Archive for the ‘Brandon Gibson’ Category

Does NFL Draft Talent Matter?

April 27, 2009


First off, without a doubt, CONGRATS TO BRANDON GIBSON! Heading to Philly in the 6th round of yesterday’s NFL draft, it could be a nice landing spot. He was actually “mocked” to head to Philly by one service, which is cool. And maybe his WSU experiences in our passing game will help him in a west-coast offense? Anyway, whatever happens, whether he makes the team or likely lands on the practice squad, CONGRATS!

That’s now 15 straight years WSU has had a player drafted in the NFL, beginning in 1995 (no players drafted in 1994). And, for good measure, the second year in a row that WSU has had the only player drafted from the state BCS schools (UW was shut out for the second year in a row).

Here’s a question for you. Looking at the breakdown of NFL draftees by school, does it actually matter whether or not your school sends players to the NFL? In the PAC-10, it sure looks that way.

USC = 11 players drafted
Oregon State = 7 players drafted
Oregon = 6 players drafted
CAL = 3
Arizona, ASU = 2 players drafted
WSU = 1 player drafted
UW, UCLA, Stanford = 0 players drafted

Sounds about right. USC has been an NFL factory forever, and this year is no exception.

And the Oregon schools have been sending a lot of talent to play on Sundays in the Y2K decade. But looking at that list, then looking at the PAC-10 standings last year?

1) USC
2)Oregon (tie w/ Oregon St)
3)Oregon State (tie w/ Oregon)
4)CAL
5)Arizona
6)Stanford
7)ASU
8)UCLA
9)WSU
10)UW

Amazing. The top five slots in players drafted basically mirrored the top five in the standings. And from 6th place Stanford to 10th place UW, only THREE total players picked. That’s half the conference producing only three NFL draft choices. Seems like a real have-have not scenario?

Here’s the weird thing, at least for this year. One would think, looking at the way it all broke down, that the best teams sent the most players to the NFL, while the worst teams do not. That’s SORT of true, but this year? In a weird twist, the BCS Championship game only had a combined EIGHT players drafted over the weekend. Oklahoma had five players picked. And your national champs, Florida? JUST THREE players picked! That’s only one more than the Arizona schools, and just two more than WSU. For a national champ to send only three players? Very, very odd. In fact, the combined number of draft picks from a BCS title game is the lowest ever.

I guess some of it could be attributed to the youth, of both Oklahoma and Florida. Both QB’s came back to school, and many believe Sam Bradford will be near the top of next year’s draft. And Tim Tebow, no matter his position, will be an NFL football player.

Or, maybe it’s the offensive systems that makes it difficult to project at the NFL level? Both Okie and Florida run spread-type schemes, with Florida much more of a running scheme while Okie loves to spread it and throw it forever. And remember Graham Harrell, Texas Tech record-setting QB, and Chase Daniel, who ripped up Big 12 defenses at Missouri? BOTH QB’s weren’t even picked by a single NFL team, both undrafted free agents. Again, the schemes themselves make it difficult to project on the next level. Anyway, the BCS title teams, just a weird anomaly to this year’s draft.

Speaking of draft, I thought this list was interesting. It breaks down the entire number of draftees, ever, for each NCAA school. Notre Dame at the top with 462, USC right behind them at 461. And for what it’s worth? WSU is currently #42, which again, seems about right. Not UPPER class, but maybe more like upper-middle class?

Moving elsewhere, we were JACKED about Aaron Curry and the Seahawks!….until we also heard that the franchise tag has been lifted on Leroy Hill in the process? WHAT!?? So you ditch Julian Peterson, tag Leroy Hill, draft Aaron Curry…and then cut loose Leroy Hill? I know the quotes are that the team is hoping to now sign him to a long-term deal, but wow, what a weird situation. Does Hill feel slapped in the face, enough so that he’ll bolt to another team? Or does he want to stay badly enough, and that this move is just a procedural thing before signing him long-term? I don’t get it.

Grippi has some good stuff on the spring finale, including some quotes by Wulff who claims “Every person got better. Because every person had a good attitude”. At least the healthy ones got better? They were awfully thin by the end of spring. Anyway, check it all out here.

Finally, the UW/Key Arena bill appears to have morphed into just Key Arena. And while the regular session of the legislature wrapped last night, it does appear likely that they are headed for overtime. Does that mean anything for the sports fan? Who knows. Anything can happen in a special session, so there is no guarantee they will get to the amended bill, which now specifically states the use of funds as a “multipurpose sports arena” instead of “stadiums in King County”. But the late amendment to get specific in terms of the purpose of the tax money might be a signal that they will address this in a special session. We’ll see.

Enjoy your Monday, and GO COUGS!

Will Gibson Get the Call Tomorrow?

April 24, 2009


Huge day for NFL hopefuls tomorrow. And the biggest name in the WSU universe is, rightfully so, Brandon Gibson.

We all know the story. The kid made a bit of a splash his first year, then exploded in years two and especially year three. Year four, 2008? Uh, yeah, like the rest of the program, we’ll just gloss over that. It was bad, bad, bad. OK, injuries, QB issues, offensive line issues, new system, etc. It all rolled into one big ball of UGLY for 2008, and young Brandon wasn’t spared.

But the good news is that tomorrow is a chance to turn it all around for Gibson. How does Gibby stack up with the mock drafts?

Well, if you believe in Mel Kiper, Gibson should be happy this weekend. Kiper’s mock has Gibson landing in Atlanta as a fourth-rounder. Note – the ESPN article is a premium insider article, so, instead I’ve linked to an article that mentions Gibson in Kiper’s mock draft. Atlanta could be a nice fit for Gibson. QB Matt Ryan is on the rise, it’s in a dome so the atmosphere is nice and comfortable for at least eight games a year, and they are in the NFC “nascar” division so the weather should be quite comfortable down there.

Another mock draft has Gibson as a fifth-rounder, to Philly. Cold, sure, but Philly has the look of a major force next year. And having McNabb throw you the ball could be a very, very good thing.

Finally, one more mock has the Cowboys taking Gibson in the fifth round. Hmm, nice situation there with Romo. And a new stadium too, which is always cool.

So there you have it. There are a lot more mock drafts out there, but three is enough isn’t it? Anyway, as a second day pick, Gibson will at least get a look by someone to play on Sunday. But even if he follows the Bumpus route and goes practice squad for his first year, that’s still not a bad gig if you can get it.

