Archive for the ‘UW Football’ Category

The 2K Decade Revisited, PAC-10 Style

July 1, 2009


This post has been hijacked to wish HAWK a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

First of all, what a tough month on the celeb death front. A moment of silence for those who passed on…..

I loved Farah. She was like THE dream-gal of dream gals back in the day. Raise your hand if you at least knew someone who had that poster on their wall. You know the one I mean.


What’s weird is that she was only on ONE season of Charlie’s Angels? You would have thought she was the entire franchise, but she sure cashed in there. And, yes, I loved Michael Jackson, but that was back in the Thriller/Beat It days, when everyone was trying to moonwalk. But once Michael decided he wanted to physically become Diana Ross, and all the ugly accusations and lawsuits against him with young boys? In other words, once “Jacko” went wacko? I was done. Sad to see him spiral down the tube like he did, but the guy had some serious issues. I would imagine being in the conversation as one of the most famous individuals on the planet for a number of years would do some weird things to you? Still, an amazing talent, a once-in-a generation type, ala Frank Sinatra and Elvis.

That said, I don’t know about you, but the Billy Mays death was one that made me the most sad of all. Not Billy Mays! He gets hit in the head with a piece of luggage on a rough landing of his flight into Tampa, then dies that night in his sleep? Probably a heart disease problem according to reports, but still, weird.

I think Mays might be one guy that Coug fans would have liked. Down to earth, hard worker, fun to be around, and lots of passion for what he does. I can imagine him wandering through WSU tailgate parties, handing him a Natural Light and a hot dog right off the grill, and just enjoying his company, more so than the others.


Well, OK, we’d probably enjoy Farah’s company too. But we like Mays. And no, I won’t insert a joke or video or whatever about the Sham Wow guy. Not today. Maybe tomorrow or the next day, but that would be disrespectful to Mr. Mays.

Moving on in a completely different direction, we thought it would be a good idea to take a look at how the PAC-10 has fared since the year 2000. If you remember, we looked at this last summer, and it was an eye-opener in how successful some teams were (Oregon State) and some teams weren’t (cough*UW*cough). Check out the updated numbers and see for yourself….

1) USC: 93-22 overall – 47-8 at home, 38-12 on the road, 8-2 in neutral sites/bowls. It just continues. At least 11 wins since the 2002 season, including the 2004 13-0 record. Still amazing to think that they started out the decade by going 5-7 and 6-6, but have lost just 9 games the last seven years. And SC has lost some key assistants over the years, including super-O-Coordinator Norm Chow, yet the machine rolls on. They have run away with the decade, and it’s clearly the era of the Trojan.

2) Oregon: 77-35 overall – 44-12 at home, 29-18 away, 4-4 in neutral sites/bowls. Just one losing season in the decade (5-6 in ’04), but otherwise a winner on an annual basis. Bellotti hands off a major PAC-10 power to Chip Kelly, and when you look at the numbers? It’s hard to imagine a better situation to walk into than the state of the program that Kelly inherits. Also included is now an impressive 27-9 non-conference record against some bigger-name programs. A super-strong number two to USC in the conference.

3) Oregon State: 72-40 overall – 43-12 at home, 23-27 on the road, 6-1 in neutral sites/bowl games. Just one win behind Oregon for #2 in home wins, and just five wins overall away from the Ducks, they are legit as legit can be. Don’t forget this program had 28 straight LOSING SEASONS before 1999! Since Mike Riley returned in 2003, the Beavs have had just one losing season(5-6 in ’05). It was a surprise to many last year when they came in such a strong #3, and it just continues this year.

4) CAL: 63-48 overall– 37-18 at home, 21-28 on the road, 5-2 in neutral sites/bowl games. A horrendous start to the decade (4-18 from ’00-’01), it has completely turned around. Like another Jahvid Best run through the Washington-Washington State defenses in ’08, Cal has sprinted to #4 in the conference, up from #7 last year. They won’t catch Oregon State for third, but there is no doubt Cal is on a roll. They are finally over .500 in conference, now at 38-36 after going 6-3 in the PAC last year. If Tedford sticks around long-term, this may be the most interesting team to watch once we get into the next decade. After all, Tedford is now an impressive 59-30 at CAL in seven seasons. It’s hard to imagine CAL going away anytime soon?

5) ASU: 61-50 overall – 41-19 at home, 18-27 on the road, 2-4 in neutral sites/bowl games. A rough ’08 season at 5-7, but still good enough to catch UCLA for #5. They continued their road struggles last year, just 1-4 away from home (the lone win @ UW). Very similar to UCLA, now with three losing seasons this decade (’01, ’03, ’08). Also like UCLA, a couple of breakthrough seasons (9-3 in ’04, 10-3 in ’07), but otherwise a .500 record. They continue to be strong out of conference though, where even with some tough losses to UNLV and Georgia last season, they still are at 26-10 OOC for the decade.

