Archive for the ‘Football Friday Week Five’ Category

Football Friday, Week 6: Not Ready for Prime Time

October 2, 2008

Greetings Resilient Cougar Nation!

Welcome to Football Friday, only on Thursday…Week 6 style.

Hard to believe, but we have actually reached the halfway point of the 2008 tilt (humor me and count Hawaii as a bowl game).

Thank God.

First and foremost, a big shout out to all of you for your comments this week. Not only were they generally great comments and takes, but they signified that, in spite of being abysmal, we really do have a hard core group of committed fans. And that is something to feel good about. Really.

Now, back to reality.

For weeks now, I’ve been pegging this game as a major upset special. For one, we always seem to play well against the powder blue puff girls (in Football, that is).

For two, UCLA’s offense is pretty bad. And as Sedihawk brilliantly pointed out to me today, UCLA really represents the first straight up, conventional offensive team that we’ve faced all year. In short, no more spread, read-option offenses. Coupled with a pretty weak 3rd string quarterback gives real hope that we could see our first competitive game of the year.

The problem from my perspective is still our offense. And particular, our offensive line (it also doesn’t help that the Evil Vince Grippi is back to his sinister ways and is reporting injuries to 3 out of our top 4 tailbacks. Damn you, Grippi)

While Ocho Rojo showed last Saturday that he really IS the man of the future, I think its a bit much to expect him to light it up in both his second start and first road game. Simply put, guys making their second starts as 18 point dogs rarely fare well. I think such is the case on Saturday–especially since we are still making changes at the tackle position. Look for #8 to make similar mistakes but more BIG PLAYS.

Therefore, while I see a game where we can stay “sort of in it,” this is not a game that we will win.

That said, IF the O-Line steps up, and IF we can avoid the TO’s that have buried us the last 5 weeks, we could WIN this one (last week, with a similar “stellar scenario” we could only make it interesting).

But we won’t. UCLA wins 38-21 in a game that will make all WSU wagers rich: UCLA will NOT cover this weekend. No how, no way, no Chow.

However, lest you all think that Brinkhater has thrown in the towel this season, I haven’t.

I still think we have a real fighting chance to stay out of the conference cellar(Hear that Ted Miller????).

Other games:

USC 31 Oregon 21: As the President once said, “shame me once, shame on.., shame me twice, shame..shame me, DON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN. Conquest makes move to once again be among the best 11-2 teams of all time.

Notre Dame 28 Trees 24. Captain Comeback runs the ball well, but can’t quite get over the hump against Charlie Stump.

Arizona State 28 Cal 21. CAL has QB problems again and can’t bring its Best. ASU will do better now that the expectations are lowered–LOSERS.

Arizona 51 Washington 24. Word to felllow Husky Haters: Their D sucks, but they may get better with a QB that can actually throw the football in the same zip code as an open receiver.

Utes 31 Beavs 28. Great game, but Beavs come back to earth..”Mountain West Rulz!”

And Bandit Bowl 2:

Florida State 24 Miami 23. In true Florida spirit, this “might could” be the game where Wide Right happens to the other team. This should be a good spirited, punk fest: Word to Joe Mommas everywhere.

Enjoy the Games and Go Cougs!!

Sedihawk Says:

Good morning Cougar Nation. Another week, another game. And another chance to scrape ourselves up off the mat. For why do we fall down? So we can get right back up and give it another shot. Tomorrow is just another chance to turn it all around, it’s always darkest before the dawn, cliche’, cliche’, cliche’… get the idea. We’re 1-4 and we’ve sucked in the majority of the four losses. Period.

Do we have hope for this week? After several days of lamenting the lack of talent, depth and character, do we really believe that we can go down and beat UCLA? Well, it’s not impossible. What is it with UCLA and WSU, and why WSU has been able to beat them so frequently of late? We know UCLA hates coming to Pullman and they haven’t been shy about ripping on the Palouse. I was there last year in the 27-7 WSU win, and UCLA was one of the flattest teams I’ve ever seen play college football that day.