One thing that would be pretty cool is to think of the starting trio of WR’s on the WSU roster in 2006 – Jason Hill, Michael Bumpus, and Brandon Gibson. If Gibson makes a team next season, and Bumpus can stick with the Seahawks, that’s all THREE starting WR’s from the 2006 team on an NFL roster. Could that ’06 version of the WSU WR’s be the best in school history?

Moving on, it’s gotten really ugly with the senate bill SB6116. Ugly in that WSU is squarely taking a lot of the blame, if you read some of the comments at SonicsCentral.com (be warned, it’s not pretty!). And so ugly that senator Ed Murray, one of the sponsors of the bill, has actually amended his bill to fight the use of funds for athletic department purposes. In other words, Murray is so frustrated by the loud WSU fans fighting this thing that he went out of his way to amend his own bill to try and hurt WSU.


But after all the noise we’ve made about this, including a banner flying over Oly saying fight the bill? Again, we’re the easy targets. Even if YOU didn’t fight this thing or are basically “whatever dude”, because of the colors you wear and/or where you went to school, you will get blamed.

Finally, there could be some news coming on the Apple Cup. That’s all we’re saying. Stay tuned.

ENJOY YOUR FRIDAY, and GO COUGS!

Gibson’s Senior Bowl Hits a Snag

January 23, 2009


Well, so much for hitting a homerun at the Senior Bowl. Maybe he did miss the NFL gravy train after all? ESPN’s Todd McShay reported Thursday that Brandon Gibson has come up lame with a hamstring injury today, and his availability for the upcoming game is doubtful.

Per the report:

“Washington State’s Brandon Gibson left practice with an apparent hamstring
injury. He had his upper leg wrapped while he looked on late in the day. He is
well-built, and although he had some drops Tuesday, he uses his hands
consistently and doesn’t let the ball get in on his body. However, his lack of
speed is apparent — even before the injury — and it is difficult to imagine
him running past NFL defensive backs. He also doesn’t explode off the line of
scrimmage, and none of his movements is sudden. Gibson takes too long coming out
of his breaks on short routes, so that has to worry you from a possession
wideout standpoint. Perhaps his leg was bothering him early in the practice and
that affected his ability to move, but overall, it wasn’t a good showing.”

Not exactly glowing, and that remark about the lack of speed even before the injury isn’t good news. I did find another snippet, from Rotoworld.com, that stated that Gibson actually had a pretty good first day of practice.

It’s not the end of the world for Gibson. He still has some time to get the hamstring healthy and show what he can do. But this is definitely a setback.

Did Brandon Gibson Miss the NFL Gravy Train?

January 15, 2009

As Art Thiel of the now-dying Seattle P-I surmised recently, “Hindsight is always perfect, and speculation is always easy.” While I am not so sure about speculation being easy, I agree on the hindsight part. Almost anyone can look at something that has happened, then gone back in their minds to declare “Yeah, you know I should have done THAT a little differently.” We all do it – big and small, young and old, and we do it almost every day.

So, naturally it’s human nature to look at Brandon Gibson’s senior year and wonder – did he make the right decision? Could Gibson have blown his shot at big NFL money? Or, did a less-than-stellar senior year not really impact his 2009 NFL draft standing??

Now we have news that Gibson will head to the Senior Bowl. This is an excellent chance for him to show his abilities in front of NFL coaches and executives who will closely scrutinize every prospect on both rosters. Per the article:

The Senior Bowl is perhaps college football’s premier pre-draft event, annually featuring the nation’s best senior football stars and top NFL draft prospects on teams coached by NFL coaching staffs. Senior Bowl practices and weekly festivities are attended by more than 800 general managers, head coaches, assistant coaches, scouts and other front-office personnel from all 32 NFL teams.

Other than the combine, there won’t be a better shot to show what he can do, against other hungry, prospective draft picks.

But to look forward, we must look back. First of all, let’s look at Gibson’s 2007 season.

Catches: 67
Yards: 1180
Average: 17.6 per catch
TD: 9
Yards per game: 107.3

Add in that he was first-team All-Pac-10 while leading the conference in yards per game, and finishing #2 to Arizona’s Mike Thomas in TD’s and catches per game.

Pretty impressive. Even while sharing the stage with a 70-catch WR in Michael Bumpus, and a 50+ catch tight end in Jed Collins, Gibson was still the brightest star. Now obviously it helped things having the guy throwing you the ball as an experienced, smart, senior QB who was breaking a lot of school records in the process. But Gibson was as good as any WR on the west coast in 2007.

As everyone knows, Gibson flirted with the NFL evaluation committee after that breakout ’07 season, but based on the feedback, it wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for his NFL stock. While the exact round has never been revealed, we have heard it was anywhere between a late 3rd-round pick to a late 5th rounder, likely dependent on the progress of his individual workouts in pre-draft situations.

Now, a lot of us wouldn’t scoff at being a mid-round NFL draft choice. You get a contract, you get a signing bonus of some kind, but to go a step further? Unlike undrafted free agents, as a draft pick you get every opportunity to make an NFL club! Today’s GM’s go to great lengths to get value from their picks. If that means the player makes the club and is inactive, whether they are on the practice squad, or even if the GM trades them to another club for future considerations, they will do everything they can to get value. And Brandon Gibson would have had value in the league this year.

The other side to it is what are the immediate needs of the player? Are they in serious financial straits, where they must leap for whatever money they can get at the time? Or maybe they are an uninterested member of the student body who is counting down the days to get the hell outta Pullman. In either case, if the player is going to be drafted, then it makes sense to go for it, even if you are a second-rounder or a second day NFL draft choice.

But as we know, Gibson came back. We hailed it as a big “get” for Paul Wulff, maybe his biggest recruit of his first season.

But then 2008 happened:

Catches: 57 (in 13 games, two more than 2007)
Yards: 673
Average: 11.8 per catch
TD: 2
Yards per game: 51.8

Not as impressive is it? Well, OK, it IS impressive to an extent. Especially when you consider the woeful QB and offensive line situations that completely hammered the progress and ideals of what the offense COULD have been in ’08. Heck, it got so bad the team had to reduce the offensive playbook by more than 50%. But it’s not hard to argue that Gibson’s 2008 was night and day different compared to 2007, and it’s not even close.

All that said, one might assume Gibson’s NFL draft stock is in some serious trouble. Believe it or not, he’s hanging in there.

