners, defensive tackles and pass rush. Ok, there were some bright spots early on. As we stated above, we held our ground and forced field goals with a short field to work with. But Okie State figured something out, and that is our defensive backs had trouble with the size and athleticism of their WR’s. Particularly Dez Bryant.

You hate to use that old injury excuse, but, losing our top cover corner Alfonso Jackson so early in the game hurt the experience in the secondary. Tyrone Justin was forced to get extensive minutes covering Bryant, and try as he might, it was a mismatch. There were at least a few of those jump-ball style throws, where Bryant was covered, but simply elevated and went up and got it. And let’s face it, he has serious ability and was one of their biggest weapons as a frosh last year. He’s going to be a name to remember in the Big 12. So I don’t know what you can do on those types of plays, other than say “JUMP HIGHER!” But a look around the Pac-10, and there are a lot of guys like him we’ll see out there. Oregon and USC’s monster WR’s will be licking their chops when they see film of this one.

The tackles are thin, thin, thin. We knew that coming in, and it was proven yesterday. Ahmu did have six tackles, so he was OK yet no tackles for loss or any pressure on the QB. Eichelberger is a nice compliment, but you can’t expect to get by with those two in there for 60-70 plays. Losing Roof hurts, and Adam Hineline got in there for a few stops, but man, something has to be done in there. I heard Walden on the radio say that he couldn’t remember a time where we lacked so much quantity and quality at the defensive tackle position in all his years watching WSU.

Finally, even though Robinson and the rest of Okie State didn’t go video-game football on us, still, we didn’t get enough pressure on the QB. He had a relatively comfortable 20-for-27, averaging 7.1 yards per attempt. Not fantastic, but pretty much in control. The ends didn’t get the kind of heat that is going to be needed going forward. Greg Trent had the only sack of the game, and Kevin Kooyman had a couple of QB hurries, but otherwise, it was a non-existent pass rush. Maybe we’ll see more blitzing next week vs. Kevin Riley and Cal, but we need to get pressure one way or another.

3) The most obvious of all, the passing game. It was Rogers’ first game, and no, we’re not going crazy on this one. He deserves a mulligan for a game that was a huge adjustment for everyone involved. New as in new QB, new starting WR’s and TE, new coaching staff with a new no-huddle offense. Yeah, that’s new. Was he out of synch? Sure. Was he wild with his accuracy? On some throws he was very wild, but others he was fine. But this thing wasn’t all his fault.

First, the drops. We all love Brandon Gibson, and we know he’s going to have a big senior year. But two of those drops were balls that he just has to make. Yes, one of them a DB made a play on the ball, and any DB will tell you it’s their ball just as much as it’s the WR’s. But those drops turned out to be pretty big in the grand scheme of things. You have to wonder what might have happened if he catches at least one of those. Maybe the confidence is there and they loosen up the coverage for the other WR’s. Maybe the running game gets going sooner rather than later, and they keep the Okie State offense off the field for a few set of downs. Who knows. But given the long body of work with Gibson, you KNOW this won’t be an ongoing issue. It will improve, and probably next week. Heck, it improved in the 2nd half, and Gibson’s second half was really strong.

And the new receivers had a lot to do with it. Far too often it looked like they were hesitant, confused or even running the wrong route altogether. Maybe there are a lot of “read” routes in this offense, where the QB and WR read the defense on the route and decide to either break it off or go deep? But in focusing on how the WR’s were running their routes, there seemed to be some first-game issues out there. You can tell there was more thinking going on vs. pure reactions and athleticism, but that will change as they get more experience. But health is also an issue. Daniel Blackledge wasn’t even going to play, and Michael Willis looked a little slow out there. Even Frischnecht at TE wasn’t himself. So it’s hard to blame Rogers when his supporting cast couldn’t pick him up.

So, that’s about it. What will YOU take from this one? I think the biggest thing I’m going to take is big-picture, in that unlike last year, these guys didn’t quit. Remember the Oregon game last year? They laid down after a rough start. Not only would those field goals have been TD’s on last year’s defense, but it would have been a full four quarters of pain. We cut it to 18-6, but then they stole the MO right back with the kickoff return for TD. We drive down the field and score another TD, but then they would respond after a short kickoff. But the fact that they fought back off the mat is just such a great sign for what is to come. The offense ground out two long, impressive drives in the second half to make it interesting, and most of all showed improvement as the game went on. Coach Wulff has to be happy that they responded to adversity instead of taking the afternoon off.

I won’t link to a bunch of WSU stuff, as you know where it is and how to find it. However, there was this notebook from the Times in regards to the young line showing some promise. Steve Kelley had this good look at Rogers, highlighting the issues he had to deal with for his first-ever start.

Finally, around the conference. PEEEEEUW! I can’t believe UW was only down 14-10 at the half. 30 unanswered points later and it’s a 44-10 wipeout that has fans going ballistic. I guess if it was year four of the Wulff regime, and we were embarrassed like that, well, it would be hard not to be pissed if you are a UW fan right about now. The fact Oregon got it done with brand new QB’s after Roper went down with a concussion has to make it all the worse. But Jake Locker can only do so much, and yep, those young skill guys sure looked young. And truth be told, Locker wasn’t 100%. He looked gassed at times, even tapping his helmet after a few plays to signal to the sideline to please call a regular running play. We heard a rumor that his hammy was far less than 100%, and has been an ongoing issue for him this summer, and it showed last night.

