The offense is continuing to evolve in front of our eyes. Today, we saw more two-back sets and even some three-back sets from Sturdy and the Cougar offense. Although it may not seem it from looking at the box score, the running game was improved. Logwone Mitz got a chance to shine and put in a great effort, running hard and working for every yard. Jeff Tuel had his usual quiet, yet outstanding, day, throwing for 245 yards and a touchdown.
The catch by Daniel Blackledge in the end zone (picture above) was amazing, to say the least. After getting knocked silly and landing on his head, he still hung-on to the ball for the touchdown. Golf clap for that.
Jared Karstetter had himself a record day, hauling in 10 catches for 106 yards, including a beautiful catch down the sideline on a go route.The rapport Tuel and Karstetter have is evident and valuable moving forward. Between Karstetter and Wilson, Tuel has two great weapons on the outside that he doesn't hesitate to use.
I can't say enough about Logwone Mitz. His knowledge of the playbook has held him back a bit, but given the chance today, he answered the calls for "more Mitz" with authority.
How bout that three-back set the Cougs ran in short yardage? It worked right away in the first quarter, with Mitz almost scoring from six yards out before punching it in from the one. With the short yard woes well-document, Sturdy went outside the box to find a different way to shore up that aspect of the offense. Maybe he does have more creativity than we've given him credit for.
We scored against Oregon in the second half. In fact, we almost did it twice. Why is that a big deal? Coming into the game, Oregon had only given up seven second half points. The Cougs scored six in the third quarter and were in position to score again after that.
We never adjust at halftime, right? Well, today there was one big, obvious adjustment. WSU went from running mostly "10" personnel (4 WR 1 RB), to running "20" personnel (3 WR 2 RB) almost exclusively in the second half. It allowed them to get the running game going a bit more while also giving Tuel an extra blocker in the backfield.
Speaking of protection, Wulff wasn't too happy with the offensive line today. It seemed that they were improved to the naked eye, though. Tuel had time to throw, stepped up into the pocket and was able to work through his progressions regularly. The unit is improving, even if it's slowly.
- One bad throw. That's really all Tuel had today. He admitted he got greedy after the game, wanted to thread the ball in to the inside receiver and throwing into double coverage. Both he and Sturdy said the progression was inside-to-out, but he just locked-on a bit. Outside of that, Tuel had a heck of a day. How good has he been? After the game, Oregon head coach Chip Kelly pulled him aside and walked out of the stadium with him. Kelly told Tuel he's one of the best in the conference and he'll be singing Tuel's praises to anyone that listens. High praise from a very good coach.
- Only one turnover against a ball-hawking defense is something to be proud of. Tuel made good throws and the offense only let the ball hit the turf once, when Marquess Wilson fumbled on a screen. The ball security is also a big positive.
- The outside screen game just wasn't working well today. Receivers were missing blocks, leading to bubble screens and quick hitters getting blown up with regularity.
- Marquess Wilson made a heck of a grab down the left sideline in the second half. The play, according to Tuel, was a busted play, with receivers running the same route. Tuel kind of said "screw it" and threw it up for Wilson, who made a fantastic play on the ball. It's been a while since we've had that kind of receiver.
- Wilson was also a bit banged-up late in the game. He had one big drop, on a crossing route, that likely would've gone for a touchdown. It was the same play, according to Wulff, as the play against UCLA that almost scored. Tuel made an absolutely perfect throw, hitting Wilson just as he flashed free from the underneath coverage. The ball kind of ate Wilson up as he was shielded by the defender.
- I had five drops marked down and there was likely more than that. It just wasn't a good day for the receivers. There were also a few times receivers quit on routes, leading to throws that looked worse than they were or near-interceptions. These are simple mistakes that can be crippling.
I'm, again, proud of the offense and their continued evolution. After a slow start, they're coming around in a hurry. I'm starting to believe Tuel is one of the top quarterbacks in the conference. He's smart, he makes good throws and he's fearless behind a line that hasn't been stellar. If the backs can get going -- and they started to today -- we're in great shape now and in the future.
I want to end on a personal note that has nothing to do with what we saw on the field. For those of you that don't know, Vince Grippi's father passed away Thursday night. He wrote a beautiful eulogy
, of sorts, on his blog that brought a tear to my eye.
I went to practice Friday and wouldn't have blamed Vince for taking the day off. After all, it was only a basic walkthrough that really provides little in the way of information and it was his birthday, among everything else going on. Yet there he was, chugging along and taking in practice as usual. The man is a tireless worker and I've gained a new respect for his job from watching him work. I've enjoyed every short-interaction I've had with him and it's very fun to talk football with him. What he brings to the Cougar family, through his reporting and his funny anecdotes, is irreplaceable and, for that, I thank him.