6) UCLA: 60-51 overall – 38-18 at home, 20-28 on the road, 2-5 in neutral sites/bowl games. #4 in the PAC-10 wins last year, they have been passed by CAL and ASU and now sit at #6. A big step back last year at 4-8, but overall just three losing seasons in the decade (’03, ’07’, ’08). And even prior to last year, their previous two losing seasons, both were of the 6-7 variety. But aside from their ’05 ten-win season, they’ve hovered around .500 for the decade. Still a pretty good home record even with a down year last year at 3-4, just their second home losing record in the decade (2-4 in ’02).

7) WSU: 56-53 overall – 26-24 at home, 23-25 on the road, 7-3 in neutral sites/bowl games (including 5-2 in Qwest Field). You know the deal here. WSU has fallen down a peg to 7th in the decade. Three straight top-ten finishes in the polls from ’01 through ’03, but home for the holidays ever since. ’06 was promising, at one point 6-3 and ranked, but the season fell apart down the stretch. Still hanging in at over .500 at home, slightly under .500 on the road, but nearly a .500 record overall. Interesting that WSU is nearly a .500 school all-time? According to the WSU media guide, since 1894, WSU’s combined record is 494-484-45 (45 ties?? YUCK!). So, I guess one could say that the 2K decade has gone just about the same as WSU has done in it’s entire body of work/history? Some great heights, some ugly depths, but basically hovering near .500.

8) UW: 44-64 overall– 29-29 at home, 14-32 on the road, 1-3 in neutral sites/bowl games. Like last year, this is where you see a big separation from the rest of the teams. UW has 13 fewer wins that WSU, 17 fewer that UCLA in the decade. 0-12 is a huge anchor on their record, but this isn’t a one-year fluke. You have to remember where UW was when the decade started to wrap your head around this thing. 11-1 and Rose Bowl champs in 2000, 8-4 in 2001, 7-6 in 2002 and even 6-6 in 2003. It all fell apart in ’04 though, a 1-10 campaign considered by many as one of the worst teams in UW history….at least until ’08 happened. But anyway, that ’04 season ended a string of 27 straight non-losing seasons, but it’s been down in the dumps ever since. Now with five consecutive losing seasons and on their fourth different coach this decade, it’s been a mind-bending fall down the ladder.

You know the weirdest thing of all? Not so much the overall record, I mean that is a surprise when you consider where UW used to sit in the pecking order. But they are now an even .500 at home after going 0-7 in Husky stadium last year. Remember Husky Stadium, back in the 90’s? That place used to freakin’ SHAKE it was so loud. One of the most intimidating venues in the country, teams used to relieve themselves down one leg when they lined up and heard that crowd. Times have certainly changed in Montlake. But it’s a new era, so we’ll see if they can recapture that setting that used to be a complete nightmare for opposing teams.

9) Arizona: 41-64 overall – 25-34 at home, 15-30 on the road, 1-0 in neutral site/bowl games. After last year’s 8-5 season, they have inched past Stanford for #9 in the conference. While still 9 games under .500 at home, they did go 5-2 in Tucson, their second home-winning record this decade (4-2 in ’07). They do have a realistic shot at catching UW, just three wins behind them for 8th place in the decade with this ’09 season yet to come. But they are trending upward and may have turned a corner after last season’s bowl-win over BYU.

10) Stanford: 39-64 overall – 23-30 at home, 16-33 on the road, 0-1 in neutral sites/bowl games. Another big separation from the rest of the PAC, Stanford still has just one winning season this decade (9-3 in ’01). But they are clearly making progress under Jim Harbaugh. However, even after a promising 5-7 mark last year, they have fallen to 10th place in the conference. But, considering Harbaugh inherited one of the worst recent teams in PAC-10 history (1-11 in ’06), they are now 9-15 under Captain Comeback. They continued to struggle on the road though, just one victory away from home last year (@UW). But they are on the rise, and we think they are staring at bowl-eligibility this year for just the second time this decade.

So there you have it. No surprises at the very top, a still-nice surprise at Oregon State at number three, and a high-riser in CAL at number four.

That’s it for a Wednesday. Enjoy it, and as always, GO COUGS!

Spring Fish Wrap – UW Edition

June 23, 2009


And now we come to the end of the line, as our in-state friends from Montlake are up as the final WSU opponent of 2009.

I guess, honestly, there are a lot of ways a Coug can go. We could rip them for 0-12 and the third WSU Apple Cup victory in the last four years. We could add a counter to the site, showing how many days it’s been since UW won a football game (we won’t do that. But psst…if you are curious? As of this writing, it’s been 584 days since they tasted victory….I know, right?!)

We could joke about their beliefs that they are ultra-superior to many PAC-10 programs, yet they have been one of the worst since 2000 (more on that later). We could poke them for a small, mouthy group of Coug alums single-handedly sinking their $150 million dollar Olympia tax grab towards a renovation of Husky Stadium. Not that it’s entirely true, of course, as there were several factors at play when Olympia failed to act. We’re just the easy scapegoat, and it’s understandable. Don’t get your way? Blame someone else. Case closed.