USC, jeez. Just when you think they might have some issues on offense, Mark Sanchez goes bananas in the 52-7 humiliation at Virginia. As they said on ESPN, he was making NFL-type throws and his WR’s were doing their part. And that defense, forget about it. Might as well clear the calendar for a BCS bowl, yet again.

ARIZONA 70, IDAHO ZERO!?!? HOLY TOLEDO. Idaho was outgained 521-112 for the entire game? I would have thought the Vandals could keep it close, but hide the women and children.

Cal had a wild one, holding on 38-31 in a real offensive show. The QB controversy has to be officially dead though, as Kevin Riley was far superior to Nate Longshore. Cal’s running game is going to be a chore next week, too, Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen both going over 100 yards.

Finally, ASU sleep-walked through a 30-13 game that was far closer on the scoreboard. It was 30-3 in the third quarter. Rudy was on fire early, completing a school-record first 13 throws on the way to a big 388-yard night.

Enjoy your weekend, and GO COUGS!

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Post-Game Thread

August 30, 2008


Well, one down and TWELVE BIG ONES left.

While I am sure that many of you are disappointed by the outcome of today’s tilt, I also think that there were enough good things accomplished today to see why it is that Brinkhater has been so optimistic about the upcoming season as a whole.

IF we can stay reasonably healthy, we will get better and better and better each week. And I actually still think that a bowl game is in the cards.

At the very least, I certainly think you will see a huge jump in our performance next week.
Couple of quick hits:

The defense played much better than expected. And, as forseen on this very blog, was pretty terrific before they wore down.

The highs: the discipline at tackling. The lows: the Limited Pass Rush and inability to win a “jump ball.”

The offense lacked overall tempo but had some good moments nonetheless. The obvious high: The running game. The Lows: Rogers’ consistent “lock” onto his primary receiver; Gibson’s dropsies.

The biggest low of course was Special Teams, but that will improve with the return of our punter. The field goal kicking may be a real, real problem, however.

The biggest high: The tackling and the overall temperament of the coaches which I thought was first rate.

Personally, I feel much better about this week one than the opener last year.
But what really matters is what you all think.

So, what do you think?

Half-Time Thread

August 30, 2008
So, we’ve reached the end of first half and seen what we expected: A defense that is better than advertised (ours) and an offense that is offensive.

Meanwhile, our “sure thing” is doing his best impression of this former great a few years back:

Remember two years ago when Jason Hill got a bad case of the dropsies early in the year?

Well, our main man #4 looks like he’s going through the same type of “yips” that comes with high expectations.

Nevertheless, you can see the promise that this group has. If we can get a good stop to start the 3rd, we may stay in it.

In any event, lets just stay healthy and continue to get some good reps.
Feel free to share your rants.

Good Morning Beautiful!

August 30, 2008

And I don’t mean Herbie. Good morning Crimson, yet another year on the ESPN Gameday road set. It sounds as though “Coug Will”, Will Walker, has made the trek, and both flags are flying high. GREAT job! I guess you know it’s football season when you flip on Gameday and see the flag. It’s so ON now.

There are a few links of interest today, but I think the best thing I read was from the News Tribune. It’s an article about the toughness factor, and what it really means, from Wulff to the players. It’s worth a read, so, check it out here.

Did Michael Bumpus make the Seahawks?? We’ll find out today. Maybe his case got stronger in the bad news department, with WR Ben Obomanu going down with a broken clavicle last night and will probably miss the entire 2008 season. And Bump played well if this was his last Seahawks performance, three catches for 53 yards. But it’s all a numbers game now. If the Seahawks keep six receivers, it’s going to be Nate Burleson, Jordan Kent, Bobby Engram, Deion Branch, Courtney Taylor and Logan Payne. But if they go with seven WR’s, then Bumpus could make it. The hard thing is both Engram and Branch are going to miss some early games, but they have to be kept on the 53-man roster. If you put them on the “PUP” list now, they are out for at least half the season, if not the entire thing. So they have to at least hold the spots for when they can be activated. But even if it is the practice squad, my WSU heart is proud of Bump. An undrafted free agent has the longest hike of all to even get on the radar of making the team, and here he is, potentially on the bubble of making the Seattle Seahawks. GREAT JOB BUMP.

In that tone, sorry to see the Big Apple, Alex Brink, get his walking papers yesterday. Apparently the team didn’t see enough out of him to keep him as the 3rd QB. Maybe a practice squad guy, either in Houston or somewhere. But we’ll see. Maybe he just doesn’t have that NFL skill set. Good luck to Alex.


Anyone see Jason Hill this preseason?? Four more catches for 57 yards last night, and now a team-high 11 catches for 204 yards total in the preseason. He’s looking really, really good in the new San Fran Mike Martz offensive scheme, and could be a breakthrough guy this season.

Couple all that with the news that Mkristo Bruce will now likely stick with the Jags, at least on the practice squad, even though Derrick Harvey ended his holdout, and the news isn’t all bad for recent NFL’ers with WSU ties.

I think it also makes you realize how much talent was really on that 2006 WSU team. Eric Frampton and Jason Hill were both in the NFL last year, and now Bumpus, Brink and Bruce were all at least to the final cuts. That might always be the what-could-have-been team.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. We’ve written enough about this upcoming season, and about this game. Previews are everywhere, everyone has weighed in on their pick, you know the drill. One thing is crystal clear – the deck is stacked against us today. But that’s why they play the games, and it’s why we watch. We just don’t know what will happen. And that is part of the pure excitement many of us will feel today.

