From the blogs to newspaper articles I’ve been reading all week about last Saturday’s thrilling win over Colorado and our upcoming game with UCLA. The general theme seems to be the same all around. The Colorado game was a win the program needed to show its on the rebuilding track. No doubt. However, despite the finishing points over the Wulff era many believed we would be at this exact point record wise. The popular view is that the schedule played perfect for a team that has talent, is coming of age, and is fully comfortable with the new regime. I think we can all agree with that as well. So what does this Saturday mean then if, as Dennis Green might put it, 'we are what we thought we were'.
Our season can be broken up into a three forks and/or challenges. The first is our non-conference. Cake, yes, confidence building, yes, what we needed, absolutely. Although our first two games were very weak, it displayed to us that the team this year has decided to play to their ability and not to their opponent. By dominating ISU and UNLV, the Cougs also showed that they now focus more on execution and procedure. When WSU went down to SDSU, the team was faced with a more difficult task. Execution was there until late in the 3rd. The team had been running flawlessly for 15 quarters when a roughing the kicking penalty unraveled them and just like a pitcher losing a no-hitter bid and then giving up a run, and eventually losing the game. Although the SDSU game a loss, a mental lesson was the win against the Aztecs. Colorado became the first victim to a more keen and erudite Cougar team.
Now we reach the second fork on our season journey. A third of the way through the year, many of us figured on being 3-1, but at the five game mark was the real question. Will the Cougs be 3-2 and fighting to come up short on a bowl birth, or sitting at 4-1 and in the driver’s seat? UCLA answers so many questions for Wulff and his team as it becomes chance to check off a lot of boxes on how far the team has come.
There are many storylines to cover for this game and just about all have been hit. But there is one that I think is worth looking into.
History shows us, that if we don’t beat UCLA we will not make it to a bowl.
From 1981-2010 the Cougars have played 26 times against the Bruins. UCLA leads the series 11-14-1. So over the last 30 years we actually have held our own against the Bruins. But it goes a little deeper than that.
In the same period from ’81-’10 WSU has gone to a bowl 8 times (’81, ’88, ’92, ’94, ’97, ’01-’03) and in the 8 bowl seasons the Cougar record vs. UCLA is 7-0-1. Making our non-bowl season record with UCLA 4-14. The other four wins came in 1995 (3-8), 2004 (5-6), 2006 (6-6), 2007 (5-7). The 2006 season would be a bowl by today’s standards making us 8-0-1 versus 3-14.
A win in Pasadena puts us at 4-1 and needing to go just 2-5 down the stretch for bowl eligibility. With Oregon State, Utah, and winnable games against Cal and ASU the pins look to be lining up very nicely for the Cougars.
Numbers don’t lie, this week is BIG! GO COUGS!