My dad is the truest Coug fan that I have ever known. He was raised in a Husky Household, and only he and one of his many brothers broke the code and became Cougs, leading to a fandom that borders on delusional and definitely crosses the line between passionate and obsessive. His love for the Cougs is rivaled only by his hatred of the Huskies, and both that love and that hatred are pure and unadulterated in any way. Anyways, he called me after WSU beat OSU, and I could hardly muster a word at the time. After I had a moment to digest the game, I sent him a lengthy facebook post, which really put my feelings about this team and their future in a good light.
I couldn't really talk after the game, I simply had no words. Anyways, here is what I thought after the game.
The Cougs finally put it all together.
This is the game we have all been waiting for. On Saturday, the Cougs came out and put together four consecutive quarters of playing to their potential. The defense flew around, locking down tackles on first contact and getting to the Beav qb with ferocity and consistency. Offensively, we have been explosive at times this year but rarely consistent. Against OSU we converted third downs, moved the chains and finished our drives with points. We didn't turn the ball over but once, we gained tough yards on the ground and controlled the pace and tempo of the game.
I think the best thing about this game was the coaching. I felt like Saturday was the first time that Wulff and Co. had left another coach scratching their heads. I finally felt like Sturdy won the chess match against the DC. He used his jab to set up the haymaker. That option pass was just plain money. Tuel had been killing them all day on the ground, and just when they think they have him for a loss he lobs it over their heads for a touchdown. Just brilliant. OSU's defense just couldn't figure us out. A lot of this comes from the running game being effective for the first time all year, but credit Sturdy and Wulff for capitalizing on it and using it to set up a big play. Though I think it should have come earlier, they finally figured out a way to manufacture a ground game, making it so people couldn't just play the pass. Zone reads, options to with the WR and Tuel scrambling equated to an incredibly effective offense and that is because of the coaches. Great, great job.
This defense has finally begun to show why the coaches were so high on them. The coaches made some poor decisions early in the year, at least on paper. Keeping Ledge and Chima as starters over Bucannon and Mizell did not work out well to start the year, though I can understand the reasoning behind it. Mizell, Bucannon, Kafusi and Justin have transformed this defense. When we get consistency from these guys the defense will not just be acceptable; it will dominate. The secondary guys are making plays against the pass and are filling rushing lanes at the line. Bucannon looks like a future star at safety, and having a guy with his range greatly opens up the defensive playbook.
I am so excited about next year it makes me shake. The core of this team is just so young. Wilson, Tuel, Mizell, Long, Kafusi, Simone, Bucannon, Horton, Washington, Toomer, Fullington and so many other big contributors or starters are under 20 years old with at least two more years of eligibility. This isn't even counting guys like Pole, Williams, Galvin, Dunn, Oertel, Simmons, Ratliff, Locker and countless others are poised to play major roles over the years, and only Locker has used a year of eligibility from that group. As long as the lines improve (I think the D line will take a big jump but I am unconvinced on the O Line) we are looking to be a dark horse in the Pac next year. Probably not to win it, but I would be surprised if we didn't get into the mix from 4-7.
Mizell should continue to grow into his role, his biggest liability this year has been between the ears and when he gets his stuff figured out, look out. If we can find a dominant DT, we have the makings of the Palouse Posse all over again. I could see Long, Rankin, Bucannon, Simmons, Kafusi, Horton and Mizell playing on Sundays one day, and that is just the defense. When Wulff got here, I could probably say that for Gibson, Mattingly and Alfred, and that is it. Not to mention that next year we Get Luis Bland (our best LB before Mizell got here), Jordan Pu'u Robinson (our second best DE) and Toni Pole ( a true Frosh who was probably our second best DT) all back next year, and they didn't take a snap this year. Our incoming LB class is among the tops in the nation (best in the Pac!) and includes at least one guy who is going to challenge for a starting spot right away in Chester Su'a.
Offensively, throughout camp Marquess Wilson was the third best new offensive guy, behind Kristoff Williams (WR) and Ricky Galvin (RB). I watched a lot of fall camp and these guys are truly special. They are both guys who are legitimate threats to take it to the house every time they touch the ball, no matter where they touch it. Our line should be better, but count me unconvinced that it will be significantly better. We only lose one guy, but the guys we return are not exactly world beaters. However, even a marginal improvement along the line would do wonders for our offense, especially considering the guys we will have in the skill positions.
I am so excited to see the position battles at WR, DB, LB and RB. We are about to be legitimately loaded at those positions in ways WSU has never been before. I think in two years we will be looking at the best secondary in school history, and I am not forgetting the Trufant-Frampton-David-Abdullah years. All of the guys starting in our secondary are first or second year guys, and they are already legitimate play makers.
And my favorite part of this weekend:
Cougfan.com has an article about the celebration being short lived for the coaches, and that is because 3 left straight from Corvallis for recruiting trips, while another 4, including Wulff, left immediately from the airport in Pullman on recruiting trips. None of them will return til Weds. We are facing 3 weeks off, and coming off our first win in forever, but these coaches continue to keep their balls to the bansaw and work on making this PROGRAM a viable, competitive contender year in an year out. No recruit in their right mind is just going to choose Pullman over LA or Tempe, it takes a special kind of guy to make that happen. Wulff and Co. are those guys.
Papa said that this is the best group of young players that he has ever seen at WSU, and he was at school starting in 78 and hasn't missed a coug game since. He then said that he will continue his nightly prayers, those being ""Please God, let the UW sign those two overpaid "geniuses" Sark and Holt to long-term contract extensions......"