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The Cougs don't know how to win football games, yet

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The first two games of the 2014 season have shown that the WSU football team still doesn't know how to win games, at least not yet.

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

The text messages coming across my phone Friday night towards the end of 24-13 loss to Nevada pretty much said it all. "Is this really happening???" "What a nightmare!!" Indeed, it was darn near impossible to assimilate that a relatively high set expectations held by fans just eight days earlier had completely crashed to the ground after the Cougs dropped the second game in a row to an opponent they were projected to (and should have) beat. Not a single fan has crossed a Martin Stadium turnstile and the season appears to be at a total loss in terms of reaching a second straight bowl game.

I really don't want to give up on the 2014 season, at least not yet. First, I have a lot time invested with this team after covering the first part of fall camp where I was under the impression that the program is in the midst of building something special. Second, I have a pair of season tickets that haven't been removed from the envelope they were sent in resting in my filing cabinet.

Dammit! This sucks. So what are my options from here?

One option that I have is to ‘skip over Saturdays' and immerse myself in one of the best teams I have seen in almost three decades of following professional football. ‘Go Hawks!' Another option would be to just call this whole "experiment" of hiring a nationally renowned coach and building a state of the art football facility a failure. As appealing as both of these pieces of low-hanging fruit seem right now, I'm simply not taking the bait. We're still building something special here in Pullman and things are going to get better. We just need to learn how to win.

Football is a sport like no other in that the time poured into preparation ultimately boils down to executing on a relatively limited number of plays. There are literally hours of preparation per each snap that is played on the field. But when it has comes down to executing the most critical plays, this team has wet its pants in the last three games that it has played dating back to last season's loss in the New Mexico Bowl.

Most of us have some familiarity with the idiomatic expression "if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we'd all have a merry Christmas." I'm usually not one that likes to look back in time and wonder ‘what if?' What's done is done. Still, I can't help but pose just a few ‘what if?' questions that just don't seem that far off. What if Jeremiah Lafausa or Teondray Caldwell choose to do the most important thing, take care of the football, rather than fight for a few meaningless yards in the New Mexico Bowl? What if a usually sure-handed River Cracraft chooses to call a fair catch on a punt return at midfield against Rutgers? What if the offense continued to move the ball through the red zone rather than getting sloppy with penalties and missteps against Nevada?  What if just two of these three scenarios happened?  What would be your view of this program compared to what it is right now?

Right now we have a group of young men with a lot of talent and potential. They simply haven't found a way to make it happen when it matters most. Maybe there is a residual softness that remains in the program from years past where showing up and not being completely embarrassed was good enough. Maybe there is a sense of entitlement or at least an assumption that putting time in the weight room or film room automatically produces results on the field. We can only speculate what goes through the minds of these players when it comes down to the crunch and they make incredibly dumb mistakes.

As the late Stephen Covey claimed, success is a matter of habit. Success has certainly not been habitual with this program for the last decade. I don't have a crystal ball to say when exactly success will come, but I still feel that it isn't that far away. The best I can do now is put it in medically correct terminology: this football team will have success when they are able to extract their craniums from their posteriors when it matters the most.

Football

Cougs dazed and confused in Reno - SportsLink - Spokesman.com - Sept. 6, 2014
A GRIP ON SPORTS It's pretty easy to imagine how the typical Cougar fan feels this morning. Disappointed, discouraged and confused. Above all, confused. That last one I understand. I share that final one. Read on.

FINAL: Nevada beats Washington State, 24-13
The Wolf Pack moved to 2-0 for the first time since 2010.

Yakima Herald Republic | Bud Withers column: WSU knows defense needs to step up

Is Washington State's season lost already after disastrous 0-2 start? - WSU Cougars | 710 ESPN Seattle
Washington State's third season under Mike Leach has been a startling disappointment after losses to Rutgers and Nevada. Are the Cougars' bowl hopes already toast? - WSU Blog articles - 710 ESPN Seattle

Soccer

Cougars Battle Waves to Draw - Washington State University Official Athletic Site
Washington State remains unbeaten against No. 11 Pepperdine

Volleyball

Volleyball Wins Golden Dome Invite - Washington State University Official Athletic Site
Cougars defeated W. Michigan 3-1 Saturday to win the Notre Dame Golden Dome Invitational.