DraftCountdown.com: Mid-round pick. Gibson clocks in at 6-1, 202, running a 4.55 40-time. Strengths include decent height and bulk, good route runner, excellent hands, technically sound. Weaknesses are a lack of great speed or quickness and lacking a real burst who doesn’t get a lot of separation. Lacks a huge amount of upside.

NFLDraftScout.com: They seem to like him here, projected as a possible 3rd or 4th round pick.

ConsensusDraftServices.com: They like him less than NFL draft scout, and project him as a 5th rounder.

FFToolbox.com: They still like him too. While not projected to go in the first two rounds, they do have him at #99 in their top-100 prospects. That’s good for a 3rd round pick or maybe early 4th.

But again, you can’t base EVERYTHING on his senior year. NFL execs will look at the full body of work, but, the workouts and interviews will matter much, much more.

One could look at Jason Hill and see an example of how it went. Faced with the same decision, you may remember Hill decided to come back to school in 2006 after a huge 2005 season.


But 2006 didn’t live up to his expectations. His catches dropped from 62 in 2005 to just 41 in 2006. Plus, he suffered the dreaded high ankle sprain with three games left in the year, and likewise, the team’s offensive production fell off in a big way after losing Hill (and also Bumpus, although Bump managed to play in the Apple Cup). Losing the big-play ability of Hill was just too much to overcome and the team ran out of gas. But on the bright side, Hill busted his butt in off-season workouts, and showed just what HE could do at the Senior Bowl.

Hill also wowed many with his combine numbers. He ran a fantastic 4.32 40-time at the NFL combine, good for #2 among all WR’s in the draft. Hill was taken in the 3rd round by San Fran, but struggled big-time in 2007, recording just one catch for the entire year. But 2008 was a different story, hauling in 30 balls and a couple of scores. While not a superstar by any measure, he is a player who is certainly on the rise. But if anything, Hill lays out the blueprint for success for Gibson – bust your behind in the Senior Bowl, have some great workouts and interviews, and a lost senior year will be forgotten.

So what do YOU think? Does Gibson have a chance to pull a Jason Hill? Or did he blow it by coming back his senior year?

That’s it for today. ENJOY YOUR THURSDAY, and GO COUGS!


Last Call for Seniors

November 29, 2008

Hoping for TV coverage of the game tonight? If you are on the islands you are set, but you are out of luck if you are in the greater 48. What’s weird is how ESPN had the game on it’s schedule as part of the ESPN Game Plan. It was listed all week as one of the options…..until yesterday. SEE!?!?

However there is a streaming option via the web, if you feel so inclined. It’s showing as available tonight via something called Oceanic-Time Warner, an outfit that streams UH games. Tonight’s game is listed at $12.56, not totally unreasonable.

Now for the bad news. It’s not exactly a slam-dunk that you will be able to get the game, even on the web. From someone named “RosiesBoy” on Cougfan, some valuable information has been passed on:

I think some people who are planning on buying that stream might be setting themselves up for disappointment. There have been at least two games with problems this year, one meant both the island and mainland feeds on cable and internet pay per view customers missed the entire 1st quarter. The company refused to refund the 10,000 customers who were affected in that instance and said they weren’t responsible since the overload on the system was caused by the Fresno State fans.

Oceanic claimed no fault because the outage “was on the Fresno side of the ledger,” vice president and operations manager Norman Santos said. “Our position is we delivered substantially the whole game,” Santos added. “We controlled what we could. If we’re looking at the end of the game it’s a whole different scenario. That would have resonated.”

“The only thing off the table is a full refund,” said McNamara.

http://209.85.173.132/search?q=cache:5AhDNqKcTGYJ: www.starbulletin.com/columnists/davereardon/200810 07_oceanics_answer_not_our_fault.html+hawaii+footb all+streaming+requirements+oceanic&hl=en&c t=clnk&cd=8&gl=us

Another PPV problem: Associate athletic director John McNamara said a resolution has been reached to compensate PPV purchasers for the problem at the beginning of today’s telecast that blacked out the first four minutes of the UH football game against New Mexico State.UPDATE: McNamara said purchasers will be refunded 1/12 of what they paid for today’s game via credit. No calls required.

http://blogs.starbulletin.com/uhsportsextra/anothe r-ppv-problem/

So, if you DO decide to fork over the cash for the feed, just be prepared in case something doesn’t go quite as planned.

On the game tonight, whether you watch it, listen to it or follow it online, one thing lost in this bad season is that this is the end for some pretty good seniors. Greg Trent has been playing regularly since early in 2004, taking over for an injured Will Derting in the fourth game that year. After some serious growing pains, he evolved into a pretty good tackler, albeit a bit undersized in the middle. We’ll never forget how hard Trent played, no matter the situation.

But the biggest “headline” senior has to be Brandon Gibson. In what was regarded as a real boost to the team last year, Gibson decided to return to WSU after being informed he was a sure 2nd-day NFL draft pick (rumors had him pegged for the 4th or 5th round). It’s easy to forget how big Gibson was in 2007. He led the PAC-10 in receiving yards per game (107.3) and had a team-high 1180 yards, as well as nine TD’s. This year it’s been a different story:

2007:
Catches: 67
Yards: 1180
TD: 9
100-yard games: 6, including the last 4 of 2007.

2008:
Catches: 56
Yards: 655
TD: 2
100-yard games: 1

It obviously hasn’t gone as planned for Gibby, for one reason or another. I think back to the very first game of the year and wonder if things could have been different? You don’t want to over-react to how things go early in a season, but the team showed some fight vs. Okie State, even with some horrible special teams play. They never gave up and rallied for a couple of scores in the third quarter to make it somewhat interesting. But then there were those drops.

Gibson had at least one deep ball that was flat-out dropped, and another that he probably could have had. Both catches could have changed that game. And who knows how his season could have gone from there? Maybe it helps loosen up defenses, knowing they have to respect the deep ball from Gary Rogers to Brandon Gibson? Maybe Gibson’s confidence gets even better and he uses that opener as a springboard into 2008? Instead it’s been one frustrating week after another.

That said, it’s hard to fault Gibson for 2008. We saw FIVE different QB’s play for WSU this season – Gary Rogers, Kevin Lopina, Marshall Lobbestael, JT Levenseller and Dan Wagner – after basically one guy started for 3 1/2 seasons. So how could anyone develop any continuity? Besides, several WSU receivers opposite Gibson were hurt from the get-go, like Jeshua Anderson, or others were far too young to have any impact, like Jared Karstetter or Kevin Norrell. And you can’t forget tight end Devin Frischknecht and his bum ankle. Frischknecht was set up to have a big senior year, at least I sure thought so, after showing some real upside at the end of last year. He had a huge Apple Cup in 2007, five catches for 88 yards and two TD’s, and you could see that he might have been a big boost to the passing game this year. But it just wasn’t to be.

