With the losses -- and subsequently the blowouts -- piling up for the Cougars, one must wonder if the players even care anymore. Are they at a point where they're so desensitized to the whippings they take every weekend that it doesn't matter anymore? After the USC game, the coaches and players answered that question with an emphatic no.
Instead of being content with some of the positives from the game, the players were upset with their performance. It's scary, however, that this was the first time the team was disappointed following a loss.
"I told the guys, noone in here better be happy. And they're not. It's the first time we've got that turned where they're not happy when they lose. They're disappointed and we need to be." Wulff said, "At the same time, whether we won a big game or lost it, we have to flush this thing because we've gotta start prepping on Monday with these guys... But it better sting for a good 48 hours."
It's easy to dismiss Wulff's comments as coach-speak, but Travis Long echoed the remarks.
"For some players, maybe that's true. I never am happy after a loss. That's not how I'm programmed. People are starting to feel the same way I am, I guess."
We know they're upset, but it made me wonder why now? Why are they all of a sudden disappointed in themselves and upset after a loss when they haven't been in the past?
The Cougars spent the last two years playing against teams that easily outclassed them. Physically, it was clear the talent wasn't there for Wulff and the Cougs, something the head coach made very clear from the beginning.
Being the underdog and, perhaps, knowing they weren't on the same level as the teams across the field may have lead to complacency in losses. They weren't supposed to be in the games anyway, so why beat themselves up over the losses? I'm not saying it's right, but perhaps that's why it's taken so long for the players to get ticked-off after a loss. A few moments of success over the past three weeks has shown them they can hang with teams, giving them a glimpse of their potential.
Now, it's almost like a switched flipped inside the 2010 Cougar locker room. The players and coaches believe they can match up with anyone in the Pac-10, including USC. They expect to perform and are disappointed when they don't execute.
"It's not them being better than us. Them being bigger and faster, it's just us executing our game-plan." Long said after the loss, "We did that at times and we looked good, but we need to be more consistent with that. Once we do that, you'll see a good defense out there."
The players still may not be world-beaters, but they are much more talented than anything we've seen in Pullman over the last two years. Most importantly, they believe they belong on the field. It may seem stupid, it may seem like a small thing, but it matters.
The staff has preached that this team needs to learn how to win and deal with the losses along the way. Part of that process is believing they can compete and evaluating their performance when the results don't go their way. Being disappointed after a loss is a sign that they may be coming around in that regard.
What took you so long?