I hope to run into a few of you down at Qwest. Brinkhater will likely stop by today for a game post, so, if you can’t get to the game and want to vent, check it out. Otherwise, enjoy today for what it is – the new era of WSU Football. GO COUGS!

Ready For Lift-Off

August 29, 2008

Football Friday Week One…Only on Thursday

August 28, 2008

Welcome to Football Friday, Cougar Nation. And Week One Style to Boot!

For future reference, you can EXPECT to see the WSU Football Blog version of Football Friday appear on this here blog every Thursday (it may appear as a Wednesday post because of Blogger). But look for Football Friday….only on Thursday….every week.

As you know, we always strive to bring stuff to you first at this lil’ ole site. ..

I mean, anyone else in the blogosphere notice that the “Evil” Vince Grippi started posting before 8:00am this fall for the first time after Sedihawk started our morning link series at about 5:45am everyday this past spring? Good morning Vince….

For the past couple of years, we’ve each given our takes on the upcoming tilt of games on separate posts. For us, that has enabled us Blogfathers to essentially fill the blog out with posts each day during game week. But, that approach has also given our readership a piecemeal and often fragmented view of WSU Football and our prospects each week.

So, we’re going to give you our collective Blogfather takes in one fell swoop this year.

Needless to say, we hope you enjoy it, win money from it, and COMMENT on it. And please, feel free to add your picks as well. We can keep a tally of them during the season and see how you stack up.

So, without further ado, here are our takes:

As for Brinkhater, after finishing last year 12-0 as a master soothsayer and winning my own coveted National Championship, I bat lead-off—at least for game one. So, here we go.

First, Cougar Nation, I beg you all to KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE throughout this season and especially this first game.

And, in case you’ve forgotten, the prize is this:


WIN TWO STINKING GAMES IN SEPTEMBER
!!!!!!

As I suggested in the season preview, that means beating Baylor and Portland State. Do that, and our season can be a major success. Exceed that and our season could be really, really special.

But first, let’s focus on Saturday’s game against CBSU.

Now, I don’t want to curb anyone’s enthusiasm, but you all can really put this one in stone:

WE ARE NOT WINNING THIS WEEKEND. No how. No way.


For a long time, I imagined a scenario where we got up 14-0 on OK State and made those less-than-road-warriors play an unsuccessful game of catch-up the rest of the way.

But alas, Anderson got hurt, and even worse, our once solid O-Line is now in total shambles. So, with that in mind, I also see no reasonable way that we can play ball control and “hang in there” as I’ve wanted to believe all summer long.

Mind you, Brinkhater thinks that our much maligned D is going to be much better than advertised (even without Roof), but my sense is that our offense is going to be just downright awful. And when I say awful, I mean A-W-F-U-L.

As a result of our pending ineptitude, after Rogers throws his 3rd pick of the first half (he’ll have 4 in this game, but what can you reasonably expect??? Has any WSU QB done well in his first real start?), I think that I will find myself clinging to the gilded memories of Alex DOMINATING the field between the 20’s, and will thus embrace the memories of #10 in same way that McCain has been captured loving HIS former nemesis, the other “Dubya”:


In spite of how awful we’ll be on O in Game One, I urge you all to both enjoy and watch the 4th quarter of this game VERY closely. What we’re looking for in this game is PROGRESS that we can use against CAL. And, because the Cowboys’ defense is so suspect, I do think that we can establish something late that we can use next week in Martin Stadium.

Remember, as Doba pointed out, the greatest progress in a season is between Week One and Week Two. With this young team, a strong finish for this game will set the table for a more competitive performance against CAL, which MUST further set the stage for a must-win victory over Baylor in two weeks. Again, the ONE game we must have is Baylor.

So, with that in mind, think about the next two weeks as a pre-season to prepare specifically for THAT game.

Final Answer for Brinkhater on the Cougs’ fortunes in Week One?:

Cougs go 0-1 as Brinkhater goes 1-0 and thus extends his hapless WSU Football prediction win streak at 13..

Clay Bennett State University 38 Cougs 17 (35-3 Entering the 4th). And, yes, we know Clay Bennett wears Sooner pajamas to bed every night. But hey, Oklahoma is Oklahoma to us.

Other Games:

Oregon 31 Washington 14. Can Locker leave the stadium walking? We’ll see.

Trees 20 Beavs 13. No offense, but totally offensive. Don’t watch this one.

USC 41 UVA 6. Don’t watch this one either.

CAL 24 MSU 17. Maybe consider going camping this weekend after our game?

And the National Game of the Week?

Mizzou 41 Illinois 24. Mizzou takes first step toward a possible National Title Run. Big Ten shows it still sucks.

Enjoy the games and go Cougs!!!

Sedihawk says:

Good work Brinkhater. My, I didn’t expect 38-17 out of you. But how can I argue against your spotless 2007 season? It’s true, folks, hate Brinkhater all you want, but he did win the mythical national title of picking games last year. And not just in football either. I believe he missed just one or maybe two hoops games, total, last year. And we have the archives to prove it.

But it’s a new season, and time for the rest of us to weigh in.

First of all, I think X-man can sum up my feelings towards all things Oklahoma.


GIT ‘EM X!