The best news for Gibson is that he’s now the leading WR in school history, passing Jason Hill’s career yardage record. So even with a tough final act in 2008, he will still have a secure place atop the WSU record book. Here’s hoping that Gibson has one last big performance tonight to cap off an excellent four years at WSU!

ENJOY THE GAME tonight, and GO COUGS!

Paul Wulff Radio Recap – Week Thirteen

November 20, 2008

Hmm, lucky week 13 perhaps? We’ll find out. But without further adieu, this week’s radio show, condensed-version style. Bud Nameck in the host chair for another week:

  • Bud opened the show by, of course, going right to the quotes from his press conference last year regarding UW when Wulff took the job. Paul didn’t exactly apologize for those remarks, saying “they were meant for Cougars”, something he mentioned before in the press. But he said hey, I’m the WSU coach and also a former player and a big fan. I’m not afraid of it. So why hold back? I don’t know about you, but I think he endeared himself to a lot of Cougs when he said what he said. It was, at the time anyway, a nice change from the “oh, golly gee” and a departure from the whimsical, folksy stylings of one Bill Doba.
  • Bud asked him about the practice and routine for this week, and knowing that it is Apple Cup week, are they doing anything different? Wulff said that they are trying to stick to the routine and the normal practice and preparation, but the veteran players know that it’s a special week. The rookies and other players who haven’t been in an Apple Cup don’t really understand. Even Wulff said he himself didn’t really get it until he played in one. Things are definitely dialed up a notch. And once you actually play in an Apple Cup, it’s truly an awesome event and you never forget it.
  • He said as far as their preparation, it is still a football game in terms of the x’s and o’s. But it is such an emotional game that it is always something on the coaches minds, about how to channel those emotions in the right way. However Wulff did say that overall, in the Apple Cups he was a part of as a player, they were relatively clean games. He said that the fans more or less get after it a little more than the actual players do!
  • Bud asked about the 12 noon kickoff and if that was an advantage or disadvantage? While the fans don’t exactly like it, Wulff likes the idea of getting up and getting ready to play right away instead of waiting around for the game. Another thing to consider is that they have invited some recruits in for this week’s game. Because of the early start time to the game, the coaches will have plenty of time to spend with the recruits AFTER the game. If it was a later start, that wouldn’t necessarily be the case and they could feel rushed, but not this week. A quick check of this week’s visits show Lynnwood’s Geoff Meinken, who has switched from WSU commit to “soft” verbal and is getting big love from Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. Might be a good move to get as much time as you can with this kid?
  • Bud asked about practice and the injury situations. Kevin Lopina practiced on Wednesday, so he is all set to go for the game. Andy Mattingly practiced again, and while he was a little bit limited, he is still probable to play. Tony Thompson is back at tight end, and should be set. And Tyrone Justin should return to the secondary. Not exactly magic healing waters with the Apple Cup looming, but there are some kids coming around.
  • Bud asked briefly about the ASU game. Wulff said right off the bat that they did a good job up front defensively and getting pressure on Rudy Carpenter. He was quick to point out that Toby Turpin is a big part of it, and that he has really improved as the season has gone on. The trickle-down of his return has allowed Ahmu to slide outside, and they clearly have found their best three defensive linemen. It sure sounds like it will be a three-man attack again this week, as they finally seem to have found something, ANYTHING, that actually works this year.

    Wulff said the hardest part about that game was the early missed opportunities. They had some decent drives early in the game, but couldn’t come away with anything. The missed field goal hurt their momentum, and they also had several dropped balls that could have turned things in their favor. But overall he was pleased with the defense, holding an experienced offense to 24 offensive points (remember seven of those were on a fumble return for TD).

  • Wulff touched a bit on the kicking game. Right now it looks like the job is going to go back to Nico Grasu. Wulff said they have wanted one of their kickers to rise up and flat-out grab that job this year, but it just hasn’t happened, at least not yet. But Grasu gets his chance this week.
  • A caller asked if Wulff and the rest of the coaches do any type of visits to other programs in the off-season, or even visits to NFL teams? Wulff said yes, without a doubt they will do that. They had always done that at EWU and they will do that again this year. Proximity was nice when the Seahawks trained in Cheney and Wulff used to watch their practices all the time, and took some things that they would do and use it for himself.

    Wulff said that without question, you can’t learn enough in this business, and the best way to learn is to look at what others are doing. He has a goal of taking at least one fundamental thing from these visits with other coaches and use it or adapt it for themselves. He also said that they are going to try and bring in some coaches to WSU and meet with them that way, therefore eliminating some distractions the coach might have if WSU coaches were visiting them. But they will definitely do that this year.

  • A caller asked about the high frequency of injuries this year, what’s the deal?? Wulff said they have a belief that youth and inexperience leads to a higher level of injuries. Mainly the idea is that the younger the player, the less physically prepared the player will be to handle the rigors of the PAC-10. When they are lined up across fourth or fifth-year players who have been in their programs for several years, lifting weights and eating right, they are often times over matched. Young talent needs time to develop properly, and to throw a young kid out there against that kind of size and strength can lead to injuries!

    Wulff then went again into the idea of building “layers of depth”. Having fifth-year seniors, fourth-year juniors, and third-year sophomores are his goal of the kinds of players he wants playing in games, and you build it out that way. Fifth, fourth and third-year players are usually more fit, strong and mature vs. the teams that play a ton of youth. Get the kids physically ready to play, the injuries should decrease in a big way.

  • Wulff was asked about the outcome of this game, and what it really means to the program. Wulff said something similar to what he said earlier this week, in that in reality, the outcome of this game won’t drastically alter either program. One game never makes or breaks a program. But if you win it, it can make you feel a little better in your gut! But Wulff went out of his way to say that the outcome won’t have much impact on the program overall. He said at least in recruiting, kids will rarely pick a school based on the outcome of one game. If they do? They aren’t the kinds of kids they are after anyway! Sort of like the school that is constantly changing their uniforms, and it gets reported that some recruits pick their school based on the uniforms or other things? Wulff said they aren’t the types of kids they want to build their program with anyway.
  • Bud asked about the specialness of senior day, and how this is it for key guys like Brandon Gibson, Greg Trent, etc. Wulff said that it’s different for him because he’s only been here one year, but it is also very emotional because he understands the sacrifice many of these players have made in their playing careers.

