Archive for the ‘Solomon Elimimian’ Category

Football Friday Week XIV – Letdown Style

November 28, 2008

Brinkhater Addition Edition: Update 11:26am Saturday

Greetings Cougar Nation. Hope you all have had a joyous start to the Holiday Season.

On my front, I’ve got family galore in town. So, this post is going to be especially uninformative and brief.

Nation, as you all know, today I am playing for my second consecutive national championship. With a correct prediction today, Brinkhater goes a perfect 25-0 over the last two football seasons. Add to that only 2 losses last year in basketball (blew BOTH Arizona games) and you can see that its time for some serious streak breaking! Thankfully, I have two really, really great games to test my final mettle.

Nation, in my mind, both contests today are either going to be blowout losses or major upsets won with great moxy and execution.

First, on the basketball front, while I was too late to predict our win yesterday, I am not too late to predict our shocking upset of Pitt today. Obviously, Taylor is going to have to play much, much, much better than he did yesterday. And Mr. Thompson is going to have to play even better. But, as we’ve noted here before, our little Ole Pack defense is just really hard to figure out if you haven’t seen it before. And, as we’ve seen so far this year, no one seems to have figured us out yet, and I think Pitt becomes another victim of T-Bone’s genius.

Cougs make really nice statement for the Selection Committee as November Ends thanks to clutch free throws by Rochestie down the stretch:

Cougs 59 Pitt 55

Now onto football.

Nation, we have seen many a GOOD team finish badly over the last few years. From the 2006 Washington State Cougars to the 2007 Oregon Yucks and CAL Bears (and maybe the 2008 Arizona Mildcats), sometimes a good year just falls to pieces down the stretch.

And with that in mind, Brinkhater believes that the opposite may be true for us this season. While this group will always represent the worst WSU team of our lives in my mind, something tells me this group is headed to 3-10 for some of the same reasons Sedi noted below.

Simply put, I think our Defense is going to be stout. I think we’re going to keep the turnover ratio down just like last week, and I think that our running game and emergent short passing game is going to be enough to pull off this ball-control shocker.

WSU 25 Hawaii 24

Elsewhere:

Beavs 38 Oregon 30. You don’t win last week at AZ if you don’t win the whole thing. Its in the Cosmos, Beavs head to Pasadena as Canfield comes off the bench to rally the Beavs from a 20-7 halftime deficit.

SC 24 ND 3. I really don’t like SC’s O, but I really, really like their D.

BIG ONE:

Clay Bennett University 41 Clay Bennett State University 30

Enjoy the Game

Ah yes, Hawaii. The only state in the union that good ‘ol McLovin would actually pick for a fake ID. “McLovin? One name? Who are you, Seal?”

McLovin, the 25-year old Hawaiian organ donor. FANTASTIC.

SO, for this week, Hawaii. After a desolate season of seasons, the end of the road is finally in sight. As Paul Wulff has said for several weeks now, the moment this season is over this will be a much better football team (no disrespect to the current seniors who will ride off into the sunset). So clearly a lot of people, coaches included, have been anxiously waiting to turn the page of 2008.
What do we know about this game? Here’s just a few things:

