Playing To Win The Game: How Conservative Gameplans Hurt The Cougs

A wise man -- OK, maybe not so wise, but a man nonetheless -- once said "You play to win the game." It doesn't matter what the result ends up being, play to win the game.

After the Montana State game, Chris Ball's comments made it clear the Cougars were not playing to win the game; they were playing not to lose.

"We got some blitzes in the game plan and looking back on it we should have come after him more in the first half," Co-defensive Coordinator Chris Ball said. "We got to half time and we said we got it in the game plan so let's use them. The kids executed great, got hands on the ball, and caught them."

Just before the game, Vince Grippi noted the team had been "tight" all week and that if a few breaks went the Bobcats way, things could spiral downward in a hurry. A first play interception and fumble in the second series proved that, as usual, Grippi was correct.

Being tight leading up to the game is no excuse for calling a conservative game off the bat. What's the best way to shake the nerves right away? Sitting back and playing not to make mistakes isn't it.

Needless to say, I completely disagree with the philosophy behind the way the WSU offense and defense were ran on Saturday. How much would it hurt to let the Cougs fly around and make plays on defense? Would opening up the playbook on offense -- even after a first-play interception on a basic pass play -- hurt WSU? The answer to both should be no and playing with the opposite mindset proved to be far more dangerous.

If this team isn't allowed to play aggressively, it has no chance of winning a game as the underdog. The players are going to make mistakes whether the gameplan is conservative or aggressive, so why not open it up and let them make mistakes at full speed?

I can't say it much better than Sean at WSU Football Blog, so I'm going to steal a quote from what he wrote and encourage everyone to read the rest of his piece.

Most of all, LET THEM FAIL. It's the only way they will improve, as they learn to pick themselves back up and get better after making the mistakes that come with youth and inexperience. LET THEM FAIL, and in the end they will become better players. And LET THEM FAIL on the side of aggressiveness, not by sitting back and letting things happen.

We've played two games and erred on the side of caution in each. Enough of it. These kids are young and excited to be out on the field. They're energetic and have more speed and talent than any of the other teams in Wulff's tenure. Use that energy in a positive manner and let them fly around, not sit in basic zone coverage meant to minimize mistakes.

The staff can no longer treat the team with kid gloves. Going forward, WSU will be the underdog in every game they play -- likely facing teams favored by multiple touchdowns. What does the staff have to lose playing an aggressive style? If the team wins, they pulled off an upset that excites the fanbase. If they lose, at least they went down swinging.

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