But nah. We won’t do any of those things. It’s a new era in Seattle, as Stevie Sarkisian steps away from the rather large shadow of Pete Carroll and takes the reins of his own PAC-10 program. And Sarkisian was able to lure his partner in crime at SC, Nick Holt, back to the Northwest to lead his defense. And so far, it’s safe to say the guy is winning the “battle of the podium”, don’t you think so? From the super-energetic press conferences, the endless Twitter updates with how awesome everything is (“12:30 – stuck in traffic. GO DAWGS!”), etc. But you know what? It’s working. UW’s racking up the verbal commits, and right now they have the top collection of verbals in the PAC-10. That list includes QB prospect Nick Montana.


You know, Nick Montana. The son of Joe Montana. The QB Husky fans wanted all along. Please, pay no attention to all the lapping up of all-things-Jake-Heaps. That was all just a big joke. They are happy Heaps is following his heart and headed for Provo to play for BYU. They never wanted him anyway. It was always about Montana…..

Anyway, whatever.

Look, there are signs that Sarkisian is off to a good start. Even Coug fans can see it. Reports are that spring practices were filled with energy and enthusiasm, and the local media has been slurping it up. Sarkisian has reportedly reached out to the fans, opening the practices and doing what he can to get people involved and excited.

And why not? The last regime was about as exciting as another loss on a rainy November day in Seattle. Not only did they have a closed off, stubborn coach who was too serious/boring, they also LOST A LOT OF FOOTBALL GAMES IN THE PROCESS! Ty Willingham’s record was an abysmal 11-37 in Seattle (wow!), including 6-29 in the PAC-10. That four-year stench includes three 10th place finishes, with the lone bright spot a 9th place finish in 2006.

But what happens when they actually have to play a game? Will there still be butterflies when Sarkisian enters the room? And how much energy and enthusiasm will he have if they get blown out, or start the era off slowly? And after spring ball, what exactly does he have to work with? Let’s take a look…

2008: 0-12, and they looked awful doing it. Included was a hard-to-swallow 28-27 loss to BYU, when Jake Locker drew an excessive celebration penalty for throwing the football about 50 feet over his head as he scored in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. 15-yard penalty, BYU blocks the PAT, GAME OVER, drive home safely. And of course, the ’08 Apple Cup, pitting two of the worst Washington-Washington State teams in the modern age against each other on the same field. We know how that turned out….

“WHEEE! We’re not the worst ever!”

But all in all, from top to bottom, just about the worst experience imaginable for UW’s 2008 season.

FANS ARE: JACKED UP ON HOLT AND SARK SAUCE!

They have been drinking it by the gallon, and are convinced that things are all set to turn around. The eternally optimistic Sark is in the midst of a long, tender embrace at the bosom of Husky nation. And we can’t really blame them for being excited after such an awful ’08 season. But get a few Zima’s in a Husky fan, and deep down, they will admit that the feeling among the Husky faithful understand that this thing is going to take a while to right the ship. This wasn’t just a bad team because of Jake Locker’s thumb injury that sidelined him for 2/3rds of the season. There was a team-wide lack of talent, athleticism and speed, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. It will take time to get pieces in the right place to succeed.

LAST TIME vs. WSU: We’ve been over it already, but a 16-13 double-OT thriller of sorts. If you recall, the game was nearly over, with UW holding a 10-7 lead. Well, here’s ESPN’s recap of how regulation ended:

Washington controlled the action for 59 minutes, bringing themselves to the verge of snapping the longest losing streak in the country and becoming the last Football Bowl Subdivision team to beat someone. The Huskies (0-11, 0-8 Pac-10) bounced on the sideline at the prospect of ending the worst skid in school history.

Then their misery was extended thanks to an unlikely hookup that added a new duo to Apple Cup lore.

Washington State quarterback Kevin Lopina, playing just a week after getting knocked out with a concussion, was erratic all day. He missed easy throws and open receivers. He ran when he shouldn’t and often threw to the wrong receiver.

But he was nearly perfect in the final minute as the Cougars drove 69 yards to force overtime. After hitting Brandon Gibson to convert a third-and-1 at his own 34, Lopina found freshman Jared Karstetter right in stride sprinting behind a beaten Washington secondary. Karstetter, with only three catches all season, raced for 48 yards to the Washington 18 with 24 seconds left and suddenly overtime was a possibility.

“You never really plan on something like that,” Karstetter said.

Karstetter then caught a 7-yard pass but didn’t get out of bounds, forcing Lopina to rush to the line and spike the ball with 2 seconds left. Grasu, with a nervous stutter step at the start of his approach, then hit the first of his three kicks to send the game to overtime tied at 10.

The Cougs would capitalize on two Ryan Perkins missed field goals, the last leading off the second OT, and WSU’s Nico Grasu would nail the game-winner from 37 yards out.

OFFENSIVE SYSTEM: It’s going to be different in ’09, that’s for sure. Expect a lot of what you used to see out of USC, with a decidedly west-coast-offense flavor. Look for a fullback, a tight end, and multiple WR sets on occasion. But the big change is supposedly going to be at QB, where Sarkisian has already claimed that Jake Locker is going to learn to be a more complete QB who stays home vs. tucking and running at the first sign of trouble. The QB running the ball isn’t going to be completely taken out, but, it will certainly be curtailed a bit in the new pro-style offense.

