WSU Vs. Colorado: The Penalty Flag Is This Week's Most Important 'Person'

Streeter Lecka - Getty Images

Quick tangent before we get to the most important "person" of the week (not that I had anything to tangent off of): the worst place to come back to after a 16 hour travel day spanning eight time zones is Las Vegas. Although Mrs. Preston and myself enjoyed ourselves immensely in Sin City, we spent most of the trip being exhausted and losing every bet we made. And by we I mean me; Mrs. Preston made truck loads of cash. I find it patently unfair for some reason that’s completely illogical that my wife made way more cash at the roulette table than I did. Oh yeah, Paris and London were pretty sweet too.

A very big thank you to Rancourt for filling in for the last couple of weeks but it’s time for Papa Bear to get back into the driver’s seat. Also, I’m trying out the nickname Papa Bear.

This week’s homecoming game against Colorado may be as close to a sure thing as the Cougars will have for their entire Pac-12 schedule. The Buffaloes lost to Colorado State to open the season, dropped their home opener to FCS opponent Sacramento State and got absolutely shellacked by Fresno State last week. The 69-14 drubbing at the hands of the Bulldogs included this play that Brian linked to earlier but also note that made the score 35-0 in the first quarter. Fresno State tacked up 55 points in the first half, which is more disastrous than any game in Washington State’s darkest hours.

The city many of you just came home from is under the impression the Cougs should have no problems with the Buffs after the Cougars started as 14.5 point favorites over Colorado and the line has quickly soared to 19 points. Both the offense and defense have had their problems this season but there’s been one nagging issue shared by both sides of the ball.

Normally when you’re giving things away for free you’re either an insanely generous person or you’re answering a Craigslist ad for a futon with “a couple of stains that you can probably work out with some bleach”. But through the first quarter of the season, the Cougars have been giving away yards like they were going out of style. Three games into the season, the Cougars have wracked up 276 yards of penalties on 30 flags. I’ll do the math for you, that’s 9.2 yards for every yellow flag that comes out of an official’s pocket an average of 10 times a game. That’s almost a first down’s worth of yardage for every penalty so whether it’s on offense where you’re backing up enough to make it two first downs or on defense to essentially give one up it makes getting into the end zone or preventing it much more difficult.

Penalties either kill offensive drives or extend defensive ones. Not only do they cause fans to pull their hair, coaches can often be found reaching for the Propecia when a holding penalty brings an 80-yard touchdown pass back. When an offense loses yards or a defense gives a ton up, coaches can, in theory, live with that. By “live with that” I of course mean still reach for the Propecia bottle but at least in that case, a number of players made a mistake, not just one.

A game against a team like Colorado is a game that you use to clean up the little mistakes. Whether it’s not incurring penalties, ironing out glitches in zone or man coverage or learning when it’s actually time to rush the field and not give your opponent three opportunities to win before they finally clang their last chance field goal off the left upright, these games are ones you use to figure it all out.

Penalties will be killer later on down the road against much better Pac-12 opponents. I can already see my cell phone shattering against the wall if a defensive holding penalty gives Oregon a first down after stopping them on third down. So lets make sure those yellow flags stay in the pockets of the officials this week and the students stay off the field until the clock shows all zeros and the play has actually been whistled dead.

Oh, almost forgot.

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