  1. It’s REALLY important for Hawaii to win this one. At 6-5 and a bowl bid on the line, they must get to seven wins to guarantee post-season play. A check of their schedule shows #16 Cincinnati coming in next weekend, and in reality Hawaii will be the underdog in that one. This game is circled as “must win”, big-time.
  2. What will be left in the Cougar gas tank? Last week was, let’s face it, the epitome of dropping loads of emotion on the football field. It’s awfully tough to get it cranked back up on the road after such an emotional home experience over your in-state rivals.
  3. Hawaii struggled early with their QB situation, but now that they finally settled in with Greg Alexander, they are playing closer to the Hawaii team we are familiar with. They still can drop 40 or more points on a lot of teams, scoring 49 last week vs. Robb Akey’s Idaho Vandals and 42 the week before that against New Mexico State. Alexander is hot, 118 pass attempts and counting since his last INT. Things are clicking all of a sudden, and this is not the best week to play them.
  4. You cannot forget the WSU defense. Yes, it’s been better of late. A lot better actually, holding our last two opponents under 400 yards of total offense (398 to ASU on the road, 323 to UW at home). There really has been a sense of improvement since the overall change to the three-man defensive line, as well as the return to action from Toby Turpin, the big lug in the middle who has been making some plays at nose tackle.
  5. We know the Cougar offense will have some issues moving the ball, as we always seem to do on a weekly basis. Even with the big pass play to Jared Karstetter that will go down in Apple Cup lore, Kevin Lopina was hovering in the low-100’s in passing yardage. Not good. But maybe something clicked last week with the running game? For the first time all year, they stuck with the run into the second half, and it worked, with a season-best 171 yards rushing (discounting the Portland State I-AA game). The run was the key to that win in the second half and in OT as well.
    The bad news for the Cougar O is that Hawaii starts NINE seniors on defense, so they are experienced. Linebacker Solomon Eliminian is a machine, now over 400 tackles in his career. When it’s all said and done he will go down as one of the greatest linebackers in WAC history. They play well in front of their fans, as they get an extra jolt from the home crowd. Like Paul Wulff said earlier in the week, you can feel like you are down 14 points before you even take the field against these guys in their house.

So there’s the basics. On paper you can see why Hawaii is such a big favorite, opening at 28 points and actually moving to 29.5. There is one thing I think about, however, one shining light, that might make this a much better game the odds-makers are saying. I think the WSU defense will keep this one interesting. Seriously. Why? Because of the run-n-shoot style Hawaii will throw out there plays into the strength of the WSU defense.


In 2008, “strength” and “WSU defense” haven’t always existed in the same sentence. Except when headed by “lack of”…….but when you think about the Coug D, you don’t think about size. If you do, you think SMALL, not big. They are a smallish, speedier defense that has trouble against the power running teams who get five yards on every single rushing attempt. But against the pass, the Cougs are respectable, giving up 185 yards per game through the air or #5 in the PAC-10.

I know stats can be misleading, and several games earlier in the year, the team was so far behind early that opponents barely threw the ball down the stretch. But moving Andy Mattingly back to linebacker was a big boost in the pass defense last week, and he should be even better this week after a full game of getting familiar with the position. Don’t forget what that guy did in 2007, and a lot of his success came as a 3-4 linebacker. And Louis Bland played with the heart of a lion last week, making huge plays all over the field. He is a rising star by all accounts, and having him team with Mattingly and Greg Trent makes the linebacking corps our best position BY FAR on the football field.

And with the three-man front, that scheme enables them to drop more into coverage and handle the passing offense like Hawaii will roll out tomorrow night. The three-man front in football was basically invented to better handle passing offenses like the west coast offense, or even the run-n-shoot. Clog up more passing lanes with more bodies back there who can run, and it could be interesting.

In the end, I think Hawaii has too much on the line to let this one get away. They are one game away from getting back to a bowl game, and they won’t let the opportunity slip through their fingers, especially at home. They are playing much better with Greg Alexander at QB, and they should keep it going this week. I do believe the Cougar D will come to play, and keep things interesting, but I just don’t think we can bank on much from the offense. Combine all that with the emotion letdown that is likely for these young kids, and you can see where this one is headed. While I don’t believe this will go exactly the way Vegas believes, I do think Hawaii wins it by a couple of scores. I’ll go Warriors 31, WSU 17.

Other games:

Oregon 31, Oregon State 28 – The Rose Bowl dream comes to an end. The Beavs escaped big-time last week, and they are doing what “teams of destiny” tend to do, and that’s find ways to win games when all appears lost. But Oregon has had an extra week to get ready for this one, and with the Beavs minus Jacquizz Rodgers, one of the best impact frosh running backs the PAC-10 has ever seen? I just think the Yucks break some hearts in this one.

ASU 35, UCLA 20ASU can still salvage a bowl game, even after their terrible start. They are at home, and clearly the better team here.