’08 OFFENSIVE RANKINGS:
117th in scoring offense (13.3 ppg), 106th in rushing offense (99.3 ypg), 101st in passing offense (163.8 ypg), and 116th in total offense (263.2 ypg). Granted, the majority of the season was with a redshirt frosh QB in Ronnie Fouch, who was clearly not the caliber of QB in Jake Locker. But a miserable year offensively.

’09 RETURNING OFFENSIVE STARTERS: Hard to say, but some accounts say six starters are back, others say up to eight. But no matter the number, there are a lot of familiar faces back from last year among starters and backups.

TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER: Who else but Jake Locker?


A fabulous athlete who could probably play running back, linebacker or safety in the PAC-10, he’s the best football player on the UW roster. He had a flashy ’07 season, but it was a little bit of fools gold if you want to know the truth. Sure, he ran for nearly 1,000 yards, and he threw for over 2,000 his first year. But he threw more INT’s than TD’s, and his completion percentage was a pedestrian 47%. In ’08, there was some improvement intially in terms of taking care of the ball, as Locker didn’t throw a pick in the three and 1/2 games he played. He completed 53.8% of his passes last year, up from the 47% the prior year. But he threw just one TD and was averaging only 128 yards per game through the air when he went down with the broken thumb in week four. He is really going to have to take some strides in the accuracy department as a passer if UW has any hope of making some noise in ’09.

DEFENSIVE SCHEME: Think USC defense, only not as big, fast or talented. But seriously, it will be your garden variety 4-3. DC Nick Holt will bring the intensity, that’s for sure, and the USC defenses have been legendary of late.

’08 DEFENSIVE RATINGS: You thought they were bad in ’07, where Washington set school records for defensive futility? They were WORSE in ’08. Hide your eyes….

116th in the country in scoring defense (38.6), 117th in rushing D (240.6 ypg), 62nd in passing yards per game (211.2), and 110th in total defense (451.8). Washington would finish last in the PAC-10 in interceptions (7), and would tie for last in sacks (16). So basically a push-over defense that didn’t take the ball away OR get pressure on the QB. Yikes.

’09 RETURNING STARTERS: At least they’ll be experienced. UW returns eight starters on D, including the return of linebacker EJ Savannah.

TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER: We could go with Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, he of his eight sacks on a terrible defense last year. He had exactly 50% of the team total in that category alone, so at least he didn’t quit in a lost year. Mason Foster had a breakthrough ’08, leading the team in tackles (105) and tackles-for-loss (12). But instead, I’m going with the number one player who will make the biggest impact in ’09, and that is EJ Savannah.


Savannah had a huge 2007 season. He led the team with 111 tackles, 14 for loss, a couple of sacks and an INT from the outside linebacker position. But grades and other issues, including not seeing eye-to-eye with Willingham, plus a broken arm suffered from arm wrestling (?), had Savannah on the sidelines for ’08. But with the hire of Sarkisian, Savannah gets a clean slate. He’s back for his senior year, ready to lead in ’09. Health has been a problem for Savannah in the past, where he missed some time in ’06 with a hand injury and ’05 with a neck issue lingering from high school. But if he’s healthy, he’s a lead-pipe cinch to rack up at least 100 tackles.

TOP THREE SPRING QUESTIONS:

1) How does Locker look in the new offense? This might have been the biggest story of the entire spring, and that is Locker looks to be over the broken thumb from last year. He had a productive spring, and was reportedly improving with each practice.


But, like it or not, the heat – and weight of the UW program – will be on Locker to improve, quickly, in the revamped UW offense. Sarkisian knows his QB’s, playing the position at BYU and coaching several good ones at USC (Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, John David Booty and Mark Sanchez). You have to believe he knows what he’s doing with a talent like this. We’ll see if it actually translates to the field. I wouldn’t count Locker out though. He is on a special level in terms of ability, among the most physically gifted to ever play the position in the conference.

2) Can the offensive line give Locker a chance to be special in ’09?


Everyone thought the return of Juan Garcia for a PAC-10 record 17th season at center last year would mean UW would road-grate their way to all sorts of rushing records (note – Garcia only played five years. It just felt like he’d been at UW since a young upstart named Bill Clinton won the White House). But the line was a disappointment, as the running game averaged only 2.8 yards per carry.

And quite honestly, as a group they might have been exposed a bit once Locker was out of the lineup. Locker’s scrambling ability kept defenses honest, but he was so elusive that he helped mask a line that was strong, but below-average at pass-blocking and looked a little soft around the midsection. They gave up 32 sacks last year, not a terrible number, but 10 of those were in the first 3 1/2 games with Locker at QB. Even he couldn’t get out of the way of the opposing pass-rush.


Three starters are back up front, including the entire left side plus the center in Ryan Tolar. But the right side is new, featuring converted defensive tackle Senio Kelemete moving across the line to right guard. Their top priority has to be keeping #10 healthy and confident in the new scheme, or else it could be another long, brutal season on offense.