I know, this is supposed to be a WSU football blog….but still…..so verrrrrry bitter about the theft that took place of a 41-year Seattle institution. And really, for no other reason than David Stern was in bed with a fat, rich ego maniac who became even fatter and richer by getting to watch ball in YEE HAW OKC!

Enough of that. Moving on, this week’s game. Well, I’m going to have to slide towards Brinkhater’s side of the fence on this one. Okie State scares the bejeezus out of me when they have the football, and for good reason. Actually, several good reasons:

1) Zac Robinson is the real deal at QB folks. As a true sophomore, and first shot at starting last year, he completed over 60% of his passes, approached 3,000 yards, had a fantastic 23-9 TD/INT ratio, and led his team to a winning record and a big bowl victory. He is a wonderful fit in the read-option offense, running for 847 yards and nine more TD’s. And oh yeah, he set a school record for total offense with 3671 yards. All as a sophomore?? To put it in perspective, Tim Tebow was the only other QB in the nation to throw for at least 2800 yards and run for 800. Not Dennis Dixon, not Jake Locker, not any of the other read-option QB’s. It’s a little scary to think how good he could be this year.

2) Their offense, overall, was outstanding. The only team in the nation to average at least 240 yards per game running AND throwing the ball, they were a dual-threat offensive machine. And while they’ve lost leading receiver Adarius Bowman and leading rusher Dantrell Savage, they still have some talented kids back in the skill positions, including Dez Bryant, monster TE Brandon Pettigrew, and running backs Kendall Hunter, Keith Toston and a new face in Beau Johnson, who ran for over 1700 yards in the JC ranks last year. Simply put, these guys will move the ball.

3) The biggest concern is the O-line against our defense. They are rated highly as a group, giving up only 11 sacks ALL OF 2007. I think Oregon State sacked us 11 times alone last year?? Anyway, they have nine of their top 10 linemen back from 2007, and 89 career starts combined among them. Scary.

The good news from a WSU perspective? The skill position guys might be touted, but, they are also young. Pettigrew is a senior and an all-everything candidate at tight end, but, WR Dez Bryant and starting RB Kendall Hunter are just sophomores.

And with youth comes inconsistency, so, you never know what you might get on a week-to-week basis.

Their defense has been bad, bad, and bad. While they might rack up yards and points on offense, well, they give ’em up too. 112th in the nation in passing defense, 101st in the nation overall giving up 443 yards per game! That’s only three yards less than UW gave up last year, their worst defense in school history and a game in which we were able to score 42 points. I know, new season, new coaches, new QB and all that, but still, there is hope. However, the Okie State D appears to be improved, at least if you believe the hype from the spring and fall practices anyway. They are certainly expecting a big improvement across the board.

Okie State did have a winning record last year, sure. But once again, they struggled away from home, going just 2-4 on the road. Even more, they went 2-4 on the road in 2006, and just 1-4 in 2005. Add it all up, and that’s a 5-12 record away from Boone Pickens Stadium in the last three seasons. They were humiliated in a few roadies last year as well – 35-14 at Georgia, sure, that wasn’t unexpected. But a 41-23 loss at TROY, a game in which they were a 10-point favorite?? They also laid down at Oklahoma, getting run off the field 49-17. So we’ll see.

But in the end, I agree with Brinkhater. Unfortunately I don’t think we will be able to keep up with them offensively. I think we might be better than people think defensively, but, I wonder about how we are going to go about scoring points. Losing Jeshua Anderson as the wide receiver HR threat really could be a major trickle-down to the rest of the offense, allowing Okie State to focus on Brandon Gibson. And as much as I like the future of Jared Karstetter, well, he’s a few months removed from a 4-A state hoops title. To think he’s going to smoothly make the transition right away to starting WR on a BCS team just seems too far-fetched. I sure as hell will be rooting for him, but having to start a true frosh at WR isn’t a comforting thought.

But the biggest thing on the offense is the O-line. Losing Lesuma and then Rowlands hurts, and the shuffle up front continues. We are now starting four underclassmen among our starting line, with only junior Kenny Alfred the lone upper class guy. I like the future of the line, and I think they could be a very special group in a year or so, but, this could be a real learning experience in ’08, especially this first month of the season.

I’m going to go Okie State 33, WSU 24. I think it will be a tighter game than Brinkhater believes, and I think we will hang in there. But we just don’t have the horses to run with these guys. And speaking of horses, I think Okie State is a real dark horse in the Big 12, and after this game they have a run of four straight home games. It’s very possible they will go into their 10/11 game at Missouri undefeated and a team that many people will be talking about.

Remember, this year is about taking positive steps forward. Like coach Wulff himself said earlier in the week, we’re looking for improvement. But that might not always translate on the scoreboard. We have to be patient, but just know that the program is in the right hands, and most of all, headed in the right direction!

Other games:

Oregon 28, UW 20. I think much closer than the 14-point spread or whatever. Oregon is going to be pretty good, but the first-game yips will be evident with Roper at QB. Locker is special, but he can’t do it alone. UW starts TEN freshmen or sophomores in this one, possibly the youngest starting lineup ever in Willingham’s entire coaching career. To break in all that youth, on the road, at Autzen!?!? Yikes.

Oregon State 23, Stanford 17. This will be more about Stanford being better than the Beavs being worse. Harbaugh is changing things up down there, and they will be a tougher, grittier team than last year. But Oregon State still has them beat in the talent department. Look for Sammie Stroughter to make a big play or two in special teams, always an early-season concern for every team in the nation the first few weeks.