USC 47, Notre Dame 13 – Are they really going to buy out Charlie Weis? I heard Beano Cook say earlier this week that after talking to some of his sources, Weis is in BIG trouble. The players hate him and will lay down this week to grease the skids out of town.

BIG National game:
Oklahoma 42, Okie State 38 – Great match-up of exciting offenses in a rivalry game. It’s at Okie State, but Oklahoma is probably the hottest team in the country right now. Let the BCS bitching begin.

ENJOY YOUR DAY, and GO COUGS!

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Spring Fish Wrap – Hawaii Warriors Edition

June 30, 2008
Welcome to Hawaii. My name is Mark, and I’ll be kicking your ass.

In what is looking like a potential vacation for many, Cougar fans will head to the warm November weather of Hawaii after the 101st Apple Cup is in the books this year. Will it be a welcome change to dreary northwest weather on 11/29? Will the Cougs have anything left in the tank? Can they get up for one last game, playing a regular-season game after the Apple Cup for just the third time since ’88?

For a season that is starting to look like a bowl game is going to be a long-shot, at best, at least we can pretend. Hey, UW did it last year, and along the way nearly ruined Hawaii’s BCS chances. To a man, everyone thought UW would get steamrolled over there, what with Hawaii’s Sugar Bowl bid on the line and UW licking it’s wounds after the Apple Cup heartbreak. But they came to play, and nearly pulled the upset. And we did it in Jason Gesser’s first season, where he rallied the troops as a frosh to a 22-14 win in ’99 over a 9-win Hawaii team. That game was considered the defining moment to the start of Gesser’s career. Don’t take my word for it. Check out Washington State Magazine’s look back to that game:

He sometimes seemed fragile, but he was always throwing his body at yard-markers, at safeties, at whatever got in his way. He and others recall his defining moments as late in that freshman season of 1999, when he had a bad thumb but led a team of meager capability to a victory at Hawaii.

On one play, he dove for the chains and in his words, “got cleaned in the ribs.” Wincing back to the huddle, he had established a tone. Safety Billy Newman told him that from that moment forward, everybody in the program knew that nothing less than a best effort would do.

So what the heck? The game is on the schedule. It’s a chance for the players to bond, one last time, and to hopefully build for tomorrow. And who knows, maybe there will be a defining moment in the Wulff era that will come out of that game?

Moving on, let’s look at how Hawaii is setting up, post spring Fish-Wrap style. And, sorry to say it Hawaii fans, but it ain’t lookin’ so good.

Head coach June Jones? Gone to SMU, finally getting off the island (and rumored to have flirted with WSU for a short time last December??). All-universe QB Colt Brennan? Gone to the NFL. Top four WR’s, three of which had over 1,000 yards receiving? All gone. The defense? Seven starters, gone, including six of the top ten tacklers. This is a whole new era in Hawaii football in more ways than one.

With Jones out, Greg McMackin takes over as the head coach. McMackin was the d-coordinator under Jones and turned the Hawaii defense around in ’07, where they went from the #93 ranked defense in ’06 to #34 in ’07. But being the head coach is a whole different deal, and the fan expectation will be to keep enjoying winning seasons and bowl games. But McMackin is 0-fer-0 as a D-1 head coach, and was an OK 24-14-1 as an NAIA coach at Oregon Tech in the late-80’s. This whole head coach experience at this level is something entirely different. But who knows, maybe he’s ready. He has to shed the “grandfather” image, according to these quotes from when he first took over for Jones. McMackin isn’t a screamer, but when you do something he doesn’t approve of, he’ll let you know.