3) Can the D get any worse? After a school-worst ’07 defensive season, UW brought in Ed Donatell with his shiny NFL resume’ to turn it all around, but they actually took a step back in ’08. Pretty amazing, but ’08 was WORSE than ’07. But as stated above, they will be experienced, and the return of EJ Savannah will be a huge boost to the defense. The top five tacklers are back from last year, and that doesn’t even include Savannah. I bet that with the number of experienced returners, combined with the energy and intensity of Holt, will see this group improve by leaps and bounds over ’08.

WSU FOOTBALL BLOG SEZ: It’s been a slow roll down the hill for UW, but in ’08, they finally hit bottom. The reality though is that this thing didn’t just flatline overnight. It’s been flickering for years. Including the 2000 season, where UW won the Rose Bowl and went 11-1, the Huskies are now just 44-62 this decade, 29-29 at home. That puts UW 8th in the conference since the 2000 season. But instability has had a lot to do with it. UW is now on their fourth coach since that glorious Rose Bowl year (Neuheisel-Gilby-Willingham-Sarkisian), and that’s just far too many changes to build anything with consistency. Compare that string with the Oregon schools for example, where it’s been Mike Riley for several years, and Mike Bellotti for many more than that before Chip Kelly got the Oregon gig this year.

It’s hard to know exactly what they are getting with Sarkisian. A positive salesman and showing to be a pretty good recruiter right now, absolutely. And it’s hard to argue against his success with QB’s at USC. But as is often the case, predicting what a long-time assistant is going to do when he gets his own BCS program and all that goes with it is very difficult.

The schedule gets off to a rough start. They open with LSU in Seattle, where that SEC speed and power will be on full display to open the Sarkisian era. They get a layup the next week in Idaho, where the losing streak should finally come to an end. But then it’s USC on 9/19, where Sarkisian gets first crack at Pete Carroll. They close out September with a tough road game at Stanford, where Harbaugh and the Cardinal are looking like they could be one of the surprise teams of the PAC-10 in ’09. Then they open October at South Bend, where Notre Dame has the look of a potential BCS bowl written all over them! It could very well be a 1-4 start to ’09.

They also go to ASU, UCLA and Oregon State, while they host Arizona, Oregon, WSU and close the year against Cal on 12/5.

In the end, there is nowhere to go but up here. And they will be better, probably a lot better defensively. But it’s going to be a process. If I’m a UW fan, I’m looking at things with the idea of improvement across the board as the ’09 season goes on. Not so much the W’s and the L’s, but what kind of effort and intensity are the Jimmie’s and Joe’s putting out on a weekly basis? And with that, if they show some real improvement, well, 2010 could be a year they return to respectibility. Locker will be a senior by then, and right now there are a lot of sophomores and juniors up and down the roster. In 2010 those young kids will be upper classmen, and it could be a year where they make some noise. But we’ll see. Sarkisian is a lot of “sizzle” right now, but will there be any steak to go with it? We’ll find out!

That’s it for a Tuesday. I hope you have enjoyed the ’09 WSU Fish Wrap series. We have a link to the top-left of our links, so you can go back and see every ’09 WSU opponent, plus you can check them out here. ENJOY YOUR DAY, 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!

Tuesday Rip-Job

November 18, 2008

Apple Cup WOOOO! Poor thing. At least she doesn’t need someone to hold her hair back. She’s got it covered, thanks. “A” for effort anyway.

Moving on, there is SO MUCH out there in cyberspace right now about this game, so many ways to break it down, that it’s tough to know where to go. We will hold off our preview until the usual football Thursday. So I thought it was a good idea to see what others are saying right now.

First, Sir Vince Grippi broke down the startling numbers for this one on both sides, pointing out the magic number 119, as in 119 division I teams. Among the eyesores:

Rushing offense: WSU is 115th in the nation (85.9 yards per game), UW 114 (86.4).

Passing offense: WSU is 104th in the nation (150.5 yards per game), UW 96 (177.1).

Rushing defense: WSU is 118th in the nation (266.6 yards per game), UW 116 (228.5).

Scoring defense: WSU is 118th in the nation (48.5 points per game), UW 116 (39.9).

Scoring offense: WSU is 118th in the nation (12.6 points per game), UW 117 (13.9).

Puts in in good perspective at just how poorly both of these teams have played this year. This isn’t a one or two or even three-week slump, this is an entire seasons body of work.

Howie Stalwick does an excellent job of a positive-negative look at the state of Washington State under Paul Wulff. Some decent positives, and some honest negatives as well, so give it a look. I really like what Howie highlighted here:

3. Despite a disastrous season, Wulff has landed nine oral commitments, all of whom Scout.com ranks among the top 100 high school seniors in the nation at their respective positions.

Some of you have questioned pretty much everything about this change to Paul Wulff. I know I have been generally positive towards this regime, that despite all the pain right now, he’s doing this thing the right way. Some of you have accused me of a “Pollyanna” approach, and maybe we don’t look at things with an honest eye to what is going on. But most of the changes thus far haven’t been tangible things that us, the fans, can see and experience. It’s all been behind the scenes, where the real work happens on a day to day basis, and where the success or failure of a program is really determined.