CAL 35, MSU 21 – The Berkeley Bears come storming out of the gate. Kevin Riley lights it up and any QB controversy talk is quickly put to bed. Cal will have a major chip on their shoulder in this one and quickly erase the bad taste of 2007’s fade.

USC 27, Virginia 9 – I think the Trojan offense sputters a bit with the QB situation and all, but the D is just beyond bad-ass. USC offense better get into a groove by the time the Ohio State University shows up in LA in two weeks!

Arizona 50, Idaho 12 – The Willie Tuitama show begins! Yards and points galore in this one. Have fun Coach Akey.

ASU 49, Northern AZ 18 – Rudy goes bananas early and it’s 42-3 before you know it. And best of all, NO SACKS ALLOWED!

Tennessee 30, UCLA 13 – The Bruin offense is in ruins right now, and that won’t change after this one. UCLA keeps it tight early, but all the 3-and-outs will wear down their own defense in the 2nd half, and the Vols will salt it away.

National Game:
MIZZOU 37, Illinois 30 – Wild shootout on the St. Louis turf, but Mizzou should prevail. They are a likely pick to win the Big 12 North this year, and for good reason.

ENJOY YOUR THURSDAY, and GO COUGS!

Longball says…

Duck and Cover!

Cougar nation, I hate to bring more doom and gloom to our season opener prognostications, but we are going to get rolled on Saturday. By the time the dust settles in the 4th quarter I don’t expect us to be within two touchdowns. The problem I see on the horizon is an offense with a new scheme that frequently goes 3 and out leaving our defense to wither on the field against a juggernaut of an offense from the Pokes. I fully expect there to be a point in the game when we “figure it out” against their not-so-great defense, but by then we will be playing catch up with an exhausted and demoralized defense of our own. Not gonna happen.

However, this is what these guys have to go through to find out what its gonna take to compete, and Okie State ain’t no scrimmage. This will be a great test and there will be lots for us to learn from going into conference play next week when we SHOCK CAL AT HOME!!!

Ok, I’m getting ahead of myself. Anyway, like my colleagues stated above, don’t get too down if what you see Saturday from these Cougs is somewhat less than a masterpiece. We will have plenty to cheer about down the road and growing pains like we’re likely to have Saturday will make it all possible.

Pokes 42
Cougs 24

Now onto this weeks other marquee match-ups, and a warning to anyone placing a wager… I’m totally wingin’ it on these predictions…

Oregon State 20, Stanford 10 – Honestly, Harbaugh will be the best QB on the field in this game.

CAL 24, MSU 21 – This is just a homer Pac-10 pick but Cal has some things to figure out still.

USC 35, Virginia 14 – The ghost of Thomas Jefferson intervenes late to get the Cavs two scores, but until then its all Rey Maualuga and company.

Arizona 50, Idaho 12 – Akey won’t have too many chances to show off his vertical leap in this one. Tuitama and crew get an easy warm up against the Vandals.

ASU 42, Northern AZ 24 – Erickson calls off the dogs letting NAU make some late scores, but this will not even be a contest.

UCLA 28, Tennessee 24 – There goes Longball again, makin’ crazy, half-brained predictions! Slick Rick gets his new team so fired up they shock the world and the overconfident Volunteers. I don’t know how, so don’t ask.

National Game:
Illinois 35, Mizzou 31 – Lee Corso’s pick to make it to the BCS title game goes down in flames early! Actually I am picking this one because I want Mizzou to break through this year and I never get what I want, so this is what will happen. Sorry Tiger fans, I’ll root for Nebraska next year.

That’s all folks, see you Saturday and GO COUGS!!!

Wednesday Ramblings

August 27, 2008

When is it NOT good to lose 300 pounds? Well, yesterday for one, as the d-line has shed some weight in the form of Andy Roof. Coach Wulff wasn’t thrilled with the decision, and per Vince at SR.com, one can understand why.

“From where he was a year ago, he has changed his life around 180 degrees,” Wulff said in the statement, “and as a coaching staff we have seen the positive impact he made on this program.”

When asked to elaborate, Wulff didn’t hesitate.

“For any … person on our team, we’re always looking for people to better themselves,” Wulff said during the conference. “To continue to make smarter and more wiser decisions. When people are doing that, and are clearly showing those signs, we want to continue to reward those people in our program.

“That’s what we’re here to do. They’re going to make mistakes, we’re here to help them along the way.”

There are some decent arguments on both sides of the fence on this one. Do you abandon a troubled kid who has suddenly turned things around? Wulff is right, kids are going to make mistakes and they want to have the support system in place. But he’s also right, in that good behavior needs to be rewarded, but bad behavior? Not so much.

The timing, for one, stinks. As “Kaddy” pointed out in comments yesterday, we’re less than a week from school starting. Roof was on campus, not only practicing with the team but also enrolled in school and had an apartment. Now that Roof has been expelled, well, who buys out his lease? Should the student conduct board pass the hat to buy it out?

Then again, as “Michelle” pointed out, let’s get real. It’s not like this was a one-time offense. Roof was on his fourth strike, and normally it’s a three-and-you-are-out system. He has to be held to the same standards as the other students on campus, and if he’s given a free pass, well, isn’t he just being enabled? Behavior like his cannot simply go unpunished. Regardless of how well he had been doing in the most recent of times, he had his chances, and the entire body of work is taken into account.