    He has been there and walked the road before, so he knows what they are going through. It just plays into the feeling of how much they would like to get a win this week and send those seniors out right in their last home game.

  • Bud asked about the game itself this week. Wulff said that he thinks some people are going to be surprised, and that he believes it will be a very good game. He said that as always in a rivalry game, you can basically throw out the records (especially this year!). It’s important to both teams, and to the fans. It should be a fun, exciting day with memories for some that will last forever.
  • Bud asked about UW’s offense. Wulff said that without Locker, they are different. But Wulff said he has seen some decent things out of Ronnie Fouch on tape. He has a strong arm, and he’s a redshirt frosh so he’s been in the program for almost two years now. He says he has the arm to make big plays, with more than enough strength to throw it deep or even across the field where you might underestimate he can get it to a certain spot. Arm strength is not an issue with Fouch.

    But again, he is young, and has a lot of freshman and sophomore wide receivers he is throwing to. While they are athletic and quick, they are also young, prone to mistakes, and it’s part of the reason they have struggled this year.

  • Wulff did have good things to say about UW’s O-line. They are big and experienced, led by Garcia up front, so they have seen a lot of things. It will be a challenge for our defense to play well against their size. Wulff then talked about WSU’s offensive line, and that he believes they have come a long way in recent weeks. He singled out Steven Ayers, BJ Guerra, Andrew Roxas, Micah Hannam and even Brian Danaher as all young players who have improved of late.

    As a fan, I have to say that I am pretty optimistic as to how the offensive line will come together in the future. There is so much youth that has been out there this year, but the core of these guys will all be returning next year and even the year after that. Another year in the system, eating and lifting and now some game experience, you have to believe these tough lessons learned this year are going to pay off.

  • Wulff then went on to talk about his own struggles they have had this year. And the first thing out of his mouth? You guessed it – TURNOVERS. They have now turned it over 35 times, and have only created 11 takeaways themselves. Yep, that’s a MINUS-24 turnover ratio, the worst in the nation and one of the worst in WSU history. Wulff said that he really believes it’s those turnovers that have led to so many lopsided scores this year, where they are literally giving the opposing team 21 or 28 points PER GAME in simply giving the ball away in terrible situations. And of course we know the trickle-down from that, where the defense is on the field a lot more than it should be, it gets worn out, then suddenly it’s a landslide. They MUST LEARN TO TAKE CARE OF THE BALL as an offense!
  • Wulff did clear up the Apple Cup “legend” about his appendix and playing in the Apple Cup. He hung it on Mike Price, who grew the legend himself. But in reality it was 2 1/2 weeks between the time from Wulff having the surgery to playing in the Apple Cup. Wulff wasn’t sure, but the last he heard it, Price was saying it was the same week or 8 or 9 days, something like that. He was sorry to spoil this “legend” but that’s the honest truth.
  • Finally, one last thing for this week. Bud pointed out that if WSU can win, it will be four of the last five Apple Cups in WSU’s favor. Something that has never happened before in the history of the series. Wulff said he was well aware of that, and that they want to win this thing, bad!

So there you have it. Actually a pretty good show this week, with more energy and enthusiasm compared to some recent weeks. I couldn’t help but come away from listening to the show that they are excited and also very focused on this game. Take that however you want, but it did seem different compared to what we’ve heard lately.

ENJOY YOUR THURSDAY, and GO COUGS!

It’s Still the Apple Cup

November 17, 2008

What makes a rivalry game great? It’s many things. Friends, co-workers and family members will gather to root for their side. But even in down years, this game is always circled, always in the back of your mind as a Coug/UW fan. And most of all, you just never know what’s going to happen. In more recent years, WSU has been the better team, yet knocked off by UW. But in the past, even in years UW had a Rose Bowl bid on the line, the Cougs have returned the favor (1982 and 1983 ring a bell?).

But regardless of the awfulness of the 2008 records, you really can throw it all out on Saturday. That’s what makes college football special, what makes it unique, are these rivalry games. You just never know.

Vegas has a handle on it, and right now we’re seeing anywhere from 7.5 to 8.5 in favor of the visiting dawgs. But as recent history suggests, does that matter? Let’s take a look.

2001: WSU was a favorite of seven or so points in this one. We came in at 9-1, and the only loss of the season at that point was a tough 7-point loss to Oregon at home. An Oregon team that would go on to win the Fiesta Bowl that year and had a legit argument for being in the BCS title game. A win over UW would have likely secured a BCS bowl or, at worst, the Holiday Bowl. Meanwhile UW came in at 7-2, but off a horrible loss to Oregon State the week before where QB Jonathan Smith just destroyed the UW defense in Corvallis. But WSU would sputter in the red-zone, with some costly INT’s, one on a halfback pass from Dave Minnich. UGH. UW meanwhile kept going to Reggie Williams, and Marcus Trufant and Jason David just couldn’t stop him. UW wins it 26-14. Underdog covers the spread (1-0).

2002: WSU an eight-point favorite in Pullman, yet UW wins 29-26 in triple OT on one of the most controversial calls in Apple Cup history. The thing to me isn’t the fact as to whether that pass from Kegel was backwards or not, and there is video evidence out there that shows that, if anything, a straight line pass that never should have been overruled as a fumble from an initial incomplete pass. The other thing is, at least one ref started to blow the whistle once the ball hit the turf, and that should have automatically made it an incomplete pass. No, I’m still not over that one….but the point is, WSU was a healthy favorite at home, and lost. Underdog covers the spread (2-0)

2003: WSU a seven-point favorite at Husky Stadium, yet UW wins, 27-19. A very sloppy game with turnovers all over the place. If you remember that game, WSU moved the ball well at times, but turnovers (six) and major red zone issues (as they did the entire 2003 season) led to settling for Drew Dunning field goals. Plus a young and nervous Josh Swogger had to relieve Matt Kegel, and it just didn’t work out down the stretch. UW still had to rally, and did so, with Cody Pickett hitting Corey Williams in the final minute to take their first lead. UW would return an INT for a TD the next possession, and that was it. Another lesson learned in this one? NEVER over-estimate how a team is going to do in this game based on what they did the week before. WSU was coming in at #8 in the country and had just whipped ASU at home, 34-19, while UW was coming off one of their worst losses ever, 54-7 at Cal. Underdog covers the spread (3-0).

