It’s the little things. Against lesser opponents, they may not matter. A false start here. A dropped pass there. A missed tackle or two. You can get away with those things against lower-tier Pac-12 teams. Against a good team you can’t. Washington State found that out the hard way on Saturday, with a series a small mistakes leading to a 38-24 loss to Colorado.
Washington State had plenty of opportunities against the Buffaloes. The Cougars even looked like the better team for long stretches. But they routinely botched the little things. They dropped several passes, including a sure touchdown that cost them seven points. They missed tackles, or failed to contain Sefo Liufau — who gashed WSU on the ground all game.
There are several crunch plays in a game that dictate the result. Colorado dominated that mythical scoreboard. When WSU needed a big play, it ran a route too shallow and came up a yard short on fourth down — twice. When Colorado needed a big play, it made it. Whether it was pushing the pile for extra yards, or ducking under a sack to convert and keep a key drive alive.
WSU could have came away with a win on Saturday against a good Colorado team, but it needed to execute. It needed to connect when receivers were wide open. It needed to get off the field on defense. It needed to do the little things.
It didn’t and now the Cougars’ eight-game win streak is over.
3 observations from the game
1. Jamaal Morrow was the best player on the field for the Cougars
Morrow has been great all season, but he was especially impactful against Colorado. He broke off a couple of big runs, including one where he should have been tackled for a loss, but maintained his balance and turned it into a long gain. He did the little things that have helped WSU win. In hindsight, he probably should have been even more involved considering he gained 135 yards on just 9 touches.
2. WSU again struggled against physicality
Colorado came in known for its defense, and while WSU helped with some miscues, the Buffaloes showed up and played a tough, physical brand of football. They challenged the WSU receivers in a way no other team has this year. At times, Luke Falk struggled to find a receiver because one or two were laying on the field. There is a fine line in physical coverage and Colorado stayed on the right side of it according to the officials.
Beating a physical defense like this has been a challenge for WSU. It is a challenge the Cougars will have to overcome if they are going to win the Pac-12 North. Everything Colorado did, Washington does even better.
3. The Cougars are still right where they need to be
The winning streak is over. The Cougars lost a game they could have won. Still, WSU will walk into Martin Stadium next week with a chance to play for the Pac-12 North. Regardless of what Washington does tonight, the Cougars still control their own destiny. Win next week and it’s onto the Pac-12 Championship game. Lose and it’s onto whatever bowl game. The Colorado game was essentially free money in the grand scheme of the Pac-12 standings.
They didn’t get it done in Colorado, but none of that will matter if they get it done next week.