It’s a shame though, any way you slice it. And we certainly don’t know all the details of the latest offense, as there is a lot of talk out there as to what happened. But in the end, everyone loses – Roof, the coaches, the fans. The trickle-down to what it could mean to the defense is a big concern. On the surface, one might shrug at the thought of a backup tackle leaving the program. But this team? Where the tackles were thin to begin with? The young, thin defensive interior just got younger and thinner. And in this case, young and thin isn’t what you want on the inside….

Moving on, lost in the shuffle was Dan Rowlands stepping away from football while he still can. Bum shoulders have ruined his last season of football, so the o-line will continue it’s shuffle. Micah Hannam will now slide outside to replace Rowlands, and young sophomore guard Brian Danaher gets his chance. Danaher, well, we don’t know a whole lot. He did play in one game as a backup last year. I guess we’ll all find out on Saturday.

Next, is time running out for Mkristo Bruce and Michael Bumpus? Mkristo got off to a hot start for the Jacksonville Jags, recording 2.5 sacks in the first pre-season game. But then he had a couple of tackles the second week, and now after the third game, he didn’t record a single tackle. Meanwhile, the only first-round holdout still left in the NFL, Jacksonville DE Derrick Harvey, finally agreed to a contract last night after missing the first 33 days of camp. Hopefully old MKB can stick with the team, but, well, you can more or less read the writing on the wall.

Bumpus was making waves early on in Seahawks camp, routinely singled out by WR coach Keith Gilbertson and even the big show himself, Mike Holmgren. But after three catches in week one, then two catches in week two, Bump didn’t get a ball on Monday night in San Diego. Now Seattle did make a few roster cuts last night, including WR Joel Filani, so it still isn’t over for Michael. But Bump didn’t get much PT on Monday, and with just one game left on Friday night, this is it. Bump has been a long shot, at best, to make the final 53, but let’s hope he made enough of an impression to be on the practice squad. That’s not exactly the end of the world, and hey, Jordan Kent from Oregon was on the practice squad last year, and now clearly will not only make the club this year, but could even start in the 3-WR sets. Hang in there Bump!

Have you seen the new Martin Stadium sign?

It’s, well, it’s “alright” from the pics at the official site, which you can see here. A little different than I think we thought it was going to be, at least from the artist renditions.


It’s not the super-terrific Taj Mahal grand entrance that folks were dreaming of, but it is certainly better than what we used to have, which was, uh, nothing. Remember??

Yeesh.

Finally, we thought it would be a good idea to see what the Okie State blogs had to say about grand old WSU. I couldn’t find a whole lot, but there is some stuff floating around.

That’s about it for a busy Wednesday. Look for our first official “Football Friday…Only on Thursday” tomorrow. Enjoy your day, and as always, GO COUGS!

Paul Wulff Radio Show Recap – Week One

August 27, 2008

Another year, another season of radio shows with Paul Wulff! We’ll recap it each and every week for the rest of the season with a quick-hit approach. Note – Wulff talks FAST on the air, faster than Doba did and there are a lot of things to absorb. So give me a break if I miss a few things! Plus I missed the opening salvo, so I have no idea what was said about Andy Roof. Sorry. But Wulff’s statement right now speaks for itself.

With that, here we go:

Offense:
Wulff had some decent things to say. Gary Rogers has had a solid camp but Kevin Lopina will have a chance to play. Rogers was sharp today. RB Chris Ivory is hurt right now, so Dwight Tardy will get the bulk of the carries out of the gate. Tardy is still coming off knee injury but hoping he will keep improving. Logwone Mitz and Chantz Staden backing up Tardy for now.

WR’s are young outside of Brandon Gibson but they are hopeful for Daniel Blackledge to come back soon from hamstring, and then Jeshua Anderson later (end of the month?). Jared Karstetter had a strong camp and deserves the chance to play, if not start.

O-line is beat up right now. Dan Rowlands is done with football due to shoulder problems (!). Lesuma has a sore back. Losing their experience hurts right now but it is a chance for others to step up.

Wulff has a special feeling at WSU, and it’s very hard to describe. So few people have been able to do what he’s doing. Blessed and humbled being at WSU. He has felt pain when WSU hasn’t had success in recent times, and he’s been a fan of WSU the last 15 years before he was even head coach.

Other teams going to no-huddle as well as WSU. More teams are doing it, spread offense out of no-huddle. You will NOT see us out of the shotgun exclusvely, we will again be a multiple look offense with some basic packages. Wulff feels that will give us an advantage not being the shotgun no-huddle, harder to prepare for the more things you can do.

Wulff doesn’t often script first 10-15 plays but they will for sure with Todd Sturdy to start the year. They want Rogers to get off to a strong start and be as comfortable as possible with the plays and build confidence early in the game.

Majority of the coaching staff will be on sidelines. Rich Rasmussen will be up top in the box with grad assistant. On defense, Jody Sears will be upstairs with Ryan Smaha and Jake Young. Rest of coaches will be on sidelines, including Todd Sturdy and Chris Ball. He wants them to engage, teach and keep the players composure on sidelines. The more coaches eyes the better on the sidelines with the kids the next couple of years at least, to help build them into what they expect on game day.