While UCLA might lead the overall series 35-18-1, the recent history is something to be excited about. Six of our last seven times, since 2001, WSU has prevailed. And it’s 10 of the last 14, going all the way back to 1992. Even in an awful 1995 season, where we went 3-8 (yes, with Mike Price AND Bill Doba), we still beat them. And there have been some classics and/or KEY wins over them in recent times.

  • Jason Gesser playing on one leg, leading the Cougs to an historic 48-27 win in 2002, clinching the Pac-10 title.
  • The 1997 season opener with Ryan Leaf and Cade McNown going nuts, and a goal-line tackle by Leon Bender to preserve a 37-34 win.
  • The Palouse Posse pitching a 21-0 shutout vs. a ranked Bruins team in the Rose Bowl in 1994.
  • And who could forget the 1988 classic, when Timm Rosenbach, Tim Stallworth, Paul Wulff, Dennis Erickson and the rest of the Cougars shocked the nation with a comeback, 34-30 win over Troy Aikman’s #1 ranked Bruins (we’ll revisit that one tomorrow).

So for whatever reason, we see the powder blue and gold, we get excited.

Anyway, will it matter this week? Here’s what I think will happen:

UCLA has struggled so far, and they were beaten famously at BYU, 59-0. But they did beat the SEC’s Tennessee Vols the week prior. Seems like a very distant memory now, and the BYU fiasco is much more ingrained on the brain. But I don’t think the Vols game should be thrown out, and for this reason – UCLA stood toe to toe with BCS/SEC athletes, mounted a comeback, forced overtime and ultimately prevailed. Can we say the same thing? Absolutely NOT. While Tennessee has proven to be a disappointing SEC team, clearly not one that will be a factor down south, still, this wasn’t exactly Portland State if you get my drift? That game, to me at least, shows that UCLA might have a 1-3 record, but they DO have the ability on a weekly basis to beat a lot of BCS teams. Especially at home.

Speaking of at home, UCLA has beaten Tennessee, was blown out by Arizona, and then lost a tough one last week vs. a good Fresno State team, 36-31. But in that Fresno State game, UCLA, for the first time all season, showed a pulse on offense, and especially the running game with 234 rushing yards. Uh-oh.

Finally, Kevin Craft, the emergency starter at QB after the Bruins lost Pat Cowan and Ben Olson before the season, has more or less settled down. He has thrown five INT’s this season, in four games, and that’s not very good. But consider that FOUR of those INT’s were thrown in the first half vs. Tennessee. Over the last 3 1/2 games, he’s only thrown one INT.

But let’s look at the full picture here. You think OUR offense is bad? We’re at least averaging 19 points per game (yuck). But who is averaging 17 points per game, good for last in the PAC?? UCLA. And while we have sputtered mightily on offense, averaging 322 yards per game, or eighth in the conference…..guess who is LAST in the conference, with a measly 276.8 yards per game?? UCLA.

And UCLA’s defense has been touted as being big, fast, physical, the whole deal. But the Bruins are allowing an amazing 37.5 points per game, eighth in the Pac-10. And they are eighth in the Pac-10 in total defense, giving up 415.8 yards per game. That’s only 21 yards less per game that our awful WSU defense, if you can believe it. Think about that for a second – all those yards and points we have seen the WSU defense give up so far, and UCLA is only 21 yards less per game? That’s a huge shock to me. So they are dealing with a new culture change as well with Slick Rick.
But that’s just the stats, and you know they don’t always tell the story. Judging a team just four or five games into a brand new regime is, as they say, SMALL SAMPLE SIZE. There is way too much of the season left to go before you can fully peg a team, one way or another, and a hell of a lot can change.

So that’s the Bruins. But what about our Cougs? What can we expect?

