The Tailgater's Guide to Cougar Football is a weekly series designed to prepare you for the upcoming week's matchup - both on and off the field.
Welcome to the Sterk Bowl!
Washington State faces off against San Diego State this week... and, by extension, former athletic director Jim Sterk.
It's weird to have a legacy placed on hold, but that's exactly what's happened with Sterk. How we look upon his tenure as AD of the Cougars lies largely on the two coaching decisions he made near the end of it. The first is Paul Wulff; the homegrown Cougar product that will continue to look better and better if Sterk's Aztecs lose on Saturday. The other is Ken Bone - the coach of a basketball team in the midst of a rebuilding effort and a roster that currently boasts 44 guards and 3 forward/centers [estimated numbers]. Both hiring decisions were informed, calculated, and nearly unanimously supported by the fanbase when they were made.
Still, we don't know how they will turn out. Wulff was Sterk's chance to resurrect the football program after the Bill Doba Era. Doba was the ultimate hire of good intentions. He was the sensible hire to make after Mike Price left, even if Doba was reluctant to accept the promotion. This recent Seattle Times article outlines the primary (and tragic) reason it didn't, and when everyone close to the program finally noticed the ship was taking on water it was too late to prevent it from sinking. Wulff may be Sterk's redemption, or his second act of good intentions that didn't quite turn out the way we wanted it to. Right now it's starting to lean to the former, which is good news all around.
We don't know if Sterk's job change was a decision made more by him or the WSU administration. It was more likely a confluence of factors; the negativity surrounding many aspects of the football and basketball programs (Sterk hinting that WSU might be at risk of getting booted from the Pac-10, for example, was probably not the greatest PR), the shocking and sudden decision by Tony Bennett to abandon the Cougar program and leave for Virginia, and who knows what else? I can imagine for Sterk sunny San Diego might have been a welcome change from the blistering cold winters of the Palouse. San Diego State is a solid athletic department with great teams in the revenue sports and plenty of hope for the future. Sterk gets to be a part of that. WSU, meanwhile, got to scoop up an Athletic Director that was presumably born for the job. A man in Bill Moos who could re-ignite the flame of Cougar support at a time the University so desperately needed it. Perhaps this whole transition really was a win-win.
And on that note, we begin the most important stretch of games in Cougar football since Jim Sterk left Pullman just over one full school year ago.
And if I may be so bold, Jim, I'd like to think we need this win more than you do.
Recommended Local Activity - It would be easy to go with the San Diego Zoo, but we're not about easy here at CougCenter. So instead I'm suggesting the USS Midway Museum, because aircraft carriers YEAHHHHHHH [shreds guitar]. The Midway was one of America's longest serving carriers - home to 225,000 troops over the years and currently boasts a collection of 25 restored aircraft. It also has this hilarious tripadvisor review from yesterday:
"Husband Day Care Center--$18 for all day!"Ladies, need to get rid of your husbands for a few hours while you shop or do whatever it is you do? Take him to the USS Midway at the Port of San Diego!
Recommended Food - I guess I can't recommend In-N-Out for every California destination, so Kono's Cafe looks perfectly reasonable.
Gametime Snack of the Week - Tortilla Land Uncooked Flour Tortillas. These make homemade burritos and quesadillas so ridiculously good that you'd think you were in Mexico. The real bonus with these is that you can slightly undercook them to perfection. I recently bought these with the singular hope of putting Nutella on one and seeing how that works out for dessert. No, I don't know how I'm not morbidly obese yet.
Gametime Cheap Beer of the Week - Miller Chill. Come at me with that lime flavor, bro.
Gametime Premium Beer of the Week - Mac & Jack's African Amber Ale - It was in doing research for this week's guide that I found out Mac & Jack's is from Redmond, and now I feel stupid for not realizing earlier they're a Northwest brewery.
Gametime Song of the Week - Since we're headed off to the MTN...
Crash Kings - Mountain Man (HQ) (via GearHead1087)
Prediction: San Diego State 24, Washington State 23 - I'm so sorry. Part of this pick is stubbornness; I predicted the Cougs would slip up in San Diego before the season began. Plus, Brady Hoke put more than enough talent on his former roster to be able to take down a Pac-12 team. However, most of my pick is based off of two things. One, I'm incredibly scared at what Ronny Hillman can do if he gets beyond the D-Line and into the second level of the Cougar defense. Hoffcrates and C.J. Mizell need to be at the top of their game to help us win this game. Secondly, I'm not sold yet on the Cougar offensive line being a dominating force... Andrew Roxas' injury doesn't do them any favors. Lobbestael is going to need time to throw, and the Cougars absolutely have to establish a decent running game to keep things balanced. I will continually cringe with the Cougars at the goal line against high level opposition until they prove me otherwise.
Here's hoping I'm wrong. Go Cougs.