2004: WSU was a 12-point favorite in a tough season, while UW limped in with one win, being talked about as one of the worst Pac-10 teams in a while, their lone win coming over San Jose State. Gilbertson would announce he was stepping down a few weeks before the game, somewhat similar to what UW is going through now. But while WSU sprinted out to a 28-10 lead, UW would insert Isaiah Stanback and rally big-time, cutting it to a 3-point game. But the Cougs would hold on and win in Alex Brink’s first of three Apple Cup wins. Underdog covers the spread (4-0…see a theme here?).

2005: A thrilling game at Husky Stadium, this one saw Brink rally them on the last drive, converting some big third downs and then finding Trandon Harvey on the bubble screen. The rest was history. WSU was a three-point favorite, and with the final score 26-22, it was the first time since 2000 that the favorite actually covered in this series. The favorite covers the spread(underdog now 4-1).

2006: This one still hurts. WSU started hot, 6-3 and ranked in the top 25, before injuries destroyed them down the stretch on both sides of the ball. UW meanwhile had a strong beginning to their season, sitting at 4-2 at one point and looking good for a bowl bid. But Stanback would go down vs. Oregon State in the seventh game of the year, and UW would fall apart, losing the rest of their games, including an awful 20-3 loss to one of the worst-ever Pac-10 teams in Stanford. And then the Apple Cup happened. While WSU was an eight-point favorite, UW would pull it out, 35-32. This game might be looked at as the beginning of the end of the Bill Doba era. Underdog covers the spread (5-1).

2007: Finally, last year. UW came in at 4-7 and feeling good about themselves after a walloping of Cal the week before, 37-23. Meanwhile Alex Brink had his worst-game ever vs. Oregon State the week before, closing out his home career in disappointing fashion, a horrific 52-17 loss that sealed WSU’s non-postseason fate yet again. UW was a six-point favorite, but of course, WSU wins it 42-35 with one of Alex Brink’s best-ever games, 399 yards and five TD’s. YET ANOTHER example of never putting too much stock into what happened the week before a rivalry game! Underdog covers the spread(6-1).

So there you have it. Rivalry games are just too hard to call. In the best of seasons, in the worst of seasons, the favorite has only covered the spread one time since 2001. What does that tell you about this Saturday??

ENJOY YOUR MONDAY, and GO COUGS!

Now What?

September 7, 2008

So it happened, and it’s over. Can’t live in the past, right? Anyone who lives in the past and laments the present will never be a success. So it’s time to plow forward. But clearly there are issues here, big ones at that, and they don’t look like they will be solved overnight.

Now that we are two games in, it’s time for some self-examination, fact-or-fiction style.

1) We don’t have Pac-10 talent.

FICTION – First of all, let’s clear this up right now. We DO have Pac-10 talent. What, is Brandon Gibson suddenly a Big Sky caliber receiver? The kid led the conference in receiving last year with over 1100 yards and nine TD catches. Is Andy Mattingly suddenly a bad player, not worthy of BCS-conference ability? Or do we just totally forget about his 91 tackles and eight sacks as a sophomore in ’07? What about linebackers Greg Trent, Cory Evans, and Kendrick Dunn, each coming off an 80+ tackle season last year? Just toss it all out the window? There is talent here, and some of it of the all-conference type.

2) We don’t have Pac-10 depth.

FACT – The problem is the same thing that’s been an issue the last several years, and that’s a lack of quality depth. Look at the offensive and defensive lines, and how beat up and out of position they are just two games into the season. Seriously, Matt Eichelberger and Adam Hineline are what we are relying on for plugging up the inside? Did anyone see the holes that were blown up yesterday? And there still isn’t any semblance of a consistent pass rush from the defensive ends. Meanwhile, the O-line is just one big, shuffling mess right now that was just overwhelmed against BCS talent in Cal. Cal was dropping seven and even eight into coverage on many situations, and we still couldn’t block them with five and even sometimes six blockers.

And how about the skill guys? We have Gibson, and Frischknecht, but after that? We are young and inexperienced at the worst possible time. Consider from 2007, we lost Bumpus and his 70 catches, Collins and his 52 catches, and even Charles Dillon, with his 37 balls for over 400 yards last year. That was a prolific offense, with an experienced, senior QB who threw for over 3800 yards and 26 TD’s.

And to take it a step further, think about the youth and inexperience we are relying on, right now, to carry the load at the skill spots. Jeshua Anderson, Daniel Blackledge, even Michael Willis, all those guys have been beat up and/or out, completely, from practices. And when you realize we are trying to implement a brand new system, with a brand new QB, and these guys have only had spring ball and fall camp to figure it out? When half of them can’t even get on the field at all, how can we expect anything other than the complete train wreck we’ve witnessed thus far?

It’s a well-known thing that young skill position guys, particularly WR’s, usually struggle initially due to the speed of the game and the complexity of the offense. In practice things are scripted, and vanilla, but when games come around, you are going against guys you have never seen before, defenses and coverages are disguised, blitzes come from all over, etc, etc, etc. When a young WR is out there thinking, he is a step, or more, slower. And therefore you don’t get to see them use their athleticism and speed, and worst of all, there isn’t any separation from the defensive backs.

3) Gary Rogers isn’t a Pac-10 QB

FICTION – I know, I know. Two games in and this looks like a fact that he has no business being a starting QB in this league. But think about all that is stacked against him right now. First, he doesn’t have game experience. Just two career starts, and very little playing time the last few seasons. Anyone who follows the game knows that there are always some bumpy moments early for a QB trying to get his feet wet, and it takes a few games to figure it out.
Next, think about who is trying to protect him. After a decent first week, the offensive line got absolutely whooped yesterday, in every conceivable fashion. Cal was unblockable at times, no matter what we tried. Rogers got the yips, no doubt about it, and on the times he did have time to throw, he was rolling away from pressure that wasn’t really there.

Third, think about the young skill guys we are trying to get by with right now, as we addressed in point number two above. Young skill guys, who haven’t practiced, in a brand new system. Wulff again admitted that players are lining up wrong, running the wrong routes, you name it. And that’s with not even 50% of the playbook still in the fold.

Finally, and this point gets lost in the shuffle, but for the second straight week, absolutely NO semblance of a consistent running game. How many QB’s out there, really, can be successful if they are always in third-and-long? There’s a reason teams commit to stopping the run on first and second down. There’s a reason they want QB’s in third and long. When you get QB’s in predictable passing situations, the defense will win that battle well over 50% of the time. All the stats in the world will back that up. And think of all the third and long that Rogers has had to face just two games into the season.