But can anyone really blame the fan base for having more than a few WTF(!) moments this year? Can anyone argue that it’s been nothing but a failure on the field? I certainly can’t. This has been the rock-bottom season of seasons, and there isn’t any way to get around that. But while the rip jobs have been coming left and right in message board and blog-comment land since mid-season on Wulff, well, what about the lifeblood of a college football program? What about recruiting? When it’s all said and done, the reality here is that this *might* turn out to be the best recruiting class, in pure “star” ratings and rankings, that WSU has ever signed. Think about that for a second – the BEST recruiting class, in this season, perhaps the worst season ever? What does that tell you about the job these guys are doing off the field?

Combine the recruiting news with some of the other off-the-field things that this staff has done, staying on players to go to class, hit the training table for meals, get their work done in the weight room, implementing the team council for discipline, etc, etc, etc? I don’t know about you, but I still believe that this is the guy, and this is the staff, to turn it around.

We heard from a good source last week that there are changes happening. Our source went to where the players eat their meals on a regular basis. Earlier in the year, he said the place was totally empty and you could just walk right in. This time? The place was PACKED, to where he had to wait to just get a place to sit. It was filled with players, and they were all loading up their plates with huge amounts of food. And the best thing is that it wasn’t just football players. All the teams were in there, including what appeared to be the entire men’s basketball team, all eating together. So perhaps Wulff is helping change some of the things in the entire athletic department?

But overall, this recruiting class could be exhibit 1-A of at least something we can glob onto in these dark days. Despite these unreal depths of 2008, these coaches are still out there working as hard as they can, selling this program and the university for all that it can offer a prospective student-athlete. Look at how hard they are working in the face of adversity. Instead of sitting back with their feet on the desk, they are working hard behind the scenes. Most of all, they are getting back to what made WSU successful in the Price era, by outworking the others and turning over rocks to find those talented, high-character types that want to be a Coug.

Finally, we heard a strong rumor late last week that suggested Jake Locker was going to be a gameday surprise from UW and actually play this week with a new cast on the broken thumb. Turns out that won’t be the case. Sorry for the false alarm. Not that we WANTED to see Jake Locker play, as he could probably just take the snap, tuck it and run all afternoon and it would still be enough. So we’ll have to get by with Ronnie Fouch vs. K-Lo or Jay-TEE.

That’s it for a Tuesday. Enjoy it, and as always, GO COUGS!

Weird End to Ugly Era

October 28, 2008

As Art Thiel wrote in the P-I today, these things never go well, do they? The Paint Dry Ty era came to an announced end yesterday….five games before the end of the year, which is weird….but an end that everyone in the free world saw coming since he was retained last year. And nice touch with the purple-n-gold sign, eh? That is someone who spent WAY too much time on something derogatory towards their own coach. Must be a pretty proud moment for a guy that age to get his picture in the paper for his sign ripping the local college football coach. And nice purple satin jacket on the guy on the right. (‘m thinking 1982, K-Mart?)

Obviously UW fans are beyond frustrated. This was year four of the Ty Willie experiment, a year in which they had planned on taking a big step forward. They blew a few games last year in a 4-9 season, and it was sound enough reasoning to say that if they could have held on in the Apple Cup, the Hawaii game, and the Arizona game, all games they had at least a two-score lead, UW could have been 7-6 and a bowl team last year. So, sure, they would probably struggle early with a tough schedule, but after some lumps it would be the year it all turns around. But alas, here they are, down Jake Locker and a host of other players, sitting at 0-7 and staring at a certain 0-8 after they “bow down” to USC this Saturday. Willingham is 11-32 overall, just a brutal record. And I heard it was so bad during Saturday’s blowout loss to Notre Dame that, during a commercial on the big screen featuring Willingham doing charity work with children, the fans booed. The masses are so down right now though, they could throw a picture of the Easter Bunny, Santa, and puppies on the big screen and they would get ripped. Tough crowd.

So here’s a question for the WSU faithful – and I’m serious here – but is UW what it used to be? The KJR types are yakking it up about how they need to go hire a rock star head coach to return UW to prominence. But is it that easy? Can they ever get back to how things used to be? I don’t care if they hired Nick Saban, Steven Spurrier, Les Miles, Jim Mora, Lane Kiffin or Mike Holmgren, right now this job is NOT what it used to be. Consider:

1) The record – Since Y2k – and this INCLUDES their 2000 season where they went 11-1 – UW is now 44-59. That is good for eight in the Pac-10, ahead of only Stanford and Arizona. This isn’t a one or two or even three-year downturn. This is a disturbing trend, especially when you consider where they started the decade. For what it’s worth, with UW’s loss vs. Notre Dame, they have now clinched their fifth consecutive losing season. Their last non-losing season was 2003, where they went 6-6.

