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Cougar Football takes the circuitous route to 1-1

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What a long, strange trip it has already been.

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Good morning, Cougar fans. This about says it all:

If ever there was a team that insisted on doing things the hard way, it's Cougar Football. Many of us, myself included, had the Cougs pegged to start 1-1 before the season began. So of course they lose the game we all thought they'd win, and win the game that many of us thought they'd lose. It really is amazing how wildly the performance of these guys changes from week to week, or even quarter to quarter.

Honestly, how often does a team force three turnovers while not committing any, out-gain the opponent by more than 150 yards, average more than five yards per carry, yet still finds itself trailing with less than 30 seconds left?

In the end, though, it's difficult to be anything but thrilled about a win on the other side of the country, against a Big Ten team that ripped our hearts out last season, by marching the length of the field in less than 90 seconds to score the winning touchdown. I'll say this, these guys are never boring.

Jeff, Brian and Craig will lay out far more insightful analysis than anything you'll find here (hopefully Fred the Duck makes at least a token appearance), but here are some likes and dislikes that I came away with:

Likes:

  • Erik Powell - Where on earth did that come from? I don't care as long as it keeps happening.
  • Gabe Marks - More on him later in the week.
  • River Cracraft - Back to being Mr. Reliable.
  • Luke Falk's timely scrambles
  • Matt Chazanow's call of the winning score
  • Gerard Wicks - The guy is a stud. Can we please hand it to him more? Pretty please?
  • The offensive line - These five guys were really, really good. They gave Falk a ton of time and blocked well on the rare running plays.
  • The entire team's response to adversity - After watching several leads evaporate, these guys had plenty of opportunities to fold the tent, grab a warm shower and head for the bus. They didn't. They came back time after time and proved that, no matter what we may think of the Mike Leach tenure, they are going to play their backsides off for him.
  • This prediction by some person named Ray Ransom, who writes for the Rutgers SB Nation website:

Ray Ransom: We saw what happens when this team plays mad. See Laviano to Carroo x3 last week. This team has been through the ringer the past few weeks and on top of that, Mike "Footmouth" Leach has disrespected Jersey football at every possible opportunity. Watch for this team to take out some aggression on an opponent who deserves everything it has coming. Rutgers is going to come out from the get go and dominate at the line of scrimmage, running the ball up and down the field on a rainy, windy, perfect-Big-Ten-football-weather day. Hicks and James go over 100 yards, Carroo scores another pair of touchdowns, Cioffi snags another INT, Turay feasts with 3 snacks and Rutgers sends Leach back to the west coast with his tail between his legs. Rutgers 55, Washington State 10

Now I'm never going to advocate trolling in general, but his Twitter handle is @RayRansomOTB if you want to ask him about possibly revising his insightful prediction.

Dislikes:

  • The play-by-play guy on TV - Look, I know a midday broadcast on ESPNU won't bring out ESPN's A, B or even C team, but is it too much to ask that you get our players' names right? Justin Harrington and Jarrod Weeks would appreciate it.
  • Rutgers' chop blocks - They can happen in the heat of battle, but one of them nearly ended Frankie Luvu's season. Completely uncalled for.
  • I know it's the Air Raid, but for God's sake, Gerard Wicks averaged 6.1 yards per carry. Please hand him the ball more often.
  • Kick return and coverage units - I never thought it could get worse than 2014, but here we are. When Ky Priester's decision to return a punt FROM THE ENDZONE isn't even the second-worst play on special teams, things have gone horribly awry.
  • Luke Falk's indecision - Disclaimer: Falk gets a ton of credit for leading the team to the winning score. It was a gutsy drive, and he was mostly nails in the last minute. But man, he checks down way too often when there are open receivers down field (cough, Dom Williams, cough). I'm sorry if it sounds overly critical of a guy who produced all those yards and points, but he has to be better if this team is going to win this season.
  • Taylor Taliulu's defense on the tying two-point conversion - Watch that play again. That's a senior getting completely lost in coverage, leaving a receiver all alone.
  • Second half defense - Points allowed during the first halves of WSU's first two games: 6. Points allowed during the second halves of WSU's first two games: 52. I have no idea what is causing that, but it has to be rectified quickly. WSU was getting absolutely gashed on trap and counter runs throughout the second half.

All in all, it was a big win by a team that badly needed it. There's a lot that needs to be addressed, but there's also a lot to be happy about. Go Cougs.

Football

Luke Falk comes up clutch to lift WSU over Rutgers - Spokesman.com - Sept. 12, 2015
It was a game that, in the eloquent words of wide receiver Gabe Marks, "will either take you all the way to the top or bring you all the way to the bottom in a heartbeat. You just have to learn to keep your emotions in check. You just have to focus on the next play and learn to not get caught up."

WSU notebook: Kicker Erik Powell gives Cougars extra scoring option - Spokesman.com - Sept. 13, 2015
PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Washington State became a threat to score whenever its offense gets to the 30-yard line on Saturday, even on fourth down. Erik Powell bested his career-long field goal by 20 yards early in the second quarter when he nailed one from 46 yards out.

Rutgers falls to Washington State, 37-34, in QB Chris Laviano's first start | Instant Analysis | NJ.com
Coach Mike Leach gave Rutgers a break on Washington State's second drive. Rutgers was struggling to stop the Cougars' passing attack, but on fourth-and-1 from RU 11-yard line, Falk attempted a sneak. It took a long time for Washington State to snap the ball and Falk had nowhere to go as middle linebacker Kaiwan Lewis surged through the line to drop the quarterback for a 1-yard loss.

Late Washington State TD pass spoils record-breaking Janarion Grant effort as Rutgers falls 37-34 | Rapid Reaction | NJ.com
Falk helped Washington State's air-raid attack live up to its billing, breaking Rutgers' stadium records for completions (47), pass attempts (66) and passing yards (478) while throwing for four touchdowns to stun the crowd of 46,536.

Rutgers coach Kyle Flood blames stunning loss to Washington State on penalties and turnovers | NJ.com
Rutgers coach Kyle Flood was able to pinpoint why his team fell to Washington State.

Rutgers defense can't make final stand in loss to Washington State | NJ.com
With the situation forcing the Cougars to throw downfield after they had dinked-and-dunked most of the game, Luke Falk's first pass down the left sideline should have been intercepted. Safety Davon Jacobs was in position to make the play, but only managed to tip the ball, which was caught off the deflection by River Cracraft for a 24-yard gain.

Highlights: Cougars edge Rutgers in final drive - Washington State University Official Athletic Site
Highlights of a thrilling WSU win.

Volleyball

Volleyball Wins Challenge Tournament - Washington State University Official Athletic Site
Junior Kyra Holt reached a milestone of 1,000 career kills Saturday night and led the Washington State volleyball team (8-1) to the Cougar Challenge tournament title with a 3-1 win over Utah Valley University (4-6) in Bohler Gym.

Beer

Lagunitas Brewery Sells 50% Stake To Heineken To Fuel IPA Ambitions - ForbesLife
What did Neil Diamond say in that song? Money talks.

Non-Sports

Why drivers in China intentionally kill the pedestrians they hit: China’s laws have encouraged the hit to kill phenomenon.
Speak out against the government, spend hard time in a labor camp. Intentionally and repeatedly murder an innocent person with your car, cut a check and maybe spend a year or two in jail. That's some civilized society you've got there, China.