Bottom line – Gary Rogers still cannot be evaluated, because he simply hasn’t had any help.

4) This coaching staff isn’t Pac-10 worthy

FICTION – This is one of the dumbest things I’ve heard thus far, and I can’t believe some people are slinging this on the message boards after just two games (and some good advice – when the going gets bad, do yourself a favor and STAY OFF the message boards! The idiot factor increases by ten-fold, and you have the obligatory UW-Oregon fans that love to “troll” and bait people into the idiocy. Don’t do it.). These guys have been very successful at EWU.

Does anyone need a reminder of how difficult it is to win in Cheney? We hear Pullman is tough, all the time, but go drive out to EWU and see their facilities. Then realize Wulff built a winner at that program, taking them to the playoffs multiple times, and winning coach of the year honors three times. This isn’t by mistake, or a misprint. Wulff and this coaching staff is the real deal, but as has been preached since day one, this is going to be a long, tough climb, and only the strongest are going to survive.

The other factor here is the timing of this whole changeover couldn’t have come at a worse time. The APR mess is one thing, and the program was spiraling out of control as the Seattle Times pointed out in the spring. And that’s just the off-the-field stuff. But to have such a drop-off in experienced offensive talent is another thing altogether. Not only are you trying to completely change the culture of the team, and that has been well-documented thus far. Not only are you trying to implement a no-huddle, multiple offense that is pretty complex and would have growing pains no matter how experienced you are. But you are trying to do all this with guys who haven’t done it before, guys who haven’t been able to practice what you are trying to implement. You are starting over in many, many ways, and to expect them to sprint before they can crawl is a huge problem.

So that’s it. No sugar-coating things here. It’s a mess right now, and I don’t envy the job ahead for these guys in trying to do the right thing. They are trying to change things, but the deck is completely stacked against them. But who among us thought we would be 2-0 right now? Everyone has picked against us the first two games, so whether we lost 28-27 on a blocked extra point or 66-3 in a worst-ever wipeout, we’re still in the same boat. I hope we’ve hit rock-bottom after yesterday, and it’s hard to imagine anything worse than that.

Baylor is next, and instead of lamenting what just happened, let’s hope they can look forward and seize the day as an opportunity to turn it all around. Let’s hope we can take steps to get better.

Enjoy your Sunday, and hang in there. GO COUGS!

Football Friday Week 2: Too much to Bear?

September 4, 2008

Greetings Cougar Nation and Brinkhater Army.

Hope you all are having a great week.

So, on we march into the Crap-10 opener against CAL.

As we saw last week against MSU, CAL has reloaded with speed on offense, appears to have (not long) shored up their quarterback position, and is surprisingly porous on defense.

In spite of their vulnerability on the defensive side of the ball, this is a game that CAL should win easily when you take our performance last week at face value, and within, without reading between the lines.

What is fun about this game, however, is that we will see what if any of those hidden subtexts from last week show up this week.

For example, did anyone else notice that we were a perfect two for two in the red zone last week?

Does that portend anything for this week if we’re able to move the ball consistently?

I sure think so, but we’ll have to see.

Moreover, what is CAL’s mind-set coming into this game? On one hand, you know that Tedford will try to fire up his troops about the importance of winning ANY road games in the Pac. On the other hand, can you expect any 19 or 20 year old to take us seriously after watching us piddle to 190 yards of total offense while giving up 250+ on special teams?

I think that I would be HIGHLY prone to overlook us if I were on the other side.

So, in view of all of these questions, I find myself falling onto the ole clichés in predicting our fortunes.

After all, this season is about “process” and “improvement” and so this game figures to fall along the natural progression of a young team.

In that way, I think you’re going to see more upside out of us this week, but as a part of seeing more upside, we’re going to have to open things up more—and I think that will lead to more mistakes—particularly from my main man, Gary Rogers. Although I think Gary will play better this week, I don’t think that he will make sufficient progress to avoid the “lock-on-itis” that we saw last week. And that will be our Achilles heel.

Of course, if Rogers accelerates his own progress and if Anderson plays and is healthy, we could jump on em early and ride on to a shocking upset as a result.

Won’t happen, though.

Brinkhater extends his more-than-hapless WSU Football prediction streak to 14:

Bears 37 Cougs 22

Elsewhere:

ASU 28 Stanford 27. Devils have just enough to beat Captain Comeback

Quack 51 Utah State 10 Yuck.

Penn State 38 Beavs 35. This one should be real entertaining, even though recent history suggests that the Beavs will lose this one 70-14 (and then finish 9-4).

AZ 41 Toledo 18 Normally, this would be an upset special—especially given that the Mac looks up this year, but last week showed me a lot about the Mildcats. Sure, it was the spuds, but 70-0 is still stinking 70-0.

BYU 38 Washington 17. Fit to be Tyed? Montlake has all appendages in a clutter.

And, the Bandit Bowl:

Gators 41 Canes 17. Another lesson in how long it takes teams to come back after a Coordinator takes over as Head Coach (West Virginia, you’re next).

Enjoy the game, and SCREAM YOUR GUTS out if you’re going to be in attendance.

Longball says:

Greetings Cougar Nation!

Longball here with this weeks fearless predictions. Why “fearless”? Because after pulling a rabbit from my hat with last week’s UCLA pick, I have clearly demonstrated my undeniable clairvoyance. Now, I hinted last week that I may be picking our beloved Cougs to pull the upset this weekend at a revitalized Martin Stadium. Apparently if I just type it here, it comes true. Right? Sadly Sedihawk informs me that ain’t how it works, folks. Even if I called it for the Cougs it wouldn’t be enough to help them overcome the Bears this week. Now this is not “da Bears” of Ditka, Sweetness, and the Fridge, but they do have something going for them… OUR special teams. There is just no way our special teams are going to let us win, or even compete in this football game. You can’t win college football games with Pop Warner special teams. I am thrilled that the few brave souls who actually suited up for us last weekend fought hard and all that, but we are a long way from being competitive within our conference. I do think with the new coaching staff at the helm we will continue to make strides, especially on offense, but please keep those expectations where they belong for now… low. But fear not, Brinkhater, I will be there screaming my guts out and losing my voice just like last week.

Cougs 21
Bears 45

From around the country:

ASU 35 Stanford 10. If the Beavs turn out to be good again, Harbough may have quietly already pulled off his big win for this year.

Quack 42 Utah State 3 The Quack are playing D this year.

