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The most important person vs. Arizona: the first quarter

Despite being 5-0 in conference play, WSU starts games painfully slow. Opening the taps early and pouring it on to arguably the Pac-12’s worst team would be nice.

Washington State v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

At some points of my life, I’ve been a morning person. When you like to ski, rising before the sun does is a requirement if you live in Seattle just to get to the snow and make your lift ticket worth it. Years of taking calculus and learning the various conjugations “beber” at hours no teenager should be awake at least forced me to be used to early alarms.

But starting in college, I made dang sure that I look as many classes starting after 10 a.m. as possible. Not totally realistic in your freshman or even sophomore years but for some reason, once I left the confines of the “you must go to class every day”, dragging myself out of bed for practically anything seemed like a chore.

These days, I’m at work until 1:30 a.m. on a nightly basis meaning by the time I wind down with a beer and some Cutthroat Kitchen (I need something mindless and I like watching really good cooks make steaks on a golf club or whatever), I’m asleep around 3 a.m. or so. If you need me before 10 a.m., forget it. I’m stuck in perpetual slow start mode.

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The Washington State Cougars have won six straight games, including a 5-0 record in Pac-12 play, and currently sit at No. 25 in the College Football Playoff rankings. That’s very good!

Over those six games, the Cougars have averaged 4 points in the first quarter. That’s very bad!

So far, this hasn’t been a tremendous problem for the Cougs. They’ve overcome the fact that they were only managing barely more than a field goal’s worth of points on the average during conference play in the first 15 minutes. But it put them way behind the 8-ball against the Arizona State Sun Devils and even further behind it against the Oregon State Beavers, down 14-3 at one point in Tempe and 21-0 before they managed to score against the Beavs.

I think it shows quite a bit of resilience that this football team doesn’t let being behind by so many points bother them. This is where Mike Leach’s “play the next play, don’t worry about the score” mentality comes in quite handy. Lord knows I can focus on hardly anything other than the score and the clock so a healthy dose of that would likely be helpful for my own football watching health.

But Arizona State was not a healthy football team and needs to pick up a win in their last three to get to bowl eligibility. Oregon State is dealing with the same (possibly more) injury issues and are in the middle of a rebuild. If you’re going to dig yourself out of a “most of the way to China” sized hole against someone, that’s when you’ll do it.

And it’s not that the Arizona Wildcats are any different this weekend. They’re also dealing with a host of injury issues and a defense that is struggling to stop even a light breeze right now. Cal, while not sporting the same issues, is still a team this version of Washington State should beat.

The final two weeks of the season though are decidedly different. The Colorado Buffaloes are the darlings of the Pac-12 this year and on the road in what is almost sure to be a cold environment, letting your opponent jump out by two touchdowns in the first 15 minutes may bury you.

In the Apple Cup against the Washington Huskies? You better hope that first quarter ends with zeroes if you can’t get going on offense.

This weekend is the perfect time to iron out your first quarter issues. Putting together a couple of touchdown drives in front of a sold out Dad’s Weekend crowd is just what the doctor ordered against a truly inferior team. You’ll need it going forward because if the hole is just as deep, no ladder is long enough to get you out.

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Last year, my wife and I needed to take an early flight to Vegas so we could drive to southern Utah for a friend’s wedding. I was done with work at about 1:30 a.m. and our plane was leaving at 7:55 a.m. Somehow, someway, I’d managed to get 2 hours of sleep before we needed to leave for the airport.

“Man, I feel so awake! I think I’ll make it through the rest of the day, no nap required,” I told my wife.

I passed out in a chair in the waiting area of the gate. I told you, I’m useless before 10.

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The first quarter, your most important “person” against Arizona.