Back in August, some of you may have been present for a Google Plus hangout where the various CougCenter authors pontificated about their predictions for how the season would end. It could be argued I was swept up in the fervor surrounding my pending nuptials and blind optimism when I predicted the Cougars would be in Las Vegas twice this year; once to play UNLV and again to play in the Las Vegas Bowl. I figured, even if I was wrong, I'd only be off by a game or two and I wouldn't have too much egg on my face.
Following the loss to Utah, you might as well have treated me like the principal's front door on Halloween. Sitting at 2-7 almost nothing had gone right for the Cougs all season. Once again, they were going to be playing meaningless games in November as I begged you to not turn away from Cougar football forever. The game against UCLA didn't look winnable but nothing could be worse than what happened last weekend, right? Right?
Wrong. Oh so very, very wrong. Just hours before kickoff, suspended wide receiver Marquess Wilson quickly became former wide receiver Marquess Wilson in a letter about as scathing as any you'll ever read. Wilson, or whoever penned it for him, didn't hold back. Terms like "belittling" and "physical, emotional and verbal abuse" were used to describe a coach who had already been wrongly connected to similar behavior at his previous job. No one was talking about the football game anymore, everyone was wondering if any of these allegations had a modicum of truth to them and praying that they didn't.
When I found out about Wilson's letter, I was in shock. I had never experienced anything like it in my time as a sports fan and it's probably not unreasonable to think you hadn't either. My mind was racing at a frantic pace. How could Wilson bring such allegations? Oh God, what if they're true? No, they can't be true, right? What's going to happen to Leach? What's going to happen to the team? What's going to happen to my school?
The last question might be the most important one. Its been discussed elsewhere all week but the point bears repeating: this means so much to all of us because it's our school. There are few things I adore more in my life than Washington State University. Any spot at it's integrity causes a visceral reaction on my part. Would any objections or reactions be this strong if Marshawn Lynch had up and left the Seahawks after Pete Carroll allegedly put his hands on him or cussed him out?
It's because we care so much about this school that we reacted so strongly to Wilson's letter. It's because of the letter that this week's game against ASU becomes even more important. And this week's most important 'person' is another obvious one. The scoreboard always matters. Whoever ends the game with a higher number can set your mood for days afterwards. This week though it's so much more important than just determining whether you're a happy camper for a few hours.
Nothing can ever completely take the focus off Wilson's allegations. But for just a couple hours, maybe the rest of my Saturday after the game is over, a win could help out. Surprising us all with an unexpected win a week after the world came crashing down around Cougar football could at least temporarily steal our focus away from one of the most perilous times in the athletic department's history. Instead of falling to an abhorrent 2-9 and starring down the barrel of another double digit loss season, a win could help us forget about all the bad surrounding the program.
I'm realistic though. It probably won't happen. For whatever reason, the Cougs seem to have a hex on them that prevents any edition of team from winning in Tempe. Remember the 2010 team carrying all kinds of good mojo into Tempe following good games with Arizona and Stanford? Six touchdowns later for ASU and a goose egg for Washington State solidified my general distaste for Sun Devil Stadium.
I know a higher number on the scoreboard against ASU is a lot to ask, especially for a team that's been incredibly inconsistent. There is no part of this match-up where I think the Cougs have an advantage. A loss by the three touchdowns the Sun Devils are favored would not surprise me in the least.
The odds are against them. An investigation, a cloud of uncertainty and the worst kind of national media attention have all been hanging over the team all week. This season has been a disaster on a level none of us could've imagined before it began. Although the scoreboard matters every week, it means more than its meant in a long time this week. Ninety-nine times out of 100, Arizona State will finish the game with the higher number. But one time...one time....well, I'll let Danny O'Shea explain:
Feel free to run the Annexation of Puerto Rico if things get a little rough in the third quarter.