Beavs 28 Penn State 24 Last week the tables were turned as some trees cut down the Beavers. Was it a wake up call? Oregon State travels across the country to play in Beaver Stadium. How could they lose? This is the kind of information my picks are based on.

AZ 35 Toledo 24 I have no analysis for you on this one. Does anyone else find it hard to root for Stoops in non-conference games?

BYU 42 Washington 28. Locker’s receivers actually hang on to some balls, but Husky D gets run over, thrown over and finally rolls over. I won’t apologize for saying this, I like watching Locker play.

Gators 35 Canes 10 Hurricane season is here, but this wont even be a category 1. I hope Tebow washed his hands after performing all those circumcisions in the Philippines this off season. That has to rival the USC jock itch outbreak for the ickiest off season story that the ESPN guys won’t stop talking about!

There it is. I hope I’m wrong and I see all of you at the page this Saturday night to drink some tubs and TURN THE HELMET!

Go Cougs!

Sedihawk says:

Greetings Coug Nation. Busy times these days, so we’ll go after it.

First of all, fellow blogger Brinkhater might be a tad bit confused. See, it’s not the Cal Ripken’s we’re playing, it’s the Berkeley Bears. But as you can see, sometimes things get lost in translation:

OOPS.

Anywho, the Cal Bears. Are they all that after week one? Where are their minds coming into this one? Given our lack of “sexiness” as an opponent, it’s probably on pole-vaulter extraordinaire, Cal’s own Allison Stokke. Can you blame them?


But anyway, I’m with the others here, and concerned about how we will handle their team speed. They looked exceptionally fast on TV Saturday night, and after coming back from the Okie State game and watching Cal run up and down the field, they looked a lot faster than the Pokes. I know it’s hard to tell sometimes, and that TV can make players look bigger/stronger/faster, but man, watching Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen carry the ball is going to be a breath-holding experience this Saturday.

But Cal has some young WR’s, and this will be their first shot at starting a game in a hopefully loud, hostile environment. Much like UW this year, Cal has lost their top five WR’s from last year, and this will be the first time on the road that they have to do some heavy lifting. TE Cameron Morrah and Jahvid Best are the leading receivers from last season at 13 catches apiece, but that’s it. So, while I like Kevin Riley at QB as a guy who won’t torpedo their own offense (compared to Nate Longshore), I have a feeling things will be tougher for him this week.

And speaking of Riley, did you know this will be just his third-ever start at Cal? And his first-ever start on the road? Yes, he’s been impressive, but he’s never had to get under center in a loud stadium as a starter and make things happen.

So, I think on defense we get after it. We will pack the box, try and slow down the running game, and make Riley and his young WR’s beat us over the top. But if Cal can run the ball, they can also eat game clock and best of all, when you are on the road? Nothing takes a crowd out of a game more than a visitor running the ball at will, chewing up yardage on the ground as well as keeping the ball away from your offense. And I think that’s exactly what Tedford and company are going to try to do.

One area that we have a shot here is the passing game. In my mind, it seemed as though Michigan State had a little bit too easy of a time throwing the ball. They had an experienced QB, and a potential breakout star at WR in Mark Dell who went bananas on their secondary. Now that the game one yips are out of our young WR’s collective systems, I don’t know, call me crazy but I think Rogers has a solid day. And given how Dell played in week one, and how disappointed Gibson was with his first game, don’t you think they’ll come out ready for a huge game? I do. But will it be enough?

Unfortunately, no, I don’t think we’ll be standing at the top of the hill at the end of the day. But I am going to say, here and now, that this will be a much, much closer game than some are predicting. Look, Cal is good, and they looked tough on Saturday, but these guys are NOT USC. And only USC has been such a big favorite at WSU in the last decade as Cal is this weekend. Plus, remember how everyone said last year ASU was going to kill us in Pullman? ASU was a nine point favorite coming in undefeated, but we were a missed field goal from going to OT in that game, and a controversial call from possibly winning it on Brandon Gibson’s TD catch that was reversed via replay.

I think people are over-reacting to week one, which is a very, very easy thing to do. You are never that bad, but you are also never THAT good either. Things will come around, and we will be pleasantly surprised by what we see. Paul Wulff already said that he’s expecting an extremely hard-hitting, physical game, and we will respond with some true toughness. I’m calling Cal 27, WSU 23.

Other games:

ASU 31, Stanford 16. ASU is really good and Stanford was a bit of a mirage in week one, outgained by almost 200 yards by the Beavs. Rudy Carpenter will not make the same mistakes made by Lyle Moevao. Reality arrives via Erickson and company.

Oregon 49, Utah State 7. What can you say? Stat game, all the way.

Oregon State 34, Penn State 28. I’m with Longball here. Oregon State moved the ball at will vs. Stanford, and they won’t make the same mistakes in week two. Sammie Stroughter makes them far, far better on offense than they’ve been in a long time.

AZ 35, Toledo 17. Tons of offense, again, out of the not-so-Mildcats. They can’t possibly keep up the pace they set last week vs. the Vandals…can they??

Washington 27, BYU 24 – Shocker of the weekend. Everyone has written off UW, and it seems as though the Willingham era is kaput. But somehow, someway, I see UW pulling this one off. Locker will be better, but not by a huge margin. The big difference here will be how effective UW is in running the football. I think the UW offensive line plays a much better game against a BYU defense returning only three starters from last year. And BYU might be good, but they don’t have the same athletes as the Pac-10. I see a very similar game like Boise State last year, a team everyone said was going to kill UW. But in watching that game, while Boise State had some talent, they clearly had trouble on the road against Pac-10 athletes. The gap between BCS and non-BCS conferences has closed, but there is still a difference. I know UW is down, but, I think they respond.

Thug Bowl – Florida 31, Miami, FL 20 – Brinkhater is right. Miami with Larry Coker is yet another example of what happens when you promote the old coordinator to head coach. The long-term damage can be too much. And Brinkhater is right, West Virginia, you’re next!

There you have it. Remember, it’s still early. We will likely see some wild swings in performance, by many teams in the country. Don’t fall into the trap of placing too much value into what you see the first week in the season, because it can all change on a dime. Did everyone write of Michigan last year after they lost to App State and Oregon, at the Big House? They ended up winning nine games, including a win over the Tim Tebow’s in their bowl game. Everyone thought Cal and Oregon were Rose Bowl contenders given their hot starts, but both teams faded badly down the stretch. So you just never know. There’s a TON of season left!

Enjoy your Thursday, and as always, GO COUGS!

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!