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The most important person vs. California: Marcellus Pippins

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We could really go with the whole secondary here but we want to sing the praises of the dude with the best moves on the team.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve never had problems bonding with my parents, luckily for me. We’ve always gotten along well and shared common interests, even at an older age (usually wine or liquor. What a surprise.)

When I was younger though, skiing is what really brought us together every weekend in the winter, especially my dad and I. Around the age of 11, he pulled me out of lessons and furthered my education in the sport with the tried and true method of “keep up because if you don’t, you’ll lose me and be a young child alone on a huge mountain”.

At the end of the season when I was in lessons though, we had an annual race, one I was determined to win because galdangit, I’m a good skier and all these other Jabronis can’t keep up with me. But there was this one kid ... damn, he was better than me. A LOT better than me. He knew it, too. Cocky, smack talking (as much as you could for a nine-year old), always sure of himself. I wanted to beat him so badly.

But for years, I never could. One year, I came in second but he still beat me by roughly a second or so, practically a mile in a race that only took 45 seconds to finish.

The kid was cocky but boy, could he back it up.

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One thing I’ve started developing a love for over the years is players with moxie, “swag” as the kids say these days. Do they still say it? Someone tell me. I’m about as in touch with the youth as a guy who wears Steph Curry’s signature kicks.

Marcellus Pippins, then, quickly became one of my favorite players. He’s not short on moxie, he’s not short on swag, he’s not short on, well, anything.

Pippins dances because he’s having fun. And he should! Football is fun! But he’s a guy who is very good and knows he is very good. A thing opponents and their fans hate but something I and everyone who is a WSU fan should love. The ol’ “you hate him ‘cause you don’t have him” defense, something Richard Sherman has enjoyed for years with the Seahawks.

You haven’t heard Pippins named called a lot this year and with good reason: hardly anyone is throwing his direction. But when they do, he’s making them pay. Two interceptions, good for a tie for second on the team with Charleston White and Isaac Dotson. Five passes broken up too, good for the team lead and one ahead of the next closest compatriot, Jalen Thompson.

This Saturday, Pippins and the secondary will face their toughest test since early September. No passing offense the Cougs have faced since the Boise State game has been anywhere near as prolific as Cal’s (15th in S&P for Boise State, 10th for Cal) so the task facing WSU this weekend is a tough one.

Davis Webb has been off his game the last few weeks but he’s still a tall quarterback with a rocket arm and got his best receiver back against Washington. There’s no doubt Cal will score some points in this game; despite their struggles in the win-loss column this year, they’ve always been able to score.

But if Marcellus Pippins can keep his side of the field locked down and take options away from Webb, that will go a long way to at least slowing the Golden Bears down. Cal’s defense is the exact anthesis of their offense so the Cougs shouldn’t have any trouble finding the end zone either. So the key to this game will likely be slowing Cal just enough to let the Cougs outscore them.

That largely falls on the secondary and especially Pippins. If he can continue to do what he has done all year, essentially taking away one side of the field from quarterbacks, it will go a long way to helping this defense contain the Bear Raid enough for their unprecedented seventh straight conference win.

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My dad has been skiing for half a century and no matter how good I got, he was always faster and better than me. Once I got into high school though, the smack talking increased until finally, my freshman year of college, I was convinced I was faster.

Spring break in Whistler, we stood near the top of Blackcomb Mountain and my dad had a proposition: last one back to the room buys the drinks tonight. He’d even give me a 30 second head start.

Thirty extra seconds over roughly 3 miles and 4,500 vertical feet? Is the old man nuts?

I started down the hill and, as I was about to lose sight of where my dad stood, I turned back to look. He was still there.

About 1,500 feet from our room and I could see the building, my dad nowhere to be seen. I could practically taste the free Molson Ice.

1,000 feet, nothing. 750 feet and still nothing.

500 feet ... and a mustached yellow jacketed blur blew by me and stopped at the gate to the building.

It’s good to have moxie if you can back it up. My bar tab proved it that night.

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Marcellus Pippins, the most important person against the Cal Golden Bears.