I think like Brinkhater says, Ocho Rojo will play better. He will make plays and will likely grind out a few drives of note. Brandon Gibson will get his yards and catches, Devin Frischknecht will have a decent day, Jeshua Anderson will turn in a big play or two, and we’ll have some things to cling to as the season rolls on. And believe it or not, I do think our defense will play better this week. There will be some adjustments made, again, and a renewed effort to stop the run. Some new faces will be out there, and that will help, but I think we’ll see some wrinkles to do everything in our power to stop a running game.

ALL that said, it still won’t be enough. If there is one thing we’ve seen as a general tone this season, it’s this – on both sides of the ball, up front, we simply aren’t good enough. We’ve started five different combinations at offensive line, and none of them have proven to be the solution. Even while we had a huge stat game vs. Portland State, we still allowed far too many free shots at the QB’s. But the huge concern is how they’ve been physically overwhelmed vs. BCS opponents on both the offensive and defensive lines. While UCLA’s own offensive line has been overwhelmed as well this season, they will still be able to handle what our defensive front throws at them this week.

In the end, I do see a tight game here. But UCLA gets it done in the trenches. We will have extreme difficulty running the football, and Ocho Rojo, while showing some real upside, still won’t be able to do it without a legit running game. And defensively, we’ll rally to the football and slow down the run early, but UCLA will stick with it and stick with it and stick with it, ultimately wearing out a tired defense. The Bruins pull away late, tack on a 4th quarter TD, and win it going away, 34-20.

Other games:

USC 30 Oregon 27: USC is mad, sure, but they also aren’t as “special” as we thought they would be. The Oregon State offense showed that USC’s defense can be handled up front. Oregon’s o-line is excellent and they will not be intimidated. USC wins it late but it will come right down to the end.

Notre Dame 23 Stanford 18. Harbaugh’s heroes are rolling, already at 3 wins. But a bit of a letdown coming off their big road win at UW.

ASU 33, CAL 20. CAL has opened up the QB job again, and Jahvid Best is hurt. But ASU gets off the mat after their loss to UGA, and Erickson coaches ’em up for the W.

Arizona 57 Washington 31. Agree with Brinkhater here. I have to admit I enjoy watching Jake Locker run the football, but I’ve been down on him as a true QB since the beginning of last year. The kid is simply not a consistent thrower, period. There have been very few “special” running QB’s who could also throw the ball consistently, and at this point Locker looks nothing more than the second coming of Michael Vick….except for the dog fighting crap. Anyway, Ronnie Fouch will keep them in it for a while and will surprise some folks by his ability to move the team, but UW’s defense, WOW. Just WOW. It will be a miracle if AZ fails to score less than 50 in this one.

Utes 33 Beavs 19. I want to think that Oregon State is doing their annual circle-the-wagons deal after yet another slow start. But they have lost at Stanford and were embarrassed vs. Penn State on the road. I think reality hits the Orange-n-Black. LET DOWN CITY against a very good Utah team in Salt Lake.

And Bandit Bowl 2:

Florida State 21 Miami 13. Hooray thugs. Both teams ain’t what they used to be, where it was almost a national holiday when these two would get it on back in the day. But Bowden’s boys have too much for the still-rebuilding Canes.

But as we always say, that’s why they play the games.

Football Friday Week V: Back to the Drawing Board

September 25, 2008

Greetings Cougar Nation. Happy Football Friday, Week Five Style.

Or is it?

Seems to Brinkhater that we enter the near halfway point of the season almost like it was Week One.

I mean, for starters, we have Ocho Rojo making his first career start.

We also have an offensive line that’s still very much in development.

We also have our first real game (against a real opponent) with a defense that has some new faces at safety along with a slightly different set than the straight 4-3 we saw previously.

Its new, new, new, new all over the place.

As for our opponent this week, well, Hawk has chronicled the Quack pretty well. Oregon’s really good and on any given Saturday can be a serious offensive juggernaut.

