Yesterday was a great, dominating win for a Washington State team that desperately needed it. The win wasn't perfect, however, and many of the same mistakes we've seen over the course of the season continued to rear their ugly heads against the Beavers. Penalties that killed drives for the offense and a handful of mental mistakes have been a recurring theme this season. It's enough to drive a man insane.
Many of us watched the game waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's not just the mentality of being a Coug, but what we've been conditioned to do watching this team all year. Sequences usually involve a big play, followed by a bigger penalty that knocks the Cougs out of field goal range. Again, it happened a handful of times yesterday.
The penalties started from the get-go. On the first play from scrimmage, WSU stopped Jacquizz Rogers after a one-yard gain. C.J. Mizell decided to ride him a good five steps out of bounds on the play, throwing him to the ground and drawing a personal foul. We can debate the merits of his actions -- and we will later -- but it was a penalty that shouldn't have happened.
WSU dodged a bullet and forced a punt. Within field goal range, Isiah Barton gets caught up in a scrum, shoving an Oregon State player late and getting flagged for a personal foul. Two bone-headed penalties in a few short minutes that could've been prevented.
The third quarter saw the same mistakes continue. From the Oregon State 23, a holding penalty on a Skylar Stormo seal block -- and a blatant one at that -- backed WSU up another 10 yards and out of field goal range. Luckily it was all moot, as Jeff Tuel hit Marquess Wilson for 33 yards and a score on the next play.
Next possession, after a beautiful onside kick, Jared Karstetter gets flagged for moving early on the second play, right after James Montgomery broke off a 24 yard run. Two plays later, again in field goal range, John Fullington gets flagged for illegal hands to the face, backing the Cougs up 15 yards. On the next play, Tuel is sacked and fumbles the ball. Oregon State scores for the first time.
On the last possession of the third quarter, another hold on a Stormo seal block. Again, it was deep in Oregon State territory. Again, Jeff Tuel bailed out the offense, leading to a field goal. And, of course, we can add in the Daniel Blackledge drop that would've immediately sealed the game in the fourth quarter, leading to a few more heart stopping minutes.
In all, WSU was flagged nine times for 99 yards. It's becoming a trend for this team. The timing of the penalties, at the most inopportune moments in games, is as big of an issue as the volume. They're killing sustainable drives.
I point these out not to rain on the parade, but because it's an increasingly frustrating problem. Every time something good happens, it's almost like the team gets excited and just lapses mentally. When it continues to happen, perhaps costing the Cougs the game last week against Cal, it's a problem. They simply have to be better in this area going forward.
Edit: Forgot the moment that frustrated me enough that I had to walk away for a minute. Cougs force a fourth and long in the first half, but run into the punter then fumbled the punt, giving the ball back. There's no reason to get after the punter like that when poised to secure great field position. The fumble was a huge missed opportunity on top of that all. It was one play that was wrong in so many ways.