2) The facilities – You know the drill. They have been touting for 18 months how badly UW needs the work done on their aging old lady on Montlake. The place is literally falling apart. And yes, they have their hand out for $150 million in public funds. Good luck with that. For a stadium that would be used, what, 5-6 times a year? The track would be removed in their renovation, so they can’t argue it would be used for that. And Qwest Field is already hosting soccer, so that’s out as well. So let’s see – in a major economic downturn, with a huge state deficit, they are paying Willingham $1 million alone to disappear, and they are saying they are going to go “big” on their next head coach, speculated to be in the $2 million per year range? AND they want public money to pay for half of their $300 million renovation, the most expensive college renovation EVER?? Whatever. Don’t ask don’t get, sure, but for them to cry poor mouth right now is insane.

3) The Landscape – While UW has struggled during the Y2K decade, guess who has climbed right past them in the NW? No, not WSU (although WSU has finished ahead of UW in the Pac-10 standings for seven straight years, and has 11 more wins than UW since Y2K….not that anyone is counting….but still). Check out what’s been going on in Oregon. Did you know that outside of USC, Oregon and Oregon State are two-three in the Pac-10 in terms of record this decade? Better than Cal, better than ASU, better than UCLA. This isn’t a mistake or misprint. The Oregon schools have taken off while UW has slid down the pole.

Why? Well, sugar daddies help. Phil Knight with Oregon obviously, and Reser has been a boost. But with the sugar daddies also came better facilities. And nobody can argue against the idea that Oregon and Oregon State have two of the nicer venues in the west. They both have built a strong donor base, filled with rabid fans who expect to win games.

And, when you combine success and great facilities as well as some excellent head coaches in the two Mike’s – Bellotti and Riley – well, you can see how the Oregon schools have been heading off the California talent at the pass. Back in the day, when UW was winning Pac-10 titles, the flow of talent into Seattle was impressive from SoCal. Today, not so much.

The biggest thing the Oregon schools have done is to completely hurt the depth at a school like UW. Every school suffers injuries, even the USC’s of the world. But they simply reload with all-Americans. With Oregon and Oregon State nabbing that talent that used to show up in Seattle, now, UW has lost their layers of depth that they used to boast as simply reloading, never rebuilding. They’ll still get the Jake Locker’s of the world, but it’s what is next to him and around him that is just as important.

Now, I know, I know, I shouldn’t throw stones from this glass house. But I’m really not. WE are in the middle of completely bottoming-out, staring at 1-win world right now. But guess what? We’re actually one step AHEAD of UW in the process. I know that sounds crazy. But when you think about it, we are already a few phases into a stadium renovation that, when done, will be a pretty cool game-day setting that will only help in recruiting.

And despite the sniping this year from some of you with our big drop in quality, we already have our coach with which to rebuild. Wulff had an OK first recruiting class last year, but this year is off to an excellent start in the verbal commitment department. UW still has a facility headache on their hands, and, they need to get their next coach to start the process.

So there you have it. Willingham coaches out the rest of the year while UW begins the search for his successor. A weird end to an ugly era.

Enjoy your Tuesday, and GO COUGS!

The 2K Decade – How the Pac-10 Has Fared

August 1, 2008

There were some interesting comments to come out of our own Rooster’s picks from Monday. Misguided as some of them were, as the muscle-bound anonymous was out to hate on us, well, someone brought up a good point in taking a look at how the NW schools have done since Y2K. I took a look at the conference beginning with the 2000 season, and thought the numbers were not only interesting, but deserving of it’s own post. So here goes:

Here’s all 10 teams in the conference starting from Y2K (neutral site records includes bowl games and non-traditional home sites for either team):

1) USC: 81-21 overall – 41-8 at home, 33-11 on the road, 7-2 in neutral sites. No surprise here. An amazing string of at least 11 wins since the 2002 season, including the 2004 13-0 record. What was interesting was that they started out 5-7 and 6-6 for the first two years, yet have lost just eight games over the last six seasons. The perception has been that it’s USC and then everyone else fighting for second place. Hard to argue against that in any way, shape or form when you look at the numbers!

2) Oregon: 67-32 overall – 39-12 at home, 25-16 away, 3-4 in neutral sites. A rough 2004 season where they went 5-6 is the only non-winning season in the decade. An impressive 25-8 non-conference record, and not just against Cupcake State either, as the Quack Attack hasn’t shied away from scheduling an “A” game. And the Autzen Stadium home-field advantage is strong as advertised. 39-12 is nothing to sneeze at. I was impressed with their road record, and their conference record was strong at 42-24, including three seasons of 7-1 (2000, 2001 and 2005).

3) Oregon State: 63-36 overall – 38-11 at home, 20-24 on the road, 5-1 in neutral sites. The surprise obviously is how good they have been the last eight seasons. You can also see how strong the Reser Stadium advantage really is. Remember, prior to the 1999 season, Oregon State had a 28-year streak of LOSING seasons. While Dennis Erickson gets a lot of credit for turning things around, you cannot help but be impressed by the work of Mike Riley. Erickson initially won with many of the players Riley recruited, and since Riley returned in 2003, the Beavs have had just one losing season(5-6 in ’05). A huge tip of the cap toward the plucky Beavs. They should be proud of the program they have become.