Bob-Rob asked if the no huddle made it harder on physical condition of team on offense? Wulff said it was harder on them then they expected. But hopefully being harder on them in camp will mean it’s harder on other teams once season begins, especially later on in games. They want to wear the opposition out. Even today, prepping for Okie St, they are still working really hard on conditioning. But Wulff said our issue right now is that we have to grow up and still execute when we are extremely tired! Part of our growth and maturity is being able to do good things when you are exhausted, but we aren’t there right now.

Defense:
They want to stop run, and that is the number one commitment (this is something we’ve heard from day one). But within reason. Wulff doesn’t want to completely compromise the secondary, and obviously doesn’t want to give up easy scores. But they will line up to stop the run.
Wulff also stressed the importance of playing good situational defense, and to prepare accordingly to handle each situation. But he’s also willing to adjust to personnel and their strong points. He felt we have good flexibility to do different things this year, and ultimately they want to make the opposing offense as predictible as possible.

Matt Mullennix getting another year has given them a huge lift so far. Kevin Kooyman stepped up and improved this fall. Andy Mattingly as well and combined the three of them will get a lot of playing time. Mike Graise is out for at least this week but could be back soon.

Inside, Ahmu must play well. Wulff feels he can be better than he’s been. Matt Eichelberger is also working harder than ever, and had a great camp. He could be very valuable inside. Toby Turpin and Adam Hineline will be in the mix as backups.

LB’s are the strength of defense. They are experienced, have played a lot, and bring a ton of passion, leadership and intensity. The defense keys off these guys and their passion lends to other players on defense. Greg Trent is physical and emotional leader. Corey Evans and Kendrick Dunn are strong on the outside and improving.

The position switches look good in the secondary. Alfonso Jackson is a better cover corner than Chima was, and that is a good fit. And Chima has better safety ability than Jackson. But Xavier Hicks, while out the first three games, has just been really strong at practice this fall and runs the secondary in a leadership role. Wulff feels he clearly has learned his lesson and is excited to get him back after the suspension. Plus Myron Beck has 3 more years of eligibility, and had a very good fall camp. He looks ready to go.

Finally, young corners in Tyrone Justin and Romeo Pellum both have improved and look good right now. Markes Dawes played well too, he’s banged up right now, but will help when he gets back.

Wulff talked about the coaching staff on defense. Jody Sears as coordinator for 5 years at EWU, a Pullman native who’s dream is to be at WSU. Travis Niekamp at EWU and had top 10 defenses 3 of last 4 years, really an excellent coach. Malik Roberson at d-line brings a lot of things on and off field to the position, and really connects with the players. Wulff said some players talked to him after spring ball about how much better and how much they have learned under Malik. Chris Ball is familiar with Wulff, as he was a grad assistant when Wulff was a player. Ball has experience all over the place, has coached some very good defenses and it was an easy decision to make him co-coordinator. Ball also gets along really well with Sears. There is EXCELLENT chemistry on this coaching staff! They are all positive and they are buying in to the direction of the program. Wulff made it clear to have everyone’s ego left at the door and everyone working hard, together there is no limit to what they can achieve.

Kicking game/special teams:

Kicker still hasn’t separated himself from the others. All are competing. May not have answer until games begin. Penner, Grasu and Rooney have all battled. Kicking off will be Rooney and at times Grasu. Punting game – Reid Forrest is still hurt, but could be back by Cal game next week. Meanwhile Dan Wagner, converted QB, goes this week. Hopefully he will be consistent??

With the lack of depth, more starters will be on special teams than we would like. Wulff wants special teams to be as sound and consistent as possible. As the season moves along, young kids might be in the mix for more special teams. Wulff stressed how very important it is to be in good shape as a team right now! But starters will be asked to play multiple special teams early on, and it will be an adjustment.

Other Stuff:

A caller, Paul from Tacoma, asked about clock rule changes this year. Play clock at 40 seconds this year instead of 25, and the clock will run even if out of bounds, unless it’s within 2 minutes of the end of each half. Then it’s the old rules of stopping the clock if someone gets out of bounds. Basically the exact timing rules as the NFL, trying to get the games down to 3 hours. Wulff said he heard a lot of it has to do with trying to shorten games to exactly 3 hours, something the NFL has mastered and TV sponsors want to do the same with the NCAA.

Bob-Rob asked about how the coaches got familiar with the players they inherited. Did they watch a lot of film? Wulff said the coaching staff studied some film, but not a lot on their own players. He didn’t want to get too concerned with the past, and the staff wanted to build their own opinion in practices and what they did out on the field. The coaches watched during winter conditioning and got some feel as to who they are as people and their commitment as student athletes. But it is still a learning and “feeling out” process. They have a pretty good idea on some guys, but others still have to prove themselves. He has leaned on Levy and Broussard for how some of the kids handle themselves on game day, but it will be a new experience for everyone this Saturday.

Bob-Rob asked about academics and what Wulff did there. Wulff joked “some strong arm tactics” but then said they held players accountable to all of their responsibilities. Going to class, studying, follow through on what they are supposed to do. He also said they made it very clear to the players that there are people here to help them with school and it is ok to trust them. It turned out well with a strong spring and then the best gpa ever in summer school. The goal is to break the all-time team GPA record this fall. But it is a team effort and all are accountable. They are pushing the kids to go to class, and even at class, to be alert, be engaged and also to help each other out as students. And even have fun with it. There were a couple of players who were against the wall this summer but had great summer sessions in the classroom. He was proud with how well they responded. Wulff said it’s a great feeling to see kids come in and question whether they can make it, and then to watch the kids grow with their confidence as they get through the first year to year and a half. Generally they will be successful if they can make it through those first three semesters and to see them grow up is exciting to him.

