It's hard to believe that Cougar football is almost here. Additionally, for many of you it is probably hard to believe that I still write for this website. It has been nearly two months since my last post and I'm sure many of you were just as anxious for my return as you are for Jeff Tuel's.
I finally escaped Tennessee and all of it's crazy weather only to be greeted by Tropical Storm Irene upon my arrival in Vermont. Don't fret, I was relatively unaffected by the storm, only having to suffer a 15-minute power outage on Sunday (I almost considered reading a book...it was horrifying). Most of the damage has been in Southern Vermont, and I'm up in Burlington. If you are looking for a way to outwardly express your concern for those Vermonters affected by the storm, I suggest this fancy t-shirt.
More good news is that I'm diving head first into the world of Statistics this fall, as I begin my graduate study in that field with the ultimate goal of creating fancy graphs like Kirt. In no less than two years time I should render Kirt completely obselete. I'm coming for you Kirt!
But enough about me, let's talk football! Real football! With bad guys!
Washington State is looking for a soft landing to begin the season as they take on another last-place team from 2010, the Idaho State Bengals.
ISU brings a new head coach who is very familiar with the Palouse. Mike Kramer is a native of the bustling metropolis of Colton, Washington and served as Paul Wulff's predecessor at Eastern Washington University from 1994-1999. There Wulff worked first as his offensive line coach and later as his offensive coordinator. Kramer moved from EWU to Montana State where he won three Big Sky titles before being fired in 2006. In all, Kramer has won the Big Sky four times and taken the same amount of trips to the FCS playoffs.
With his track record of Big Sky success, ISU football fans are excited at the prospect of Kramer turning around the Bengal program. It will be a big challenge, as ISU is coming off a one-win season where they didn't win a single conference game. This team was as bad (or possibly worse) in the FCS as the Cougs were in the FBS. After the jump, we'll take a look at what the Bengals have to offer on offense and defense.
OFFENSE (2010 numbers): 15.6 PPG, 3.97 YPP
The Idaho State offense was awful last season. On the ground, the Bengals averaged just 2.07 yards per rush attempt. The passing attack wasn't much better, as they were last in the Big Sky garnering 5.69 yards per pass attempt.
Mike Kramer has come in to install a brand new pass-heavy spread offense. This could turn out to be very difficult, as the team has a lack of experience at the quarterback position and may have a few freshman along to offensive line (at the tackle positions of course...sound familiar?). Jason Enes of the Idaho State Journal had this to say after watching the team's first fall camp scrimmage on August 12th:
During the 40 play scrimmage the offense ran the ball a whopping three times.I know Kramer said he wasn’t going to run much, but three times is not enough especially considering each quarterback was having a hard time completing passes.Big Sky defenses will sit on the curl and slant routes the receivers were running and turn them into pick 6′s, so hopefully this was just the result of only having 11 practices.
Three runs out of 40 plays? That is Mike Leach stuff right there. My guess is that won't actually happen against Washington State. Kramer was probably doing his best to find out which of his quarterbacks had the best handle on the offensive system. The starter for Saturday is going to be junior college transfer Kevin Yost. Yost completed 56 percent of his passes as a juco sophomore, but the windows will be a little tighter in Martin Stadium this weekend.
Up against a team with a brand new coach trying to learn a new offensive system with freshman playing at the tackle positions, this is as good an opportunity as the Cougar defense will see to have a dominant performance. If they can't do that, it might be time to worry.
DEFENSE (2010 numbers): 40.45 PPGA, 5.52 YPPA
The Idaho State defense seemed to be slightly less inept than the offense in 2010. The Bengals did reasonably well at stopping the run, allowing 3.97 yards per carry. However, stopping the pass proved to be very difficult. ISU allowed opponents to complete 67.6% of their passes last season.
Everyone is Peyton Manning!
Reports say that the defense has looked better in practice so far in fall camp, but as Cougar fans know all too well, sometimes that means more about the capabilities of the offense. If pass defense is once again a huge weakness, here's to hoping Marquess Wilson and company can build an early WSU lead and give Marshall Lobbestael a chance to repeat his career-best performance during his freshman year against Portland State.
The best player on the ISU defense is returning All-American linebacker AJ Storms. Too bad Sylar Stormo has switched to the defensive line, otherwise that would have been one hell of a match-up.
I don't always do special teams, because sometimes they are just not interesting. For this game I must because the Bengals' most talented player is probably All-American return specialist Tavoy Moore. Moore had four return touchdowns last season.
Additionally, for the first time in a long time it appears the Cougs will not be able to say "our punter is better than your punter." ISU's David Harrington was also an All-American last season.
/mind drifts to thoughts of Reid Forrest
/sobs in corner
/has no idea where story ideas will come from now
/thinks of ways to work Reid Forrest into more stories anyway
Side note: How the hell does a one-win team end up with three All-Americans?
The Bengals are in trouble if...They haven't improved dramatically in every aspect of the game. I know the Cougs were bad last year, but ISU was much, much, much, much worse. This is probably the easiest game that WSU could possibly have put on the schedule and still have it count toward earning a bowl game. Of course, Idaho State fans are looking at this game as a chance for their team to beat a BCS opponent, and rightfully so given WSU's recent performance.
Will the Bengals be able to use that perceived prospect at a victory to their advantage? Will WSU use last year's debacle against Montana State as motivation to stay focused and take care of business?
Will I end this with a question?
Nope. I will not. The Cougs really should run away with this one. Hopefully the starters don't have to play much in the second half. Wulff's boys need to make this one an easy Saturday so the first #CougHarmonyonTwitter real-life party can be fully enjoyed by all attendees. If not, I'm skipping the Crush and going straight to the rum.