WSU Continues To Improve; Enjoy The Ride

After being blown out in Stillwater and narrowly escaping Montana State at home, I was done. I was done with the team, done with the staff and had little hope for this year. Everything looked bleak and it was depressing to watch as a fan.

Then things started to change. The defense was improved against SMU and the Cougs were in the game at halftime. Taking on a talented USC team at home, offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy opened the playbook and gave us a glimpse of what the offense could be. That continued the next week in Pasadena. Finally, we had some hope, at least on one side of the ball.

This week, nobody gave the Cougs a chance. Listen to Craig, Jeff and I talk about the game on the podcast. Read Grady's tailgater's guide. We just hoped Oregon wouldn't hang 100 on a Cougar defense that looked lost against the run.

Even Oregon didn't take WSU serious. It was evident from their play on Saturday and the comments leading up to the game. Darron Thomas said they wanted to use the game to work on things. Many players and fans on the other side figured the Ducks would come in, scrimmage the Cougs and walk out with a blowout. That didn't happen.

Sure the Ducks may have overlooked WSU. But this is a team that's so talented, they can overlook a team and still run them off the field. The fact that Oregon may have given WSU less than their full attention doesn't take anything away from the way the Cougs played yesterday. They fought, scrapped and clawed to give Oregon one heck of a game.

I only wish this game would've been on TV outside of Oregon because the box score doesn't tell the whole story. If you're a fan of WSU and didn't see this, rest assured this was a changed team. They played physical, disciplined football and gave the Ducks plenty to handle. The final score and statistics just don't do it justice.

Maybe we expected too much from the start. We were sold on the pitch Paul Wulff and his staff had been serving all summer about improvement and a competitive team. Early in the season, it sure look like another case of "here we go again" for the Cougs.

After a blowout at the hands of the Trojans, wide receiver Jeffrey Solomon said the team is "so close (to being good) it's not even funny." Many of us shrugged it off and thought "Yeah, right. Sure we are, Jeffrey." In hindsight, maybe his statement wasn't so far from the truth.

The team is buying in and, as a result, many of the fans are starting to buy in again. Listen to the players and coaches talk now. They all believe they have the talent to compete with anyone in this conference. It took starting the Pac-10 scheduling and proving to themselves they can hang with some of the top teams, but they've sold themselves on it.

Today, I have hope. I have hope for the future, but I also have hope for the rest of the season. I see continued improvement -- on both sides of the ball -- every game. The team is getting stronger, working to fix mistakes and gaining confidence in the process. The confidence in their abilities and the belief that they finally belong should go a long way the rest of the season.

If the Cougs continue to move forward and improve, the wins will come and they'll come soon. Before the UCLA game, I had little hope that WSU could even compete and put themselves in a position to win. Now, after hanging with the best team in the conference, it feels like WSU can play any team in the Pac-10 tough, giving us all hope.

Sit back and enjoy the ride because we're watching a young team learn how to win and compete right in front of our eyes. Stick with them through the rough patches because one of these days they're going to jump up and surprise us all.

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