Bob-Rob asked about the differences with EWU to WSU in terms of talent. Wulff said there is a difference in overall size and speed of players. But he was quick to say that several EWU players could play in the Pac-10, right now, and that EWU could contend for a I-AA title this year. I-AA has closed the gap and can compete at high level on given day, see App-State/Michigan last year. But top to bottom WSU is bigger and stronger but EWU has capable talent.

BOTTOM LINE – Players are sick-n-tired of hitting each other. They are ready to go hit someone else. Wulff is looking forward to get started on the year and then just build from there. While the players have a lot to learn, Wulff said he himself has a lot to learn about his players, and evaluate how we respond on game day. He said they challenged them in camp but now we’re in true competition he is interested to see who responds.

Andy Roof Out at WSU

August 26, 2008

So much for the 2-deep, and maybe so much for Bernard Wolfgramm’s redshirt. Breaking via Vince this afternoon, Andy Roof has been expelled from WSU. Here’s the quote from Wulff:

“I was very disappointed when I heard the decision. Since I arrived on campus
Andy has been a great leader for this program, on the field, in the locker room,
in the classroom, and done everything we’ve asked, that we ask of all
student-athletes. From where he was a year ago he has changed his life around
180 degrees and as a coaching staff we have seen the positive impact he made on
this program.”

Dang. Too bad for the kid, as it sounds like he was back on the right path. And too bad for the d-tackles, who suddenly lost 300 lbs of anger inside. Might not have any choice now but to let Wolfgramm play, because the tackles are thin, thin, thin.

Tuesday Video Goodness, Plus Other Stuff

August 26, 2008

First off, the home uni poll is closed, and we have a winner. Yep, the current look has won out, as styled above by Mr. Kenny Alfred. But it was close, believe it or not, with the GesserKegelDerting versions coming in a strong number two. Here’s how it went down:

Current look: 54 votes
GesserKegelDerting era: 48 votes
Bledsoe – Leaf – Palouse Posse: 38 votes
2006 Alternates: 16 votes
Walden Era: 7 votes
Erickson Era: 6 votes

I guess I was surprised that the GesserKegelDerting era’s did so well? Maybe it has something to do with the players inside the uni’s rather than the aesthetic appeal?? After all it was the most successful time in the program’s modern history, so, there is some appeal.

There is a new poll now up. It’s a simple, quick, what-is-your-expectation-for-2008 deal. I know we are all previewed-out this time of year, but, feel free to vote and chime in with comments. We’ll go over the best comments of the week every Friday this season, so have at it.

Moving on, sir Grippi has a story on the confusion facing Okie State, particularly what video to watch. Do you focus on EWU’s offense from prior years? Do you want tape on Brandon Gibson, Dwight Tardy, Devin Frischnecht? As Mike Gundy said:

“We don’t have any idea what they’re going to do,” said Gundy during Monday’s Big 12 coaches’ conference call.

That has to be a good thing….isn’t it?? Maybe a chance to jump on them early, get the crowd overflowing Qwest Field with Wulff Excitement?? We have an advantage here, in terms of prepping for the opponent anyway. There is plenty of OSU tape to watch, as there is quite a body of work to look at from 2007. We won’t full-blown preview OSU until later this week, but from our spring “fish wrap” look at them, we know they bring a lot to the table offensively.

Meanwhile, Howie Stalwick has a reaction to the first-ever game week depth chart released yesterday. But this little nugget surfaced on Andy Roof:

Whitman County prosecutor Denis Cook now says he expects to announce late next week whether he will prosecute WSU senior Andy Roof, a reserve defensive tackle. Two weeks ago, Cook said the announcement would be made last Monday. Roof claimed self-defense after being arrested by Pullman police for his role in an on-campus brawl last spring.

So Roof WILL be on the field this Saturday, at least in a backup role, that much we do know. It is too bad it has taken this long to get to this point on whether or not Roof will be prosecuted, but let’s hope for the best, no matter what the outcome.

There is some player news out of Stillwater. Projected starting slot WR Damian Davis, a 6-5 true sophomore expected to be a possible break-out player in the receiving corps, has been suspended. Davis will miss just one game, but it will be this Saturday. He was arrested for being underage in a bar, possessing a fake ID…..and trying to pass said fake ID to a cop! Ouch. With Davis not making the trip, OSU will look to redshirt frosh Josh Cooper and JC transfer Bo Bowling.

Finally, some videos to tide you over. First, some Old School Coug video for your enjoyment, featuring Tim Stallworth. Someone named “Oremor08” on Youtube has dug out some classic WSU clips. Here’s just a few, but there are more if you look to the Coug Video section to the right. Good stuff.

Youtube Coug video maker “KapoleiCoug” has come up with another 2007 highlight video. Good work, as usual:

And to give him his due, something to “look forward to” this Saturday. OSU phenom QB Zac Robinson. I don’t want to hype him up too much, but, you have to look at reality. How many first-time starters can come in the second game of the season and rack up so many yards of total offense!?!? 2800+ yards passing, nearly 850 yards rushing. Of course, it IS a highlight tape, and you only see his best plays. Nobody is perfect. But there might not be a better dual threat we’ll see this season, and yes, I’m including Jake Locker in the conversation.

ENJOY YOUR TUESDAY, and as always, GO COUGS!