That said, with THEIR quarterback situation being the way it is right now, it is also entirely possible that they could show up as a jugger-NOT on any given Saturday–as they showed in last week’s hapless performance (for the first three quarters) against the Blue Turf Smurfs.

What we do know about Oregon is that they are loaded at the skill positions, have a fantastic offensive line, and in my book, boast the second best defense in the conference.

Brinkhater thinks that the Quack are going to score early and often in this one. That said, this is still a game to watch because even though the odds are long, there is a chance that this could be a game decided in the 4th.

For one, while we should all expect that Oregon is going to run rough-shot over us, their inexperience at Quarterback could result in some serious red-zone woes. In short, we could give up a ton of yards in this game on the ground, but give up a host of fields goals a la first part of the Clay Bennett State game.

OR, the inexperience at QB could result in a couple of early picks in the red zone that could keep us in it and change the complexion of the contest as the game goes on…

Of course, any red zone woes by the Quack could be rendered moot (OR NOT) depending on the play of OUR offense. And, while I am sure that many of you are concerned with how Marshall will play this weekend, I would urge all of us to focus more narrowly on the play of our offensive line.

Remember: in a first start guiding any offense let alone one as complex as ours, you can EXPECT that #8 is going to make some serious mistakes.

What is questionable is whether or not he is also going to make some PLAYS in spite of those mistakes. And that, dear friends, will be determine by the O-Line.

Oregon is going to try to make Marshall beat us early in this game. So, if the O-Line gives him time, this COULD BE A GOOD BALL GAME!
Prediction: I am hoping that #8 improves as the game goes on and doesn’t get hurt.

I think he will improve.

And I think he will escape without injury which will be the moral victory we get from this game.

That said, I don’t trust the play of our line against this team, this week. And I think it will cost us dearly in our ability to sustain any drives (but if they play well, this game will be HELL for Quack fans).

In addition, the injuries to Stripling (the new Mullennix?) and especially the loss of Evans is going to make slowing the Quack down too monumental a task for our boys.

Quack cruise and send Brinkhater’s streak into an unimpressive 18th week:

Quack 41 Cougs 16

Other games:

Washington 31 Stanford 17 Jake the Snake runs for 200 in this MUST WIN game. Lose and the Huskies may be set up as the favorite for the cellar of the WAC-10.

CAL 55 CSU 17. Colorado State scored 6 points in the final 1:30 to beat Sacramento State by 3 points two weeks ago. CAL will murder them.

USC 63 Oregon State 21. Pete usually doesn’t run up scores against conference opponents, but with no other WAC-10 teams in the Top 25, he may have to.

Fresno State 34 UCLA 10. Bruins will make a statement of their own that they may be worthy of last in the WAC-10.

And the Big One:

Alabama 27 Georgia 24. Upset alert, but everyone should know that Nick Saban can flat out fricking coach.

Enjoy the games, Go Cougs, and Vamos Ocho Rojo!!!!!!

Sedihawk says:

Mmm, quack attack. It’s Duck week, and is it just me or has it flown by? And hasn’t it been pretty tame in terms of the duck trolls who always seem to drop by with something uplifting for Cougar nation? I guess the loss to the Boise Staters has them down in the dumps. But after all, hey, that was Boise State’s SUPER BOWL (if you watched that Youtube clip from the other day, you’ll get the joke).

Here’s what I see this weekend. Remember the Cal game? Yeah, something like that. Ok, it won’t be THAT bad. Maybe more like Baylor. We may never approach that type of Cal loss. We never even lost to those great USC teams that badly. But the thing that I can’t get out of my mind is last year’s loss at Oregon. 53-7 was horrific, but as a lot of people know, that game could have been considerably worse. Consider:

  • Oregon had an amazing 40-0 lead at the half. 40-0!?! In other words, when it was a game, we were in another dimension as far as how far away we were in the talent department.
  • Oregon had over 550 yards of total offense, including 213 rushing yards, and 30 first downs. As Doba used to love to quip, those kinds of numbers are “hard to do against air”.

