For at least an hour after WSU fell to UCLA in Los Angeles, I was frustrated. In a moment of greed, I wanted more. More for myself, more for the team and more for our fan base. It was foolish, but the reasons for my frustrations were, in my opinion, valid.
I'm tired of being the laughing stock of the Pac-10 and the nation. Watching a team I've been a fan of all my life fall so far has been painful, to say the least. At the lowest of our lows, we had a chance to break-out in a big way against UCLA. In a moment of selfishness, I wanted a win to shut everyone up. "You want to pick on my team?" I thought, "Too bad, look what we just did."
The Cougs were 15 minutes away from finally breaking through against a Pac-10 team for the first time since the 2008 Apple Cup at the beginning of the rebuilding process. Coming so close, yet falling short in the end, left a bitter taste in my mouth.
It was uncharted territory for us as fans. When's the last time we hung tough against a team through the first three quarters? We can't even say that about our win over Montana State this year or SMU last year. Both of those games took freak, unexpected comebacks from WSU.
The Apple Cup in 2008? Nope, the Cougs came on late in that one, too. We have to go back to our 2008 win over Portland State -- a game in which WSU lost two starting quarterbacks -- to find the last time WSU put together a game for 3+ quarters.
I forgot what it felt like. Our fan base forgot what it felt like. We were in a place that seemed brand new.
Our fan base is fractured. Look around here, and elsewhere on the web, and it should be readily apparent. Losing does that to fans, no matter how dedicated they are. It just felt like a win would've healed those wounds, even if only temporarily. At the end of the day, we could walk away from a Cougar Football Saturday celebrating a win, not looking for positives in a loss.
Those reasons are selfish, and I acknowledge that. What's not selfish is the biggest reason I wanted a win. It had nothing to do with my own feelings at all.
I wanted a win for this team. The coaches have been harping on teaching these kids how to win. The younger players on the team have no idea how to close a college football game. It's something that can only be learned by actually doing it.
In my mind, at the time, a win had the potential to break the dam. Going on the road and winning against a Pac-10 opponent -- one that had just upset two ranked teams, no less -- would have shown these kids they can do it. I see a team that has plenty of talent, though raw, but is lacking mental edge needed to win ballgames. The confidence a win in Los Angeles would've brought is bigger than anything the coaches can do or say in practice.
I'm afraid the steady stream of losses will eventually break this team. Some of these players have only seen one or two wins as a collegiate player. It takes a lot of mental toughness to go from being a high school star that wins state championships to a player on a cellar-dwelling team.
A win at UCLA would've been a nice morale boost, while serving as validation for all the hard work these players have put in.
Instead, the Cougs came up just short again. After stepping back from it all, I was happy. I was proud of a team that few gave a puncher's chance against UCLA. They wore down in the end, but they put up one heck of a fight. So while I was frustrated after the game, I woke up the next day encouraged by what I saw on Saturday.