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Week One of Cougar Football: Action and Overreaction

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The highly-anticipated debut of WSU Football, 2014 went the same way many other WSU Football debuts have gone. That's not good.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Coug fans, and happy Sunday. Now that the first weekend of college football is nearly behind us, save for Baylor scoring 70-80 points on SMU and a couple other games, it's time to reflect on what we saw from a WSU standpoint. One of my favorite college football writers, Stewart Mandel, tweeted this message out twice on Saturday:

I'm trying to do the same thing, but the results have been mixed. One one hand, WSU's loss was just that, one loss. There are still 11 games to go, and we lost our opener last year as well before rallying to win six and make a bowl. On the other hand, it's appears that the defense has regressed from last year, by a large margin, and it wasn't like WSU was rolling out the Legion of Boom in 2013 to begin with. Add to that the fact that Rutgers isn't close to the best offense we will see this season, and it could be a long year, again.

A large part of the defense's ineptitude was the awful tackling, which is why the apparent contrast between Leach's and Breske's comments surprised me.

Leach:

Well, we have to tackle better, there's no question. And we have to coach tackling better. The other thing, we have to put some pressure on them. We can't just stand up there and take it, I thought we were too one dimensional.

Breske (when it was suggested that there were a lot of missed tackles):

Oh, not a lot. I mean there's a few with certain players but I wouldn't group it as a whole on the defense.

I honestly don't know the cause for the poor tackling during the game, but it doesn't take a football expert to recognize that it was a bigger problem than Breske wants to admit.

I've also seen some folks lamenting the lack of a running game. I think this is a far bigger overreaction than the apparent regression on defense. As Brian Anderson pointed out in the week leading up to the game, Rutgers' strength was in its front seven. WSU was starting three brand new offensive linemen. That's not the best recipe for success on the ground. Also, we were having a ton of success through the air.

The one place we could use more ground yardage is inside the 10. This was made apparent during the first quarter when WSU garnered three points out of two trips inside the 10. However, a pass from Halliday to a WIDE OPEN Isiah Myers should have resulted in a touchdown. I'm still not certain what exactly happened there, but it looked like Halliday got so excited that he tried to aim the ball. The result was a throw that looked more like a kick. Couple that with Myers slipping as he adjusted to the poor throw, and you have three points instead of six.

I remember Mike Leach talking last season about "slicing things pretty thin." That's where we are as Cougar Football fans, and I'm nearly certain that's where we'll be for the rest of time. One mistake here, one bounce there, and suddenly we're staring at the possibility of a 4-8 season. If Myers catches that fade pass...If Powell's kick is six inches to the left...if Cracraft decides to fair catch...etc.

Taking a look at the national landscape, it's easy to get caught up in drawing sweeping conclusions after the first week of games. The truth is, we just don't know yet. Is Florida State worse, or is Oklahoma State a lot better? What about Alabama? They struggled with a West Virginia team that stunk last year. Washington (a team I was, and am, high on this year) struggled mightily to beat Hawaii (Hawaii!). UCLA looked flat out horrendous on offense, and probably should have lost.

I know it probably doesn't help much, if at all, but look at it this way: at least we're not Iowa State.

Football

A day later, WSU's loss still looks every bit as ugly . . . | Pac-12 Confidential | Seattle Times
In six of Rutgers’ final eight games of 2013, the Scarlet Knights scored 17 or fewer points. You have to go back to its opener of ’13, against Fresno State, to find a game when Rutgers had more total yards than the 496 it rolled up against WSU.

Sebastian LaRue back at practice - SportsLink - Spokesman.com - Aug. 30, 2014
So Rutgers started the game with one running back and one tight end, as opposed to two backs and one tight end. That was enough to thoroughly confuse at least one defensive player. Oy.

Highlights from WSU player availability - SportsLink - Spokesman.com - Aug. 30, 2014
Great quote by Halliday: "I'm not worried about any of those opinions and stuff on Twitter was still said even though I threw for 530 yards, there were still tweets at me and all that so it doesn't change and I'm not too worried whether the frat boy tweeting at me thinks I can play quarterback or not."

Quotes from Mike Leach press conference - SportsLink - Spokesman.com - Aug. 30, 2014
Washington State will play another weekday game this week, traveling to Reno, Nevada to take on the Wolf Pack. Because the schedule is still off the Cougars held their typical Monday press conference on Sunday.

Non-Revenue Sports

Volleyball Fights Back for 3-2 Win - Washington State University Official Athletic Site
The Washington State volleyball team came back from two-set deficit to defeat Cal Poly 3-2 Saturday evening at the Montana Invitational in Missoula, Mont.

Cross Country Dominates Opening Races - Washington State University Official Athletic Site
Washington State seniors Abby Regan and Ruby Roberts led the Cougar women’s cross country team to victory at the Clash of the Inland Northwest meet at Mead High School Saturday morning.

Beer

Goose Island Honker's Ale: Not Bad, For Sellouts
I really like Honker's Ale, but I'll admit that I haven't had it much since I found out that Goose Island belongs to InBev. This is pretty petty, I know.

Non-Sports

The Strange Tale of the North Pond Hermit
As I read this incredible story, I realized that there are many times I've wished to live in the woods, away from everything. Most of those times are immediately following a Cougar football game.