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The Morning After Cougar Football's 'Almost'

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The WSU Football team put up a valiant effort Saturday night against Oregon. Unfortunately, a valiant effort wasn't enough.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Cougar fans. The sun came up today, and that's about the only good thing I can say. Like all of you I'm sure, there were about 1,000 things going through my head late in the game, and after it ended. Because of that, I really have no idea where to go this morning, and I know that it's highly unlikely that anything I write will make you feel any better.

I'll admit that even as we stood toe-to-toe with the highly-ranked Ducks, the 30-year Coug fan in me wouldn't let me believe we were going to win. The worst part is, that changed when we tied the game at 31. I started to believe, and once again, that's when my heart got ripped out. That led to a replay after replay in my head. What if we, once again, don't muff a punt? What if Morrow doesn't fumble the ball? What if we could possibly make a chip shot field goal for the love of God?! What if Mariota isn't Mariota, and we stop them on 4th and 10? What if we were able to get one measly turnover? What if the officials are capable of making a call that even Rod Gilmore knows was missed?

I know it has been written about on here more than once, but try as the team might, it has to play a nearly perfect game to win. Last night, it almost did. The front seven played its best game of the season, by a country mile. For the first time this year, it didn't take the offense over a quarter to figure out what the hell it was doing. Despite facing a solid defensive line, Halliday was protected incredibly well. The running game was competent. That all-white uniforms looked really cool. The defensive backs...moving right along.

Then there was the atmosphere. There aren't enough words to describe how incredible that place looked last night. Under the lights, a full (!!!) stadium, a crowd that was into the game from the first kick to the last whistle. The aesthetics looked nothing short of outstanding from a TV viewer's perspective. In other words, it was the opposite of what we've seen so many times in recent years.

If you're like me, for most of that game you were thinking, "Where the hell has this team been all year?!" I think that's the most frustrating part. WSU came out with a focus and an attitude that hadn't seemed to be there in the first three games. If they'd been able to muster that effort and level of execution, I can say with absolute certainty that we'd be looking at 3-1, at worst, and not 1-3. In the end though, we arrive back at one of coaching's favorite sayings, we are what our record says we are.

Finally, as I sat and watched Oregon run out the clock last night, proud of the Cougars' effort but very disappointed in the outcome, the old John Greenleaf Wittier quote ran through my head repeatedly, and it's one I think will come to mind when the season ends. "For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been.'"

Football

Cougars push No. 2 Oregon to the limit - Spokesman.com - Sept. 20, 2014
There were less than a handful of plays in which Washington State didn’t play well enough to beat Oregon on Saturday night. A break here, a break there and the Cougars would be undefeated in the newly-renovated Martin Stadium and the Mike Leach regime would have a win that would resonate long after he finishes coaching.

WSU notebook: Front seven stands tall - Spokesman.com - Sept. 21, 2014
Washington State’s front seven made life miserable at times on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. But Mariota returned the favor, overcoming seven sacks with five touchdown passes that carried the second-ranked Ducks to a 38-31 victory Saturday night at Martin Stadium.

Final thoughts from the Oregon game - SportsLink - Spokesman.com - Sept. 21, 2014
The Cougars came up just a few plays short of knocking off the No. 2 team in the country in front of what was easily the finest crowd I've seen in Pullman. It was like an Apple Cup crowd but with fewer visitors

Blanchette: Cougars mostly got it right - Spokesman.com - Sept. 21, 2014
Now, for the backpatters who Mike Leach believes don’t goose the expectations of his team nearly enough, this was a good party in the spiffed up stadium, a grand near-miss against the nation’s No. 2 team and a chance to bitch again about Pac-12 officials –low expectations of whom would qualify as an improvement.

WSU vs. Oregon - SportsLink - Spokesman.com - Sept. 20, 2014
S-R photojournalist Tyler Tjomsland covered the WSU vs. Oregon game

Close as WSU came against Oregon, Mike Leach knows it’s not good enough | Bud Withers | The Seattle Times
The interviews ended quickly, stoically. Elson Floyd, the WSU president, was tweeting out that he was proud of the effort. And his football coach was trying to make sure everybody realizes that’s not good enough.

Pac-12 helmet stickers: Week 4 - Pac-12 Blog - ESPN
River Cracraft, WR, Washington State: The Cougars played the Ducks tough, and much of that can be credited to a series of fine Cracraft grabs against a very talented Oregon secondary. He finished with eight catches for 107 yards, and it seemed that every one of those receptions came in a clutch spot to keep Wazzu in the ballgame

Non-Revenue

Men's Cross Country Team Wins Sundodger Invite - Washington State University Official Athletic Site
Take that, Huskies.

Beer

This Is The Best Fall Beer
Since summer is the best season (just for straight living; beer opinions may vary), it bums them out on a couple different levels when fall beers start showing up in the crotch-sweatingest days of early August. Firstly, because it heavily implies that summer will once again have the gall to eventually end, and also because most autumn beers kinda suck.

Non-Sports

Another September 11 Without a Dad - The Atlantic
When terrorists hijacked four planes on September 11, 2001, they wiped out a large group of fathers and mothers—good, hard-working men and women; soccer coaches, past, present, and future; parents who wanted to raise their sons and daughters—leaving 3,051 children with only one living parent. These men destroyed many families, and the evidence still shows up in ways that might seem small and inconsequential, unless you’re looking from the inside out.