An interesting angle however are the new coordinators. Instead of going with an established D-1 guy, Hawaii turned to some local legends and are giving them a shot. St. Louis High School coach Ron Lee, a coach who ran the run-n-shoot offense at the Honolulu high school and coached them to 14 state titles, will run the offense here. And, yes, that’s the same St. Louis High School in Honolulu where none other than Jason Gesser rewrote the record book, including a perfect 24-0 record as a starter over his last two seasons. But the defensive coordinator is Cal Lee, Ron Lee’s brother. Cal has been with the Warriors for the last five years as linebackers coach, and this will be his first shot as the d-coordinator. But before that? Also a St. Louis high school coach, and also a coach Gesser played for. Interesting connection there, with Hawaii turning to the high school legends to fill the coordinator positions. That can only help Hawaii recruit the islands and try to keep the majority of the talent home. The Lee brothers will carry a lot of weight in living rooms all over Hawaii.

2007: What can you say? A dream season that ended with a thud, getting bulldozed out of the Super Dome by Georgia in a real man-vs-boys match-up. The SEC speed was on display and they absolutely ran outside, inside and right through the Warriors. Still, a 12-1 season is nothing to sneeze at, and the fact that they elbowed their way into the BCS party is a hat tip to them. I don’t care what conference you are in or where you are located, getting to 12-0 and a BCS bowl is a major flippin’ accomplishment.

Offensive Scheme: It will still be a run-n-shoot offense under Ron Lee, but with some variety mixed in. If you don’t know, the run-n-shoot is basically throw the heck out of the ball, with one running back and four WR’s, two of which are considered slot receivers. Think of it as ditching the fullback and tight-end for a couple of receivers. Sort of like the read-option rage that everyone is switching to today in college football, it’s a quick-hitting offense designed to spread the field and exploit mismatches. But it is much more a passing offense than anything else, and you don’t see many rushing yards out of the QB position. Colt Brennan only had 27 net rushing yards last year. But as Timmy Chang and then Colt Brennan have shown, you don’t need a John Elway-style rocket arm to succeed in the offense. It’s more based on a smart QB who can make the lightning-fast read and exploit the match-ups. Last year they were #1 in the nation in scoring at an impressive 43.4 points per game, #2 in passing offense at 439 yards per game, and #3 in total offense at just over 512 yards per game. It’s pretty entertaining football and it produces yards, points and wins. Check it out:


Top Offensive Player: This is kind of a tough one. They lose just so much on offense, with Brennan’s 4300+ yards and 38 TD passes. Plus their WR’s lose Ryan Grice-Mullen, Davone Bess, Jason Rivers and CJ Hawthorne. All those four did were combine for over 4600 receiving yards and 44 TD’s last year(!). Yikes. I wanted to go with the projected starter Tyler Graunke, a senior QB who came off the bench last year to start for Brennan due to some injuries and led them to some wins. Graunke threw for over 1200 yards last year and had 10 TD passes, including the only TD vs. Georgia in the Sugar Bowl once Brennan came out of the game. But Graunke didn’t look all that great this spring and had some off-the-field issues to deal with, so the door is open for junior Inoke Funaki. Funaki barely played in ’07, but looked decent this spring. And there are others in the mix as well, including a couple of JC transfers that will be in for fall camp. As of right now, no starting QB has been named by McMackin, so they will all battle it out for the job once camp begins.

Due to the uncertainty at QB, I’ll go with Kealoha Pilares as the top returning offensive player.

He was the leading rusher last year, with 388 yards and 3 TD’s, averaging 5.7 per carry as a true frosh. But Pilares also caught 26 balls last year, which makes him the #1 receiver coming back in ’08 in terms of number of catches. Pilares will actually change positions this year, moving out to the slot WR position and will likely be the go-to-guy early on as the offense tries to get settled with all the new faces. Former Washington high school running back Leon Wright-Jackson will take over in the backfield for Pilares. Jackson, if you remember, was a big-time recruit from Washington who ended up heading to Nebraska, but had a falling out there and ended up transferring to Hawaii. Jackson played a little bit last year, rushing for 219 yards, but he averaged 6.6 yards per carry and should take on a lot more of the load this year.