Yuck yuck yuck. If Bellotti didn’t decide to grow a heart in the second half and actually feel bad for Doba, that game could have been insanely awful. Like 77-7 awful.

So what’s changed this year? Sure, Oregon’s lost Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart, two fantastic players and unbelievable fits in the Chip Kelly spread, read-option offense. And Oregon has been hit as hard, if not harder than WSU, at the QB spot, losing their top two choices in Nate Costa and Justin Roper. And for stretches last week, Jeremiah Masoli and Chris Harper were in and out of the lineup. They ended up burning the redshirt of what some claim is the next Dennis Dixon, Darron Thomas. Thomas lit up the Boise State secondary for three fourth-quarter TD passes, but it was too little, too late. Anyway, right now, it appears that the starting QB could be Masoli, OR, Justin Roper? The young kid, Thomas, is down a bit as the third QB. Who really knows what we’ll see out of the QB spot, but I would bet we’ll see more than one of those guys at various stages in the game.

But enough of the QB stuff. Because does it really MATTER? I don’t think it does. Oregon scores 30+ points in their sleep in this system. In 17 total games with Chip Kelly as the offensive coordinator, Oregon has scored at least 30 points in 13 of them, averaging 39.4 points per game. That’s a MACHINE. Yes, their skill position speed is fantastic, and the running backs with Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount are excellent. But to me, the biggest thing they have going is that offensive line. Just like Wulff said in the radio show the other night, they are great up front, right next to Cal as tops in the Pac-10. Four senior starters, plus an all-conference TE in Ed Dickson, against our defensive line?? Be afraid, be very afraid.

I also picture OC Chip Kelly taking about five minutes of game tape from our game vs. Baylor or Cal, turn to Mike Bellotti and say with a gigantic smile, “You know, Mike….I think we might be able to run the ball this week.” 🙂

The other scary part is our offensive line vs. the Oregon defensive line. Both starting defensive tackles are seniors and pushing 300 lbs. Ra’Shon Harris and Cole Linehan, inside, have both played in 34 career games. While I think Kenny Alfred will do just fine at center against these guys, who knows what the guards will do. We’ve seen what happens when our offensive line takes on a big, experienced BCS defensive line (CAL). And defensive end Nick Reed is a nightmare with his quickness and energy. This guy never, ever takes plays off, and when you think about our breakdowns last week in terms of just keeping the QB in the game? Especially picking up guys coming off the edge? It better clean up, in a hurry, or else Ocho Rojo won’t survive the first half.

Now, I do think we are getting better as a team, in many phases. The defense is going to improve with the safeties settling in, with Hicks and Jackson and their ability to partol the middle of the field. And as Wulff said, we really tackled well last week, only recording two missed tackles on the day. Go back and watch the Cal game (if you dare), and you will find nothing but blown assignments, guys out of position and most of all, poor tackling throughout that train wreck. So they really are getting better.

Offensively, we are coming around. The running game was stronger last week, almost 280 yards rushing. And Ocho Rojo showed something that both Gary Rogers and Kevin Lopina did not, and that is the ability to take care of the football! Marshall didn’t have a turnover in his limited time on the field, which is a welcome change. The young WR’s are getting better each week, as there seems to be less confusion. Jeshua Anderson is looking more comfortable and starting to mesh into the offense. And after some early struggles, Brandon Gibson has started to play like Brandon Gibson 2007, with over 200 yards receiving combined the last two games.

But here’s the biggest thing that probably keeps coach Wulff tossing and turning at night – TURNOVERS AND PENALTIES! They simply cannot continue, or these guys will get run off the field. This team has enough issues with youth and inexperience and a lack of strength at many positions. But to also give the ball away is just plain suicide. Currently we lead the Pac-10 with 14 turnovers in four games, and dead-last with a minus-9 turnover ratio. Ouch.