4) UCLA: 56-43 – 35-14 at home, 19-24 on the road, 2-5 in neutral sites. While people love to rip on the Bruins and their fall from the elite, well, it’s not THAT bad. Just two losing seasons, and both were 6-7 affairs (2007 and 2003). Still, aside from their 2005 10-2 breakthrough, they’ve hovered just above the .500 mark. The home record is pretty impressive, and even though they’ve gone just 13-13 the last two seasons, they have gone 10-3 at home. Only one losing season at home, 2-4 in 2002, they’ve won 16 of their last 19 games in the Rose Bowl.

5) ASU: 56-43 – 37-16 at home, 17-23 on the road, 2-4 in neutral sites. I guess the big surprise to me was the road record. I knew they were good at home, and if you’ve been to a game in Tempe before you know that they do have a strong home-field advantage. But I didn’t realize they were six games under .500 on the road the last eight seasons. Similar to UCLA, they have at least had two big breakthrough seasons, 9-3 in 2004 and 10-3 in 2007. Only two losing seasons, 5-7 in ’03 and 4-7 in ’01, but otherwise they’ve hung in at the .500 mark. Interesting flip in their conference record, where they are just 31-35, yet out of conference, 25-8.

6) WSU: 54-41 – 24-20 at home, 23-19 on the road, 7-2 in neutral sites (including 5-1 in Seattle). We know all too well the story here. An unprecedented three straight top-ten finishes in the polls from 2001 through 2003, but it’s been a bowl-less drought ever since. 2006 was promising, at one point 6-3 and ranked, but the season fell apart due to injuries and finished with bitter 6-6 pill that really began the Doba Must Go talk. I thought the road record was interesting, a better mark that Oregon State, ASU, UCLA and Cal. But just 24-20 at home kind of sucks doesn’t it? The trip to Pullman is a bitch, and the small stadium can be as loud as any other Pac-10 venue when it’s packed due to how close the fans are to the action, but to be just 4 above .500 isn’t good enough. Maybe that will change with Wulff.

7) CAL: 54-44 – 30-18 at home, 20-24 on the road, 4-2 in neutral sites. Cal has recovered nicely from a disaster to start the decade, where they went 3-8 in 2000 and a brutal 1-10 in 2001 (where have you gone, Tom Holmoe??). Last year’s fade is on everyone’s brain, but Cal has still won at least seven games since 2002. Interesting was their conference record, just 32-34, but an impressive 22-10 OOC.

8) UW: 44-52 – 29-22 at home, 14-27 on the road, 1-3 in neutral sites. This is where you see a big separation from the rest of the teams, with UW at 10 fewer wins than WSU and Cal. Even eight games under .500, they are still seven games over .500 at home. But the home field clearly isn’t what it used to be. And the road record is rough. The thing is, UW started out hot this decade, rolling to 11-1 in 2000 and then it was 8-4 in 2001, 7-6 in 2002 and 6-6 in 2003. The bottom fell out in 2004, a 1-10 campaign considered by many the worst UW team in school history. The 2004 season was the first non-winning season in 27 years, but it’s been tough to climb out of the hole, now four straight losing seasons.

9) Stanford: 34-57 – 19-29 at home, 15-27 on the road, 0-1 in neutral sites. Another big separation from the rest of the PAC, Stanford with 10 fewer wins than 8th place UW. Just one winning season, a 9-3 campaign in 2001, Ty Willie’s last in Palo Alto. The worst was 2006, a 1-11 season considered not only the worst Stanford team in school history, but many rate it as one of the worst Pac-10 teams ever. And talk about no home-field advantage – they are just 3-16 in their last 19 home games. WOW that’s bad.

10) Arizona: 33-59 – 20-32 at home, 13-27 on the road (no neutral site games). I was surprised they were behind Stanford, but, when you consider AZ has been bowl-less since the 1998 Holiday Bowl, well, I guess it makes sense. Included in their record is an abysmal 19-47 record against the conference (WOW), but 14-12 outside the PAC. Their worst showing was 2003, where they finished 2-10, nearly had a player revolt against John Mackovic, and were actually outgained in conference play by 144 yards per game. AZ actually went 4-2 at home last year, the first time this decade they’ve had a winning home slate.

So there you have it, the conference since the new millennium. While the top three should hold firm in USC, Oregon and probably Oregon State, there could be a lot of movement from the rest of the teams as we play out the decade. And aside from USC’s domination in every way, shape and form, what do you think have been the biggest storylines so far? I would put Oregon State’s arrival as a legit bowl team as a big story. And sorry UW fans, but your fall from grace this decade has to be acknowledged. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts.

Don’t forget the Paul Wulff chat today at 11 AM.

And what do you know, today is 8/1. Are we really starting the season at the end of THIS month? Back-to-school ads already appearing in newspapers and TV? Where did the summer go??

AND AS ALWAYS, HAPPY FRIDAY TO Y’ALL, AND GO COUGS!