Defensive Scheme: Hawaii’s defense is a high energy, attacking unit that generally plays a 4-3. They play hard and hit hard, and generally play with a chip on their shoulder, especially at home. Even though Cal Lee is the new coordinator, he’s been on the staff for the last five years, so it’s not like they are totally starting over on that side of the ball. And McMackin is a defensive coach by nature, so his fingerprints will likely be heavy on the defensive game plan every Saturday.

Top Defensive Player: Hawaii’s linebackers are stacked, with Adam Leonard and Solomon Elimimian both back this year. They combined for 246 tackles last season and 20 tackles for loss. They are both the emotional and physical leaders on a defense that flies to the football. But I’ll go with Elimimian. Simply put, he’s a tackling monster at linebacker, racking up an amazing 141 tackles and 10.5 for loss. He’s not a huge guy for a middle linebacker, built more like a safety at 6-1, 220, but he is as quick as any middle linebacker we’ll see next year. He can also lay the wood a little bit:

Top Spring Question: Have you SEEN THAT SCHEDULE??

Wow, it looks rough. There is no time for warm-ups here, no soft landings. Kick ’em out of the nest and see if the kids can fly, as game number 1? AT THE SWAMP in Florida on 8/30. With just eight total starters back for next year, you have to wonder how they will handle that environment. Not only will they be over-matched physically, as we sort of saw that when they played Georgia last year in terms of sheer size and speed, but opening up at Florida is just brutal. After a slight reprieve by hosting Weber State the following week, they come back to the mainland and play at Oregon State. Reser Stadium isn’t exactly the Swamp, but it’s a Pac-10 foe on the road, always a tough place for any opponent, and that will be tough as nails to come out of there with a win. Then after a bye they hit the WAC regular season, which will include road games at Fresno State and at the smurf turf, Boise State. Another interesting angle is that not only do we play there after their conference schedule is over on 11/29, but the following week, the Cincinnati Bearcats come to Hawaii to wrap up their season. Cincinnati was one of the surprise teams in the Big East last year, winning 10 games and their bowl game over S. Mississippi. Maybe it would have made more sense to have a schedule like this with Colt Brennan and all those starters back in ’07, but this year looks like it could fall off the rails pretty quickly.

WSU Football Blog Bottom Line: Hawaii has to be one of the most unpredictable teams on the WSU schedule. With so few starters back and so many new faces at key spots, and with a brand new staff combined with a brutal schedule, who knows what they will look like by the time 11/29 comes around. But it’s pretty obvious now that this team is looking like a shell of it’s former self, and a repeat of last year is pretty much out of the question. I mean who the heck can predict what they are going to see out of this team with so many new things yet to be introduced for 2008? It’s only natural to see a step back from the dizzying heights of ’07.

That said, they still could be a bowl team if everything goes their way, and most off all, they take care of business at home where they are 50-16 over the last eight seasons, 15-1 over the last two. While the mobile, athletic junior QB Funaki might have more of an exciting upside than Graunke, at least Graunke has been there in big situations and done pretty well when called upon. If they want to try and win now and worry about the future, well, in the future, you would think that Graunke will get every chance to win that job outright by the time the season gets here. But who knows. This could be a major rebuilding job after all, and going younger at the most important position on the field might be a payoff for 2009, when all the young faces they see today are a year older and they have been through the battles of 2008.

Hawaii has only lost four games the last two years combined, but looking at that schedule, it’s not hard to picture at least that many, if not more, in 2008.

Well, that’s it for the ’08 Spring Fish Wraps. We hope you enjoyed these early looks at the WSU opponents for the upcoming season. I think it will be somewhat interesting – if not amusing – to look back at the fish wraps once the season gets going, just to see how WAY OFF we were in some of this stuff! That’s the beauty of it, really. You can read and watch video of these teams, but our view is really the view from 10,000 feet. And there are always surprises along the way. I mean really, if everything went according to plan, and the favorites won every week, wouldn’t life be pretty damn boring? Why even watch if everything goes like the experts say they will? That’s why we watch, because you just never know!

ENJOY YOUR TUESDAY, and most of all, enjoy your holiday weekend coming up. GO COUGS!