And in the lack-of-discipline department, WSU also “leads” the Pac-10 with 32 penalties, again, in four games. Double-Ouch. Until they get this kind of stuff cleaned up, they stand no chance against a ranked BCS opponent like Oregon.

The biggest thing to watch is how the defensive line can hold up against the run. They will need a heroic effort from A’i Ahmu and Matt Eichelberger just to stay within shouting distance. But I can’t get past the feeling that they are walking into the lions den with Oregon’s offensive line.

Oregon’s early success running the ball will have a major effect on our defense. Already we will be putting eight guys “in the box”, up near the line of scrimmage, just to have hope to slow down the run. But if they are able to continually gash the defense for positive yardage every play, that will lead to more and more cheating up by the safeties and corners. And that, my friends, leads to BIG PLAYS over the top. This Chip Kelly read option is a pain because of their ability to show you so many different looks with their offense. One time they’ll hand it off. The next they’ll pitch it to the back. One time they might motion a guy from the slot and he becomes the player who could get the option pitch. Or, the QB might fake the handoff, start to go into the option, and then pull it back out via play action and throw it deep. There’s just so many things they can do to confuse and confound. A young, aggressive defense cheating up against the run will be dead meat against a team like this.

But call me crazy, in the end, I do think we’ll see this one as interesting, and probably into the 2nd half we’ll hang in there. I do believe we might see some success with Ocho Rojo, and a fast early start would do wonders for their confidence on offense. But I believe the Oregon running game will be far too powerful over the course of four quarters. Oregon runs away in the 2nd half, winning it 44-20.

Other games:

Washington 27 Stanford 16 UW becomes the last NW team – on any level – to win a football game. And it only took until the last Saturday in September to do it! Welcome to the club. But seriously, UW runs at will in this one. Last year they steamrolled Stanford’s D to the tune of 388 yards rushing, on the road at Palo Alto. Expect a repeat performance.

CAL 49 CSU 14. Colorado State is lousy. Cal has had a week off to stew about their terrible loss at Maryland. Jahvid Best gets back in the all-universe discussion after this one.

USC 38 Oregon State 27. USC has had their struggles in Corvallis, losing that epic game in 2006 and winning by only eight points in 2004, USC’s national title year. The Beavs will keep it close but they simply don’t have enough to beat USC.

Fresno State 23 UCLA 9. UCLA will put up a surprising fight, but there is just no ability to move the ball or score enough points against a pretty good Fresno team. But their defense will allow them to hang around at home.

And the Big One on the national state:

Georgia 20 Alabama 16. Ah, Saturday night in the SEC. How can you not love it as an NCAA football fan? Another excellent fight between two SEC heavyweights. Since the game is between the hedges in Athens, the home field will win out. QB Matt Stafford will be the big difference here. Note – the last five times Georgia and Alabama have played when both teams were ranked? Georgia has won ALL FIVE. Take UGA at home.

Go Cougs!!!!!!

Longball Says;

Sorry I’m late! But I am here at last to finally push this post right off the bottom of the page.

This week is Homecoming and a time for us all to celebrate our beloved WAZZU, take in the sights, smells, sounds and tastes of Cougar football Saturday, enjoy the camaraderie with the Cougar nation and reminisce about glorious Cougar Football Saturdays past. Soak it all in before kickoff folks, cause once this one starts it will be all Quack. The tragic circumstances leading to Ocho Rojo’s sudden rise to starting QB have left us with an interesting storyline this week. It actually makes this game worth watching. However, unless number 8 is also an All-World defensive tackle, we aren’t likely to enjoy too much of what we see against the Ducks. We are going to be totally outclassed on both lines and by the end of the game it will be reflected on the scoreboard –

Ducks 45

Cougs 14

I’ll leave the other predictions to my wiser blogmates, but I wanted to get my 2 cents in before the weekend.

Viva Ocho Rojo and GO COUGS!