With a listless performance in the Apple Cup and a struggle to score even one touchdown to preserve a meaningless streak in which Mike Leach has never been shutout in his head coaching career, the Washington State Cougars limped into the offseason. Instead of looking back at the game or the season, perhaps it's good to just be thankful it's over. After a wild ride to a bowl game last year, this season … well, this season wasn't much fun at all.
It was a lost season, and it had been lost since sometime late in September -- never mind the loss the Rutgers that probably shouldn't have been a loss to start the year. The rest was just going through the motions: parking in front of a TV on Saturday hoping to see something good and savoring it all because it's football and there's only a finite amount of it each year.
I hate the college football offseason. It's a dark time without football, save for the pop-up events that are signing day and spring ball, and the appetizer to the season that is fall camp. For all but one team, the offseason begins with lamenting lost chances and works its way up towards hope. That hope will inevitably come crashing down sooner than later. The longer into the season it stays alive, the better.
That period of time this season was short. It lasted maybe a month, if not less. From there, it became desperation: Maybe Washington State can pull off an upset or two and claw its way to a bowl. If there was a final step, the "what about ripping off four-straight and finishing at .500," that was gone in the first quarter of the USC game when Connor Halliday went down. One of the last fun things about the team was gone.
Luke Falk presented a form of hope against Oregon State and managed to win in Corvallis before reminding us he's a redshirt freshman with a lot of things to learn in his final two games. That Oregon State game was one of two highlights this season -- the other being a comeback win against Utah* -- and that's not saying anything good.
*That comeback win against Utah was followed by perhaps the dumbest game I've ever seen. Those two games encapsulate Washington State fandom in a tidy back-to-back week package: Hope because something very cool happened followed by deflation because something very stupid happened.
Take that furious, one-point comeback win over Utah out and you have this: Paul Wulff's 2010 season almost to a perfect fit -- a win over an FCS team, a surprising win over Oregon State on the road and that's pretty much it. The 2010 season wasn't very fun, and neither was the 2014 campaign.
But it's over, and we can take some solace in that. There will be changes, perhaps even some drastic ones. That's almost certainly a guarantee after a season that saw serious regression over the one prior to it, and we've already heard rumblings about some of them.
With those changes comes hope, because college football is an endless, painful cycle with peaks and valleys that come before the emotional roller coaster of the season even begins. We'll watch the offseason, and any staff changes that will inevitably come, and recruiting and murmurs of breakout players and new wrinkles on the offense and defense because that's what college football fans do.
And then we'll start over again in late August and early September. You're a college football fan that gets kicked in the face more often than not because you root for or connected to Washington State. And you keep getting back up because you never know exactly what the hell will happen next, and because there's still hope.